(BOSTON) October 14, 2015 – The Sprint Corporation is planning to shut off broadband access to more than 300,000 vulnerable Americans next month, according to a lawsuit filed today in Massachusetts.
Mobile Citizen and Mobile Beacon provide unlimited broadband service to 429 schools, 61 libraries and 1,820 nonprofit organizations across the country. But Sprint is planning to shut down the network these organizations rely on for Internet access by November 6, and has failed to provide the means to transition their community of schools, libraries and nonprofit organizations onto a new network.
“All Americans should have access to the Internet. That includes low-income Americans,” said John Schwartz, the founder and president of Mobile Citizen. “Sprint has publicly professed a commitment to closing the digital divide. It must stop this injustice and stand up for the hundreds of thousands of children, families, teachers and community members who will be shut out of the American dream if they don’t have access to the Internet.”
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 by November 6. 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.
“The long-term ripple effects of losing the Internet to our students would be immeasurable,” said Brian Blodgett, a teacher at West High School in Salt Lake City, one of 429 schools on the brink of losing Internet access. West has more than 2,500 students, 97 percent of whom are eligible for free or reduced lunch. “Students lacking access to the baseline educational benefits the Internet affords today could not compete to gain admission to colleges, therefore losing their ability to compete in the workplace.”
“We think of Internet access like we think about electricity, or desks,” said Brian Bolz, the CEO of Beehively, which provides technological support to Catholic schools across Northern California and is one of 1,820 nonprofits facing broadband loss. “We expect all three. You don’t come into school wondering if you’ll have enough power today, or worried that if you use too much power, you might run out. And you certainly don’t expect to reach a limit in how much you can use your desk. If you use it too much, is it possible you’ll come into school one day and find you no longer have access to it?”
Through their litigation, Mobile Citizen and Mobile Beacon are asking the court to require Sprint to fulfill its contractual obligations and prevent schools like West and nonprofits like Beehively from losing their Internet access. To read the full complaint, click here.
“Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen’s low cost Internet service helps fill in gaps that other low-cost offers don’t reach. Ours is one of the few programs available that not only serves students, but also low-income adults, seniors and the disabled,” said Katherine Messier, the managing director of Mobile Beacon. “We don’t believe providing a second-class Internet service or ‘slow lane’ is an acceptable means to close the digital divide. We’re fighting to prevent diminished service to schools and poor people now — and over the remaining 21 years of our contract.”
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, www.facebook.com/mobilebeacon, and www.twitter.com/mobilebeacon.