Communications Minister Fábio Faria admitted to having acted to accelerate the authorization of the National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel) to start the operation of the Starlink satellite network, owned by billionaire Elon Musk. According to Law 9,472 of 1997, the regulatory agency has “administrative independence” and “autonomy” in relation to the federal government.
In a hearing at the Chamber of Deputies, on Tuesday afternoon (14), Faria was asked about a report by the Brazil de facto, published in March of this year with documents obtained through the Access to Information Law (LAI). According to deputy Léo de Brito (PT-AC), the content of the investigation reveals the minister’s interference in favor of Starlink.
“Fábio Faria’s letter to the billionaire revealed that the pressure at Anatel motivated the friendship. The documents obtained via LAI showed a series of contacts between your ministry, the minister, and the US Embassy and the Starlink company, which benefited from this program launched by your Excellency with President Jari Bolsonaro,” questioned Léo de Brito.
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In his response to PT, Faria admitted that he had acted so that Anatel stopped asking the Brazilian Space Agency, of the MCTI (Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation), to grant the right to explore satellites in Brazil and that the country cannot prohibit the passage of satellite through national territory. The minister did not explain, however, the documents cited by the PT.
“They were demanding that the MCTI say whether it accepts that the satellites are over Brazil or not. I called the meeting from my office, did a Zoom with all of Anatel’s advisors, and said I had a request to make. I don’t think it’s fair for you to wait for the Brazilian Space Agency to talk about whether or not it can have a satellite over Brazil. The lobby they had was not to approve it”, he declared.
With the approval granted by Anatel on January 28 this year, Starlink was able to offer its internet services in Brazil. Faria also said that he was acting not only in favor of Elon Musk’s company, but for a group of companies in the sector – which would later also be authorized by Anatel. The minister cited Kepler, Swarm and Telesat as examples.
Monitoring the Amazon and national sovereignty
Representatives Vivi Reis (Psol-PA) and Ivan Valente (Psol-SP), who requested the meeting (Click here to read the entirety of Faria’s summons request), criticized the hiring of a foreign company to carry out the monitoring of the Amazon, which is already carried out by the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe).
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“What is the reason for the federal government, after reducing Inpe’s budget, to invest in another system to monitor what is already being monitored with precision?”, questioned the parliamentarian.
“Brazil has four monitoring systems that calculate centimeters of monitoring of the Amazon. There is no lack of information about the Amazon, there is a lack of supervision”, Valente maintained.
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In response, Faria stated: “National sovereignty, no, their sovereignty. All the satellites that pass in space know everything that is happening here, and if they share it with the Brazilian government, we will have much more information”.
The Minister of Communications was heard in a joint hearing of the Science and Technology, Communication and Information Technology committees; of Financial Inspection and Control; of National Integration, Regional Development and Amazonia; and Foreign Affairs and National Defense of the Chamber of Deputies.
Watch the entire hearing:
Editing: Nicolau Soares