“We are currently reviewing Commissioner Carr’s letter and we will respond appropriately. In the meantime, I note that NACEPF and Mobile Beacon have already provided the Commission with extensive information about the scope and depth of our existing programs, which specifically and successfully provide broadband for educational purposes, not only in our licensed market areas but throughout all 50 states. Moreover, over 95% of all organizations and individuals that filed comments in this proceeding have told the Commission to preserve EBS for education, many detailing various ways they are using Mobile Beacon’s service to support education throughout the U.S.
Today, our broadband service is used by 830 schools, 1019 public libraries, and 4880 nonprofits to benefit students of all ages and abilities. We’ve been innovators and leaders in developing programs that specifically address the homework gap and digital divide. We pioneered the library hotspot lending model which enables patrons without home internet access to “check-out” the internet so they are not limited to library hours for access to technology. Schools are using our EBS service to provide WiFi on school buses, off-campus connectivity for student-athletes as well as hospitalized children, to keep classrooms running in the wake of natural disasters, and to provide home connectivity for low-income families that cannot afford commercial rates.
Read the full statement here.
The FCC’s Draft EBS Order Is Devastating for the Educational Community says NACEPF and Mobile Beacon
The North American Catholic Educational Programming Foundation, Inc. (NACEPF) and Mobile Beacon vehemently oppose the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s draft Order regarding Educational Broadband Service (EBS). The proposed Order strips away the educational core of the band, threatens the long-term sustainability of existing programs that serve more than 450,000 low-income and rural Americans today, and jeopardizes the ability for the FCC to accomplish their goals of a fast 5G deployment, closing the digital divide, and connecting rural America.
“With the release of this draft Order, the FCC defies the unanimous recommendations of the educational community, public interest groups, rural educators, the U.S. Department of Education, and Congress to preserve the educational and public interest benefits of this spectrum. Through this proceeding, the FCC had an opportunity to immediately put midband spectrum to use through licensing to educational entities that are committed to closing the digital divide in remote areas long underserved by the commercial sector. Instead, the FCC will delay 5G and rural deployment through a lengthy auction process that will only result in the spectrum being controlled by the same commercial entities that have already been given access to 625 MHz of spectrum below 3 GHz that they are not using to serve these same rural areas.
Read the full statement here.
“We are deeply concerned by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Chairman’s blog regarding 2.5 GHz Educational Broadband Service (EBS) spectrum. Flying in the face of unanimous support on the record from Congress, the U.S. Department of Education, public interest groups, and educational associations to preserve the public interest benefits of this spectrum, the FCC is moving forward with a radical policy change that would eliminate the only remaining broadband spectrum reserved for educational use and the public interest.
We disagree with the Chairman’s assessment in his blog that much of this public resource has been unused for decades. The only EBS spectrum unused today is that which the FCC has failed to license for more than two decades, depriving rural educators and families of access to a resource that has successfully connected tens of thousands of schools, libraries, and other anchor institutions, and through them, millions of students and families not served by commercial broadband offers…
Read the full statement.
NACEPF and Mobile Beacon Applaud the U.S. Department of Education for Supporting the Importance of Keeping EBS Spectrum Reserved for Educational Purposes
The North American Catholic Educational Programming Foundation, Inc. (NACEPF) and Mobile Beacon applaud the recent ex parte letter from the U.S. Department of Education, which was filed in the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s rulemaking docket, Transforming the 2.5 GHz Band. We agree with the Department of Education’s assessment that “EBS is a valuable tool available to educational institutions to close the homework gap,” and their recommendation to maintain educational eligibility to hold an EBS license, modernize the current educational requirements, rationalize existing licensed areas to county boundaries, and issue new EBS licenses using priority windows for tribes and educational entities.
“We appreciate that another federal agency has carefully reviewed both the FCC’s proposals regarding EBS spectrum and the record in this docket to reach its conclusion that the FCC should preserve the educational nature of this spectrum band, but modernize the rules to promote more lifelong learning opportunities,” said Katherine Messier, Executive Director, Mobile Beacon. “We agree with the U.S. Department of Education that EBS is a vital resource to provide broadband access to rural communities and tribal lands where too many Americans remain trapped in the digital divide. The FCC should not eliminate a proven tool for combating the digital divide at a time when broadband for education has never been more important.”
Read the full statement here.
NACEPF and Mobile Beacon Express Concern After FCC Cites Unenforceable Merger Conditions As Reasons to Approve the Anticompetitive T-Mobile/Sprint Merger
Following Chairman Pai and Commission Carr’s statements of support for the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, the North American Catholic Educational Programming Foundation, Inc. (NACEPF) and Mobile Beacon issued the following statement from Katherine Messier, Executive Director.
“It is deeply concerning to us that FCC regulators would express support for a merger absent any structural remedies, like 2.5 GHz spectrum divestiture. Giving New T-Mobile control of virtually all of the 2.5 GHz band would result in a very different situation than what exists today with Sprint. There is undisputed evidence on the record that Sprint has a far superior track record than T-Mobile for entering into mutually-beneficial MVNO deals with rural operators that enable both parties to roam onto the others’ network. Sprint also has over 1,500 long-term Educational Broadband Service (EBS) leases with educational and nonprofit organizations for use of the EBS portion of the 2.5 GHz band. T-Mobile has made no commitment to upholding these EBS lease agreements, which hundreds of thousands of low-income families and rural Americans rely on today for internet service.
Read the full statement.
The North American Catholic Educational Programming Foundation, Inc. (NACEPF) and Mobile Beacon joined several public interest groups in filing a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking that a decision in the Educational Broadband Service (EBS) rulemaking proceeding be postponed to give the public more time to provide input on key topics in the EBS rulemaking docket, and until a decision on the pending T-Mobile and Sprint merger is decided. Other organizations joining the letter include the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, Public Knowledge, and Voqal.
