TR Daily Education Department Backs Maintaining EBS License Eligibility
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Monday, June 10, 2019

Education Department Backs Maintaining EBS License Eligibility

The U.S. Department of Education has asked the FCC “to maintain and modernize the current educational priority of the EBS spectrum by maintaining the current eligibility requirements for EBS licenses, modernizing the educational use requirement, and issuing new EBS licenses using local priority filing windows.” The position echoes that of educational entities on the treatment of educational broadband service licenses in the 2.5 gigahertz band.

In an ex parte filing dated Friday and posted today in WT docket 18-120, the department added, “During implementation of the local priority filing windows, the Department welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with the Commission and other organizations to conduct targeted outreach in order to highlight the opportunity for EBS spectrum to provide affordable broadband for schools and communities.

“If the Commission decides to eliminate the educational nature of the Educational Broadband Service spectrum by removing the limits on which entities can hold EBS licenses and the educational use requirements or skipping the local priority filing windows to go straight to auction, the Department requests that the Commission delay its decision to allow additional time to examine the potential educational impact,” the filing added. “The Department would also request an additional round of comment to refresh the record.”

The department stressed “that maintaining current eligibility requirements does not preclude access to the EBS spectrum for commercial providers. EBS licensees can choose to self-deploy or lease their excess spectrum while maintaining provisions for educational use.”

It added that “examples from Northern Michigan University (self-deployed) and Red Cliff (leased) demonstrate that both methods can provide substantial benefit to closing the homework gap and providing access to affordable broadband. These public-private partnerships promote efficient use by commercial providers while also benefiting educational institutions. The Department is concerned that allowing EBS licensees to assign or transfer their license to a non-EBS eligible entity will, over time, reduce the number of educational licensees and diminish the educational use of this spectrum. A smaller pool of educational licensees will benefit commercial entities who can offer favorable terms to gain access to EBS spectrum or pressure EBS licensees to sell their licenses by limiting the educational services offered under the terms of their lease. Ultimately, this will result in a failure to meet the needs of students in unserved or underserved communities.”

The filing continued, “Maintaining current EBS eligibility requirements and preventing the reassignment or transfer of licenses to non-EBS eligible entities will keep educational institutions in the driver's seat and ensure that the spectrum will be developed while prioritizing the needs of the students, families, and the local community.”

The North American Catholic Educational Programming Foundation, Inc., and Mobile Beacon said today they were pleased by the Education Department’s filing.

“We appreciate that another federal agency has carefully reviewed both the FCC’s proposals regarding EBS spectrum and the record in this docket to reach its conclusion that the FCC should preserve the educational nature of this spectrum band, but modernize the rules to promote more lifelong learning opportunities,” said Mobile Beacon Executive Director Katherine Messier. “We agree with the U.S. Department of Education that EBS is a vital resource to provide broadband access to rural communities and tribal lands where too many Americans remain trapped in the digital divide. The FCC should not eliminate a proven tool for combating the digital divide at a time when broadband for education has never been more important.”

A news release by the groups added that the filing by the Education Department echoes “unanimous statements of support to preserve the only remaining spectrum designated for educational use from educational and public interest groups including the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), the American Library Association (ALA), the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB), the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, and the National EBS Association (NEBSA). It is imperative that the FCC follows the record of ever-growing support for preserving the educational nature of EBS spectrum and acts accordingly.” —Paul Kirby, [email protected]

MainStory: FCC FederalNews SpectrumAllocation

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