Elon Musk’s Starlink appears to be in line for additional funding as part of the United Kingdom’s proposed $6.9 billion internet infrastructure initiative, “Project Gigabit.”
According to a person familiar with the matter, UK Minister for Digital Infrastructure Matt Warman met with Starlink leadership as part of ongoing talks about Project Gigabit, according to CNBC. Starlink’s potential participation in the internet infrastructure program has received some support, with UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden stating that he believes the satellite-based system is one of the best options available today that could provide high-speed internet access to remote areas.
On Friday, the United Kingdom initiated the first phase of Project Gigabit. About one million homes and companies around the country will benefit from the $6.9 billion (£5 billion) initiative, which is estimated to cost $6.9 billion. For the program’s first step, companies that provide internet access through a variety of means will submit proposals, such as satellites and other “high-altitude platforms.” SpaceX seems to be one of these firms.
In certain ways, Project Gigabit’s goals are similar to Starlink’s. The UK government stated on the program’s official website that Project Gigabit will be rolled out quickly, with priority given to areas that currently have poor internet connections.
“The government-funded projects will prioritize areas that currently have slow connections and which would otherwise have been left behind in broadband companies’ rollout plans,” the program’s official webpage noted.
This is the kind of stuff Starlink is made for, since the device is built to be installed quickly and easily anywhere on the planet. Starlink is still in its infancy, with over 1,200 satellites in orbit. SpaceX, on the other hand, is rapidly increasing the system’s footprint, with Elon Musk forecasting that Starlink will be able to provide global internet connectivity by next year.
Project Gigabit has the ability to offer even more government assistance to SpaceX. After all, under the FCC’s broadband auction late last year, Starlink received almost $900 million in federal subsidies in the United States. DISH Network, other conventional internet providers, and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association were among those who spoke out against SpaceX receiving a significant portion of the $9.2 billion sale (NRECA). In a statement, NRECA CEO Jim Matheson dismissed the satellite internet system as a “science experiment” with “completely unproven technology.”