(PHILADELPHIA) November 17, 2015 – A group of Philadelphia residents took to the streets today in front of a downtown Sprint store to protest the Sprint Corporation’s continued effort to shut off broadband access to more than 300,000 vulnerable Americans – including at least 10,000 Philadelphians.
“Sprint pays a lot of lip service to closing the digital divide, yet it is fighting to disconnect broadband access to at least 10,000 vulnerable Philadelphia residents and hundreds of thousands of low-income people across the country,” said Kristen Perry, Mobile Citizen director of communications. “We are proud to stand with Philadelphians telling Sprint to practice what it preaches and protect our customers’ Internet access.”
Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen currently provide unlimited broadband service for just $10 a month to 429 schools, 61 libraries and 1,820 nonprofit organizations across the country on Sprint’s WiMax network, including Philadelphia Education Fund and Jump Wireless in the Philadelphia area. Many of these organizations, in turn, provide service to students, the elderly, the disabled and other segments of the population often not able to afford Internet service at the customary prices offered by commercial providers. Sprint planned to shut down the WiMax network on Friday, Nov. 6, which would have left many of these users without alternative means of Internet access.
Earlier this month a Massachusetts court granted a preliminary injunction stopping Sprint from disconnecting the Mobile Citizen’s and Mobile Beacon’s community of children, parents, seniors and disabled people. That emergency relief orders Sprint to maintain the WiMax network in certain areas for 90 days to allow Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen time to migrate their users to Sprint’s LTE network; provide accounts as good as the highest level of retail service provided on the Sprint network; and provide devices that connect to Sprint’s LTE network. But instead of working with Mobile Citizen and Mobile Beacon, Sprint appealed the court’s decision.
More than 5,000 people from across the country have signed a petition urging Sprint to practice what it preaches and keep this community online. Thousands have shared their stories about how losing Internet will harm their ability to live and learn. It is these stories that Philadelphia residents read in front of a Sprint Store at 1235 Chestnut St.
Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison recently wrote a letter to Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission urging him to work with Mobile Citizen and Mobile Beacon to pressure Sprint to do the right thing.
“All Americans deserve equal Internet access and are more likely to succeed if they are connected and engaged,” Ellison wrote.
The nonprofit entities that created Mobile Citizen and Mobile Beacon are among the largest Educational Broadband Service (EBS) providers in the United States. EBS refers to spectrum the Federal Communications Commission reserved to serve the public interest by providing wireless broadband services in support of education. The nonprofits that make up Mobile Citizen and Mobile Beacon leased a portion of their spectrum to Clearwire for 30 years in 2006 in exchange for the ability to provide unlimited, high-speed broadband service to schools, libraries and nonprofit organizations across the United States.
Sprint purchased Clearwire in 2013, and has since announced it will shut down the WiMax network. It has made it impossible for Mobile Citizen and Mobile Beacon to migrate their schools, libraries and nonprofits over to Sprint’s LTE network because, among other things, it is throttling their Internet service.
Last month, the nonprofit entities filed a lawsuit charging Sprint with failure to uphold its obligation to provide unlimited Internet service to Mobile Citizen’s and Mobile Beacon’s customers. That litigation is now pending.
About Mobile Citizen
Mobile Citizen offers mobile broadband service exclusively to nonprofits and schools at remarkably low cost. For more information, visit mobilecitizen.org. Mobile Citizen is funded by Voqal, a consortium of five nonprofit organizations committed to bringing technology to the education and nonprofit communities for over 25 years.
About Mobile Beacon
Mobile Beacon provides fourth generation (4G) mobile broadband services exclusively to schools, libraries and nonprofit organizations across the United States through an agreement with Sprint. Mobile Beacon was created by a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and the second largest national educational broadband service (EBS) provider in the country. We help educators and nonprofits get the Internet access they need and extend access within their communities to those who need it most. Learn more and visit Mobile Beacon at http://www.mobilebeacon.org/, http://www.facebook.com/mobilebeacon and http://www.twitter.com/mobilebeacon.