Press Release Tech Policy in the Pandemic Rural Broadband Access

Public Interest, Tribal Advocacy Groups Urge FCC to Extend 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window Deadline to Connect Tribes

July 23, 2020 , , , , , , , , , ,

Today, Public Knowledge joined nearly 50 public interest groups, tribal advocacy organizations, trade associations, and churches in a letter urging the Federal Communications Commission to extend the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window. The “Tribal Priority Window” allows tribes to apply to receive free spectrum licenses on the 2.5 GHz band — crucial for expanding 5G to Tribal lands. The groups urge the agency to extend the deadline to February 3, 2021 due to the significant impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on American Indian Tribes, Native Hawaiian communities, and Alaska Native villages across the nation.

The following is an excerpt from the letter:

“Despite the promise of this opportunity for Tribal communities, Tribes have faced significant hurdles to finishing their applications on time due to the COVID-19 crisis… Moreover, the global pandemic has delayed work on the applications and Tribal decision-making because many people have been incapacitated by the COVID-19 virus. Those able to work must generally do so from home — often without the very broadband access the application is meant to provide. We cannot expect Tribes to complete work that requires broadband when they don’t have broadband. 

“By refusing to extend the Rural Tribal Priority Window, the FCC will prevent the vast majority of eligible Tribes from accessing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — due to circumstances wholly outside of Tribal control. The FCC will also fail to achieve its own policy goals of promoting Tribal connectivity. Extending the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window is one small way the FCC can fulfill its commitment to Tribes. Doing so is the first step to addressing the inequities of this underserved population, giving Tribes, Native Hawaiian communities, and Alaska Native villages an actual chance to secure broadband access for their communities.”

You may view the letter here. You may also view our recent blog post, “FCC: Don’t Abandon Tribes During a Pandemic, Extend the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window,” for more information on why the FCC should extend the deadline for tribes to apply for spectrum to connect their people. The letter follows a separate filing by Public Knowledge asking the FCC to grant an Emergency Motion for Stay.