Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission closed its 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window, the agency’s first filing window designed to help rural Tribes secure spectrum needed to provide broadband for their communities. The move follows the agency’s decision to extend the window for 30 days — an amount of time insufficient for many Tribes that have faced enormous obstacles in applying for the available spectrum due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The following can be attributed to Jenna Leventoff, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:
“The FCC abandoned its own goal of closing the disproportionately large Tribal digital divide when it closed the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window, despite overwhelming support in the record for a 180-day extension of the application deadline. In fact, literally no one, including the primary opponents of the extension, requested fewer than 90 days for an extension. For Tribes, closing the window before the end of the pandemic is a slap in the face that will prevent their communities from accessing the vital connections they need to engage in daily life.
“The FCC pats itself on the back for the number of Tribes able to participate. But it is the responsibility of the FCC to ensure access to all Americans, not ‘enough’ Americans. This is particularly true for Tribal lands, where the trust relationship between the federal government and Tribes imposes an even higher level of responsibility. If the FCC truly wants to improve Tribal connectivity, it must provide Tribes with a new Rural Tribal Priority Window so that they can get the spectrum they need to connect. If the FCC is unwilling to do this, we urge Congress to fix the FCC’s mistake by mandating a new priority window that gives Tribes sufficient time to apply.”