A bipartisan group of US lawmakers has called on Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to give Elon Musk’s satellite Internet service Starlink clearance to operate in Iran.
In a letter to Yellen published on Thursday, the lawmakers wrote that the SpaceX CEO “recently stated that SpaceX would seek a license to provide its satellite based Starlink Internet service to Iran,” urging the Treasury Department to facilitate such an action.
The letter was led by Representatives Claudia Tenney, a New York Republican, and Tom Malinowski, a New Jersey Democrat, and signed by several other lawmakers in the House.
“Congress is calling on the Treasury Department to do everything in its power to help the Iranian people stay connected to the Internet,” Tenney said in a statement. “We need to cut through any bureaucratic red tape and get this done.”
They made the move in reaction to a tweet by Musk, who had asked for an exemption to be able to send the necessary equipment to the Islamic Republic.
The move was prompted after Iran has cut internet or slowed it down and filtered almost all platforms that protesters can use to make their voice heard, but the elephant in the room is how exactly Musk can send equipment legally to the country that opposes such technology and how people will be able to use it under the clenched control of the regime.
The US Treasury Department said a day earlier that satellite internet equipment are not under Washington’s sanctions and can be exported to Iran, suggesting that a license is not needed to provide the firm's Starlink satellite broadband service in the country.
The statement by the Treasury did not specify whether the license would apply to Musk's plans, so the lawmakers also asked Treasury to clarify its policies for fostering communications access in sanctioned countries and urge the department to issue any necessary “comfort letters” to entities that may seek to provide communications services under previously issued general licenses.