Press Release

Public Knowledge Rebukes FCC for Ineffective Time Extension to Rural Tribal Priority Window

July 31, 2020 , , , ,

Today, in a blow to Tribal communities, the Federal Communications Commission extended the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window (TPW) by just 30 days. This amount of time is not nearly enough to help Tribes that, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, have faced enormous obstacles in applying for the available spectrum during the window of time allotted to them. Nearly 100 organizations have called on Congress and the FCC to ensure Tribes receive a time extension, as this spectrum is essential for Tribal connectivity.

The following can be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge:

“Thirty days is simply not enough time for Tribes to complete the discussions and research needed prior to completing their applications. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, Tribal organizations, industry leaders, members of Congress, and digital divide activists asked the FCC for at minimum a 90-day extension, preferring an additional 180 days.

“In the Order, the FCC uses T-Mobile’s support of the overall rejuvenation of the band to justify a limited 30 day window. T-Mobile’s letter actually supports a 90-day extension for Tribes to continue applying for this potentially transformative opportunity. The FCC gave the cable industry a 180-day extension to implement the Television Viewer Protection Act because of the ‘disruptions of Covid.’ Tribes should be given the same consideration.

“The FCC also claims it acts to protect Tribes who have already filed. But no one, including Tribes that have already filed, raised this argument with the FCC. To the contrary, all Tribes and multi-tribal organizations in the record — including the National Congress of the American Indians, the oldest and largest organization representing Native Americans — have stated that they canvassed their members and found no objections. Further, while the FCC celebrates the ‘large number’ of Tribes that have applied, this ignores the far, far larger number of Tribes under lockdown or otherwise excluded by this too short extension.

“We call on Congress to take action in the next COVID relief bill to honor the request of the National Congress of American Indians, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Congressional Native American Caucus, and others to extend the Tribal Priority Window until February 1, 2021. We also call on the FCC to reconsider its decision and grant an extension of sufficient time to allow all eligible Tribes to participate in this unique opportunity to bring broadband to Tribal lands.”

You can read our recent blog post, “FCC: Don’t Abandon Tribes During a Pandemic, Extend the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window,” here.