Use of the 2.5GHz Educational Broadband Service (EBS) mobile wireless spectrum to support 21st Century Education.
Back in the 1960's and 70's the FCC assigned the 2.5GHz wireless spectrum (2495 -- 2690MHz) to non-profits such as colleges, universities, churches and school boards. It was called the Instructional Television Fixed Spectrum (ITFS). This community asset was to be used to broadcast television signals within their community that would offer educational content and to support on-going distance learning for students and faculty within their coverage area. This coverage area normally blanketed a 35 mile radius.
In 2004, the FCC changed the rules on this under-utilized spectrum to allow for commercial broadband wireless service to be offered. They changed the name to the Educational Broadband Service (EBS) Spectrum. Needless to say, this spectrum real estate went from swamp land to ocean front property immediately. These non-profit, cash starved EBS licensees were then approached by Sprint Nextel and Clearwire with checkbooks in hand to lease use of the spectrum. EBS licensees clamored to check on the status of their current EBS license with the FCC. In most cases, these licenses needed to be renewed and in some cases the licensee was not even aware they had rights to this community asset.
Fast forwarding to present day, Clearwire has the lease rights (15-30 years) to approximately eighty percent of this asset, nationwide, with Sprint maintaining majority ownership in Clearwire. As part of the lease agreements the upper and lower bands of the spectrum would be used for commercial wireless offerings and all educational content would be moved to the middle band segment of the EBS spectrum. To this day the only beneficiaries of EBS lease agreements have been Sprint/Clearwire and the original EBS licensee (mostly colleges/schools). And while the monthly lease payments keep coming in these colleges and schools have made no effort to build out educational infrastructure using the middle band segment. Why?
This middle band segment represents a tremendous educational and community asset that should be utilized to the fullest extent. It could provide for low cost data and voice communications, municipal, local or county government apps, digital access, inclusion and literacy programs for libraries and low income households, on and off campus mobile wireless access to school educational networks, collaborative teaching and dedicated social media, not to mention access to a plethora of of e-learning, online educational and classroom applications that would support Federal programs like Race to the Top and the re-vamped FCC Universal Services Fund.
I have written plenty on this subject at GovTech.com - Digital Communities and would appreciate any comments or feedback from HÄSTAC members.