Kuiper Systems, Amazon's budding satellite broadband unit, shot back at SpaceX this week, telling the FCC that its objection to SpaceX's revised plans for its Starlink service has nothing to do with curtailing competition and everything to do about ensuring that Elon Musk's company simply follows the agency's rules.
At issue is SpaceX's plans for a "Gen2" system for Starlink that will involve a large constellation of heavier, but purportedly more powerful low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, that can be delivered en mass via SpaceX's new Starship rocket.
Amazon contends that SpaceX's recent amendment to a pending application for Gen2 is improper under FCC rules because it described two separate constellations instead of one, as FCC rules require.
"Allowing this would not only create more work for the Commission and interested parties, as Amazon pointed out, but it would also strain to the breaking point the Commission's already overloaded pipeline for processing license applications," Amazon explained in a September 8 letter to the FCC. "To this simple problem, Amazon proposed a simple remedy: settle on a single constellation proposal (as all others do) and resubmit the amendment."
Amazon argues that SpaceX's has chosen a "more complicated path" in its response to the FCC that, Amazon claims, "involves misinformation, ad hominem attacks, and a belief that it can influence regulators via social media … SpaceX takes aim at everything but Amazon's straightforward argument that its amendment fails to comply with FCC rules."
In response to Amazon's request that the FCC dismiss SpaceX's current revision, SpaceX contended in late August that Kuiper Systems is trying to buy time and "slow down competition" while neglecting to resolve the FCC's concerns about Amazon's own plans for a LEO-based platform. Amazon/Kuiper Systems, SpaceX added, is merely trying "to use regulatory and legal processes to create obstacles designed to delay those competitors from leaving Amazon even further behind."
Amazon countered that this is another case of SpaceX simply flouting the rules, citing examples that the company has launched satellites without unlicensed antennas and re-opened a factory in violation of a shelter-in-place order brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"In SpaceX's playbook, there is no need to grapple with rules – those apply only to others," Amazon wrote. "Instead, it offers its stock response to the raising of an inconvenient rule – that Amazon's filing could only be motivated by the improper desire to hinder a competitor."
To that end, Amazon has argued that the FCC should ensure that SpaceX complies with the rules by resubmitting its amendment.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading
A version of this story first appeared on Light Reading.