FCC Votes to Radically Change EBS

July 10, 2019

Today, the Federal Communications Commission approved, on a controversial 3-2 vote, new rules that strip education from the Educational Broadband Service (EBS). For over 50 years, EBS has been the only spectrum band dedicated to an educational mission. Today’s decision flies in the face of a robust public record which overwhelmingly supports keeping EBS educational and licensing unused educational airwaves to educational entities. The record included:

  • Hundreds of public comments supporting an educational EBS; – A robust economic analysis showing educators would provide more affordable broadband service to more rural communities than a commercial auction;
  • 6 letters of support from over a dozen members of Congress urging the FCC to conduct educational and Tribal application windows for new EBS licenses (here’s an example!);
  • The Trump Administration’s own Department of Education letter urging the FCC to keep EBS educational and to finish licensing unused spectrum to local educational entities.

Despite all this evidence, the FCC contends the only way to license spectrum is through a commercial auction. But their logic is easily debunked. As was pointed out by numerous commenters, commercial providers already control 626 MHz of spectrum in the best bands for broadband buildout. Yet, despite this fact, more than 1 in 4 rural Americans do not have access to 25/3 Mbps fixed broadband at home. What’s worse – only 60% of U.S. household subscribe, most likely because service is unaffordable. This market failure, which the FCC continues to allow, will not be solved by selling more spectrum to the same companies who already control it.

For more information, read Voqal and Mobile Citizen’s full statement on the vote.