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Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to approve a Report and Order to eliminate one of the last non-commercial, educational wireless set-asides, the Educational Broadband Service (EBS). The Order eliminates the educational set-aside and creates procedures designed to encourage existing educational licensees to sell their licenses to commercial providers. The Commission will also auction unassigned educational spectrum to commercial carriers in the future.
Tribal governments and hundreds of other rural organizations, educational institutions, community non-profits, public broadcasters, and public interest organizations asked the FCC to preserve the educational requirement and open one last “window” for local non-commercial and educational entities to apply for licenses to provide broadband using new 5G technologies. The U.S. Department of Education also filed to oppose the FCC’s Order, arguing that numerous local K-12 schools, colleges and other educational licensees were providing much needed broadband service in areas that would otherwise be unserved. Although the FCC agreed to open a window for Tribal entities, it rejected opening a new window for education and community-based institutions wanting to provide broadband in their communities.
The following can be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge:
“Once again, the Ajit Pai FCC takes spectrum out of the hands of rural communities to satisfy the demands of big wireless carriers that have no interest in serving rural America. Once again, this FCC’s disdain for would-be providers unable to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for wireless licenses widens the digital divide. Once again, Commissioners grandstanding for the press on the ‘race for 5G’ means leaving tens of millions of rural Americans further behind. While Public Knowledge applauds the FCC for opening an application window for Tribal nations, the FCC should have extended a similar opportunity to other unserved and underserved communities.”