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Repurposing Educational Spectrum Resources to Connect America’s Schools and Libraries to Next Generation Internet Services
A 2010 survey commissioned by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) found that nearly 80% of schools and libraries in the United States lack Internet connectivity that fully meets their current needs. In response, President Obama proposed the ConnectED initiative to provide 99% of American schools and libraries with Internet connectivity at speeds no less than 100 Mbps within the next five years. Most of the funding for this initiative is expected to come from universal service funds administered by the FCC through it E-rate program.
The current level of E-rate funding is far too limited to meet the President’s goal, however, and a substantial increase in universal service funding would threaten the affordability of broadband services in rural areas and to low-income communities. These public interest constraints have prompted the FCC to ask the public for help in identifying additional sources of funding for educational broadband.
Strangely, the FCC has ignored an obvious source of at least $11 billion in educational funding for which the FCC already has ultimate authority: The 117.5 MHz of spectrum allocated for the Educational Broadband Service (EBS) in the 2.5 GHz band. This spectrum was allocated for education over 50 years ago, but has never been fully utilized for its intended purpose. During the last two decades, the FCC permitted Sprint to lease nearly all of this educational spectrum from our schools and use it almost exclusively for Sprint’s commercial purposes. Though Sprint has a legal obligation to provide 5% of the spectrum’s broadband capacity for use by schools holding 2.5 GHz spectrum licenses, a recent study indicates that Sprint is not meeting even this minimal obligation in good faith. Read More