The organizations state there is currently an incomplete record due to several factors, including a 23-year freeze on making this spectrum available that effectively removed EBS from broad public awareness and FCC mapping issues that make it difficult for the public to determine what, if any, EBS white space is available in their county or district. These factors significantly hinder public comment and threaten to undermine the proceeding.
Read the full release.
In a letter filed today, the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition joined Mobile Beacon, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), the North American Catholic Educational Programming Foundation (NACEPF), Public Knowledge and Voqal in asking the Federal Communications Commission to request additional comment on and delay its proceeding to transform the Educational Broadband Service (EBS).
“The EBS proceeding is enormously important to schools, Tribal Nations and the effort to solve the homework gap,” said John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the SHLB Coalition. “Unfortunately, the record lacks key information on many central issues in this proceeding, such as an economic analysis comparing auctions to retaining the preference for educational institutions, the impact of the Sprint-T-Mobile merger on EBS and 5G, and how to modernize the educational use rules. A rush to judgment in favor of auctions could deepen the digital divide, delay rural deployment, and permanently abandon the almost 60-year-old commitment to educational use of this spectrum.”
Read the full article at SHLB.org.
NACEPF and its subsidiary, Mobile Beacon, are members of the 4 Competition Coalition against the Sprint and T Mobile merger. Recently, both organizations signed onto an open letter against the proposed merger. Below is an excerpt of the letter with a link to the full text.
"The 24 signatories below represent a diverse group of companies, trade associations, labor organizations and public interest groups, united in opposing the above-captioned merger.
Nearly one year ago, T-Mobile announced plans to acquire Sprint. If allowed to proceed, this transaction would consolidate the nation’s wireless market from four to just three carriers, lead to price increases for virtually all wireless customers, substantially raise wholesale rates for smaller wireless carriers, and cause significant job losses – all while failing to deliver the promised benefits of accelerated 5G deployment or expanded rural coverage. The parties have had more than 11 months to make a convincing argument that their deal is in the public interest and that it will not harm competition. To date, they have failed to make this case. The evidence is clear: This deal as currently proposed is bad for consumers, workers and competition and we urge you to reject it."
Read more at 4competitioncoalition.org.
NACEPF and Mobile Beacon Statement Regarding Hill Briefing, “Windows of Opportunity: How EBS Spectrum Can Close the Digital Divide”
“I thank the SHLB Coalition for organizing this briefing to educate our policymakers about the ways Educational Broadband Service (EBS) is being used today to provide much-needed broadband access to anchor institutions, students, low-income families, and rural Americans.
Today, EBS remains the only licensed spectrum available for educational institutions to connect their communities. In areas where EBS has been licensed, EBS licensees are connecting tens of thousands of schools, libraries, and other anchor institutions, and through them, millions of students and families not served by commercial broadband offers. However, for over 20 years, the FCC has not made EBS spectrum available in nearly 50% of the U.S., mostly in rural communities.
Now that the FCC has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Transforming the 2.5 GHz Band, this previously unlicensed EBS spectrum will finally be made available. Chairman Pai has proposed granting priority windows for educators and Tribal Nations to apply for unlicensed EBS spectrum. Unfortunately, others at the Commission are proposing auctioning EBS to commercial entities that already have access to over 600 MHz of spectrum below 3 GHz, but are not serving these same mostly rural areas. The Commission is also considering removing educational eligibility and use requirements that are critical to delivering educational benefits, which jeopardizes the sustainability of existing programs and levels of service that EBS licensees provide today.
At a time when broadband access for education has never been more vital to how we learn and communicate, the costs of being disconnected have never been higher. Spectrum policy matters—particularly for rural Americans and others who fall on the wrong side of the digital divide. The persistent, digital divide in both urban and rural America is evidence that commercial providers, on their own, have not and will not close the digital divide.
When it comes to closing the digital divide and homework gap, there is no silver bullet. E-rate funding stops short of providing connectivity to students at home. Most commercial providers are opting not to participate in Lifeline, and commercial programs such as Internet Essentials are helpful but will not reach everyone. We need our policymakers to ensure diverse spectrum policies that bring multiple stakeholders together and drive multiple approaches and solutions to reach the unserved. Otherwise, we will lose one of the most effective tools we have to close the digital divide.”
- Katherine Messier, Director of Development for NACEPF and Founder and Executive Director of Mobile Beacon, is a panelist at Windows of Opportunity: How EBS Spectrum Can Close the Digital Divide today, March 7th at 12 PM EST in Capitol Visitor Center, SVC 209-08
Katherine Messier, NACEPF's Director of Development and Mobile Beacon's Executive Director, recently spoke to Education Week to discuss the FCC's EBS NPRM. Below is an excerpt from that article.
School advocates hope that a proposal under consideration by the Federal Communications Commission to tap into a largely unused portion of broadband spectrum will boost students’ access to high-speed internet connectivity.
The FCC is considering an array of ideas that it says will overhaul and “rationalize” outdated regulations for how the spectrum is governed, so that it could be put to better use and promote next-generation wireless broadband use. The ideas floated by the commission—in a notice put out for public comment last year—include changing how spectrum licenses are assigned by the FCC, and allowing auctions of unused spectrum.
The proposal also seeks to free up the Educational Broadband Service’s 2.5 GHz frequency band for commercial broadband services in rural areas. This frequency band, the largest band of contiguous spectrum below 3 GHz, is meant to serve primarily an educational purpose.
Read the full article at EdWeek.org.