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First published in Wired Magazine by Klint Finley

CONSUMERS ARE HUNGRY for data. To give it to them, mobile carriers say they need access to more of the wireless spectrum that carries cellular data, broadcast programming, and all other wireless signals.

Carriers complain that the parts of the spectrum reserved for smartphone use are increasingly crowded, at least in urban areas. To keep up with the growing demand for mobile video and other smartphone applications, and deliver the faster speeds promised by 5G, carriers want access to more of the spectrum.

Last week the Federal Communications Commission published a plan to auction off unused wireless spectrum originally set aside for schools in the 1960s. Only about half of this chunk of spectrum, now known as the “Educational Broadband Service,” has been licensed to schools or educational organizations. Education groups and the wireless industry have been asking the FCC to license the rest for years. Under the new plan, schools and educational organizations that already have EBS licenses will be able to keep them or sell them to commercial carriers. Tribal Nations will get a chance to apply for the unassigned licenses; the remaining licenses will be auctioned off.

“Too much of this spectrum, which is prime spectrum for next generation mobile operations, including 5G, has lain fallow for more than 20 years,” the FCC proposal says. “We are replacing an outdated regulatory regime, developed in the days when educational TV was the only use envisioned for this spectrum.”

That’s not the plan education groups and broadband access advocates wanted. An earlier version of the proposal released last year would have allowed not only Tribal Nations but also schools and educational groups to apply for licenses ahead of the auction.

Read the complete article: https://www.wired.com/story/schools-phone-companies-face-off-wireless-spectrum/

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