Amazon retaliated against SpaceX today at the Federal Communications Commission or FCC, claiming that the Starlink operator refuses to follow the rules and makes unjustified attacks on anyone who points out SpaceX’s rule-breaking.
“Whether it is launching satellites with unlicensed antennas, launching rockets without approval, building an unapproved launch tower, or re-opening a factory in violation of a shelter-in-place order, the conduct of SpaceX and other Musk-led companies makes their view plain: rules are for other people, and those who insist upon or even simply request compliance are deserving of derision and ad hominem attacks,” Amazon told the FCC.
Amazon urged the FCC two weeks ago to reject SpaceX’s proposal for the next-generation version of Starlink, which could include up to 30,000 broadband satellites. Amazon claims that SpaceX broke a rule against submitting incomplete or inconsistent applications by submitting plans for “two mutually exclusive configurations” with “very different orbital parameters.”
SpaceX claims it is pitching two alternative configurations in case its preferred setup does not work out, and that this does not violate FCC rules. SpaceX also told the FCC that Amazon frequently tries to stymie competitors in order to “compensate for Amazon’s failure to make its own progress.”
The FCC rule in question does not expressly prohibit SpaceX’s strategy, but it does state that an application will be rejected if it “is defective with respect to completeness of answers to questions, informational showings, internal inconsistencies, execution, or other formal character matters.”
Amazon said in a filing today that it is responding to SpaceX and its CEO Elon Musk “with a sigh.”
SpaceX frequently accuses “any private company that dares to point out its flouting of laws and regulations” of being “anticompetitive,” according to Amazon. Amazon cited a number of other cases, including one in which satellite operator Viasat sued the FCC and asked for a stay to prevent the FCC-approved Starlink launches from taking place. Viasat’s request was denied by US appeals court judges.
Amazon intends to launch a satellite-broadband service via its Kuiper Systems subsidiary, but has stated that no satellites will be launched until at least 2023. Over 100,000 customers are receiving beta service from SpaceX’s 1,700 satellites.
Amazon also cited a case in which “SES, Amazon, and OneWeb identified that SpaceX clandestinely redesigned and launched its satellite antennas in a manner that violated the scope of its existing authorization” by employing both parabolic and phased-array antennas without informing the FCC.
“For existing and prospective licensees seeking to authorize new services, multiplying the commission’s burden in processing applications could dramatically extend this already lengthy process. In other words, Amazon’s argument protects competition by keeping the door open for prospective licensees, while SpaceX’s position would close it,” Amazon stated.
Amazon came to a conclusion, “If SpaceX and Musk continue to hold themselves above the rules, they should buckle up: they will only draw further protest from Amazon and others who want to see rules applied to everyone equally. Musk and SpaceX will likely continue to respond as they have here, and the chaotic and resource draining cycle will continue. Amazon asks that the commission show SpaceX that the rules apply to it as well.”