Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, announced on Friday, September 23, that he would launch the company’s Starlink satellite internet service in response to tweets from Antony Blinken, the secretary of state of the United States, stating that the country had taken steps “to advance internet freedom and the free flow of information” to Iranians.
In the midst of protests across Iran in response to the passing of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman in custody, the U.S. Treasury Department on Friday released guidelines expanding internet services available to Iranians despite U.S. sanctions on the country.
A Treasury official briefing reporters stated, “Our understanding of Starlink is that anything they offer would be commercial grade and would be hardware that’s not covered under the general licence, so that would be something they would need to write into Treasury for.”
The updated licence, according to a later statement from the U.S. State Department, is self-executing and allows “anyone who meets the criteria outlined in this general licence to proceed with their activities without requesting additional permission,” the spokesperson added.
Regarding Starlink’s authorization to conduct business in Iran, Musk could not be reached for comment or clarification.
Iranians have been protesting since Mahsa Amini passed away last week while being held by the authorities for wearing “inappropriate dress” and being detained by the morality police.
Musk stated on Monday that the company would request a sanctions exception in order to offer Iranians access to Starlink satellite broadband service, which was previously offered to Ukraine in support of its defence against Russian invasion.
The spokesperson for the U.S. State Department added that “OFAC would welcome it and prioritise it” if SpaceX found that an activity directed at Iranians needed a specific licence.
“By the same token, if SpaceX decides that their conduct is already permitted and has any questions, OFAC likewise welcomes that dialogue,” the State Department source continued.