FCC Proposal Would Adversely Impact Schools in Rural and Remote Areas, Advocate Says

The Federal Communications Commission has issued a draft proposal calling for changes in the regulation of the 2.5 GHz spectrum, opening up channels reserved for the Educational Broadband Service for commercial, non-educational purposes.

Those changes, according to Consortium for School Networking CEO Keith Krueger, would have an adverse effect on rural schools and schools located in other remote areas of the United States.

In a statement released today, Krueger said: “We are deeply disappointed by FCC Chairman Pai’s draft order, which would eliminate the long-standing educational focus of the 2.5 GHz band. For more than 50 years, the Educational Broadband Service (EBS) has helped deliver technology resources to children and school districts in need.

“The draft order contends that auctioning EBS spectrum licensing will encourage private providers to deliver 5G service to unconnected, underserved students living in the most sparsely populated communities. This makes no economic sense. If U.S. market forces were sufficient, the connectivity problem would not be so prevalent throughout rural and other remote areas nationwide.”

According to an FCC fact sheet, changes would include:

  • Establish a priority filing window for rural Tribal Nations to provide them with an opportunity to obtain unassigned 2.5 GHz spectrum to address the needs of their communities.

  • Make any remaining unassigned 2.5 GHz spectrum available for commercial use via competitive bidding immediately following the completion of the Tribal priority filing window.

  • Adopt counties as the appropriate geographic area size for new overlay licenses and a band plan with two sizes of licenses: a 100 megahertz block and a 16.5 megahertz block.

  • Adopt construction deadlines so that new licensees build out this midband spectrum.

  • Eliminate outdated rules preventing this spectrum from being put to its highest and best use, including restrictions on who may be a licensee, restrictions on how licensees must use the spectrum, and restrictions on how licensees may lease spectrum to other entities.

  • Leave unaffected the terms of any private contractual arrangement or any provisions in existing leases that provide a licensee with airtime, equipment, or capacity — incumbent licensees are simply given more flexibility to put existing licenses to their best use.

“School districts need greater opportunity for connecting rural, low income and other marginalized students to broadband. Chairman Pai’s proposed detrimental order would do the opposite,” CoSN’s Krueger contended.

The draft order fact sheet can be found here.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidrnagel/ .