Satellite companies operating in the country say that the Brazilian government directed a bid to Starlink, the company of billionaire Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter.
Panel SA privately listened to three large companies in the sector and the president of the sector’s association. All raised suspicions that the requirements of the edict are “tailor-made” to contemplate Musk’s company.
“I cannot say that he had bad faith [na licitação]but with all that he [Fábio Faria] did before [tentativas de trazer Elon Musk para conectar escolas no país]was suspicious”, said Fábio Alencar, president of Sindisat (National Union of Satellite Companies).
The Minister of Communications, Fábio Faria, was mainly responsible for the negotiations in the government that made competition possible. He denies wrongdoing.
The announcement provides for internet connection for around 7,000 schools in remote locations. The qualification of interested parties ends this Thursday (24).
According to the rules, satellite operators will have to offer minimum and maximum speeds well above the average practiced by the market.
None of them, except Musk’s, say they can meet the requirement for a low price, another requirement.
To deliver the speed, they say they will have to assemble new structures just to serve the schools. In practice, this makes offering the lowest price unfeasible, as the government wants.
The dispute provides for the connection of 6,900 schools using various technologies (optical fiber, coaxial cable, 5G, satellite and radio, for example).
However, the costs of connecting these more remote locations, most of them in the middle of the Amazon, are so high that it will be impossible not to pass them on to the price, they say.
For this reason, the announcement provides that, in the impossibility of fiber or cable connection, it will be up to the satellite operator to provide the service. It is estimated that there are at least 4 thousand schools.
The contract was closed by RNP (Rede Nacional de Ensino e Pesquisa), an agency linked to the Ministry of Science and Technology, and the Ministry of Communications – which will pay the bill.
Minister Fábio Faria told the column that he has nothing to do with RNP, which is being hired to provide a service to the government.
“If there is a directed edict, I will be the first not to accept it”, said the minister to Panel SA. “Everything they want to put on my account. They created this Musk issue just because he came here through me.”
In September, in the middle of the election campaign, Faria promoted an event at a school in the rural area of Careiro da Várzea (AM) connected by Starlink. On the occasion, Musk did a live for those present.
The president of SpaceX, another satellite company in the group, Gwynne Shotwell, also participated in person and was able to follow the broadcast.
Faria also brought the billionaire to meet with Brazilian businessmen and President Bolsonaro and a luxury hotel in the interior of São Paulo.
At that point, it was the government’s idea to connect schools through Musk’s company, but the backlash was strong.
The minister claims that his program to connect schools, especially rural ones, is being conducted by Telebras in partnership with Viasat.
However, there are limitations for this coverage to be carried out and, therefore, it opened the market to other companies through RNP.
According to the advisory of the Ministry of Communications, there was a first call and more than a thousand interested parties showed up to make connections by land (cables and fibers). The folder admits that many, however, are withdrawing, given the difficulties of the project.
The second call, which ends this Thursday, provides for the participation of satellite companies as well. However, still according to the ministry, none came forward.
When consulted, RNP said that the speeds were defined by its technical team. However, the advisory of the Ministry of Communications informed that the criteria were defined jointly.
Julio wiziack with Paulo Ricardo Martins and Diego Felix