2016 Annual Report Spotlight: Independent Spectrum

February 8, 2017

Voqal recently released its first-ever annual report and is featuring some of the stories from the report on our blog. To read more download Voqal’s Fiscal Year 2016 Annual Report: Taking Risks.

At Voqal, we believe that Educational Broadband Service (EBS) spectrum set aside by the FCC is a valuable resource that should be preserved and fully developed. For too long, EBS licenses have been underutilized. Not content with the status quo, we created Independent Spectrum as an ally for other EBS spectrum holders.

Through contracts with commercial wireless carrier Sprint, Independent Spectrum passes through to educational entities significant financial and educational benefits. From small, rural communities like Alto, TX to larger, commercially-built markets like Minneapolis, MN, Independent Spectrum assists licensees of all sizes and technological sophistication to maximize benefits from their EBS spectrum.

One place Independent Spectrum has made a difference is in Hutchinson, Kansas. Known as “Hutch” to the locals, Hutchinson is located on the northeast bank of the Arkansas River in south-central Kansas. A home to salt mines since 1887, the city has approximately 42,000 people and more than a dozen schools.

The principal of one such school, Holy Cross Catholic School’s Kevin Hendrick, describes internet access as a tool that not all his teachers can afford. “In a perfect world, schools would have the ability to pay teachers better than we do. The use of hotspots has helped our teachers, and I’m appreciative of this.”

That’s where Independent Spectrum steps in. By ensuring that EBS spectrum is put to use in the way it was originally intended – supporting education – Independent Spectrum is able to secure resources for the school that it would be hard pressed to secure dealing with commercial operators on its own – opportunities like no-cost access to mobile internet hotspots for staff.

Rebecca Oberly, the school’s new music teacher had difficulty getting consistent wireless internet service in her classroom with the school’s paid internet service. The Independent Spectrum hotspot ensured she would have internet service in the classroom whenever connectivity was an issue. Music curriculum is available online and avoiding the interruption of service is highly beneficial to the students in her music classes.

In addition, since Oberly lives on a tight budget at home she was staying late in the evenings at school to enter grades and plan lessons using the school’s internet. “I do not have internet at home because as a recent college graduate and second-year teacher, this is a luxury that I cannot afford at this time.” Now, with the mobile hotspot provided at no cost to Holy Cross, she can do these things from home. According to Oberly, the mobile hotspot “was an answer to (her) prayers.”

Brad Hollinger, the school’s PE teacher, and his wife, Janel Hollinger, a third grade teacher at the school, say the mobile hotspot they share has made a big difference in their lives and their teaching. The hotspot helps both teachers a great deal when they travel to visit family because now they can access the internet on the road and stay caught up on school responsibilities. Also, instead of staying at school late grading or looking up online resources for lesson planning they can do it from home.

Through the 23 Independent Spectrum subsidiaries formed to-date, Independent Spectrum has been able to pass through educational and financial benefits to 37 EBS licenses and ultimately the students and teachers in need of the resources.