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Musk says Starlink will keep providing free service to Ukraine

'Even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $'

One problem dealing with a prolifically tweeting billionaire is that the subjects of those mind burps can have the rug pulled from beneath them.

This weekend, Elon Musk, Earth's richest being, talked about the operations of SpaceX's Starlink, a broadband satellite constellation, in terms that could unsettle some.

The comment can be interpreted as a joke, genuine capitulation, or a tacit threat to remove free Starlink services from Ukraine due to the alleged costs involved.

Musk made the above comment on October 15, a day after reports indicated the tycoon was not pleased by the overhead of donating base stations and providing free coverage to war-torn Ukraine as he earlier promised. Starlink was also just a few months ago denied subsidies from the US government for deploying its wireless internet to rural America, so Musk has money on his mind.

In a letter sent by SpaceX last month to the US Department of Defense, Musk wanted the American military to foot the remaining bill for wirelessly connecting Ukraine to the world. The costs were estimated, by Team Musk, to be $120 million until the end of the year and $400 million for the following 12 months. Now, per the above tweet, he seems to have let the matter drop.

This is after Uncle Sam reportedly splurged about $3 million on ordering and sending at least 1,500 Starlink broadband terminals to Ukraine, post-invasion by Russia, and private donors have stepped forward to pay for Starlink equipment and connectivity in the country. Musk also invoiced the US government more than twice the amount Starlink normally charges for base stations – $1,500 versus $600 – for those devices Uncle Sam donated to Ukraine.

Still, just a few weeks ago, Musk believed Starlink needed more cash, presumably to fund the terminals he's expected to donate this year and next as well as the ones already out there.

"We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time," his letter to the Pentagon, obtained by CNN, stated. Earlier this month Musk said SpaceX had spent $80 million since launching in Ukraine – a number that is hard to verify – and he claimed Starlink is "far from cash flow positive."

When that letter to the Pentagon leaked last week, the Tesla boss added: "Also, Starlink is still losing money! It is insanely difficult for a LEO communications constellation to avoid bankruptcy – that was the fate of every company that tried this before."

Ukrainian General Valeri Zaluzhyni reportedly asked for an additional 8,000 Starlink terminals in July.

Musk has form for saying stock market-moving things on Twitter, such as wanting to take Tesla private, buying Twitter, and launching a fragrance called Burnt Hair – the Essence of Repugnant Desire.

Not all of the things he says always hold up in the cold hard light of day, which makes it near impossible for corporations or – in the case of Ukraine – a country to know exactly will come to pass.

Musk must know the lack of clarity leaves room for a certain type to make their own mind up, and quipped in a follow-up tweet at the weekend: "The comments in this thread are a conspiracy theorist's wet dream." ®

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