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FCC Tribal Priority For 2.5 GHZ Spectrum and Radio

ALBUQUERQUE, NM - Educational Broadband Service (EBS) historically was used for instructional video broadcasts within educational institutions. In July 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) removed the eligibility restrictions and created an opportunity for Tribal Nations to apply for unused or unassigned EBS licenses using the Rural Tribal Priority Window.

To assist Tribes in learning more about spectrum and radio broadcast opportunities, Native Public Media in collaboration with the FCC and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) hosted a one-day workshop on October 20th, titled “Tribal Broadcast Radio and Broadband Spectrum” in Albuquerque, New Mexico. With opening remarks provided by NCAI President Jefferson Keel and Hualapai Chairman Damon Clarke, more than 30 Tribal Leaders attended the workshop to learn the details of applying for both radio and broadband spectrum opportunities directly from broadcasters and the FCC.

“The 2.5 GHz, a mid-band licensed Spectrum is ideal broadband for rural areas because it travels long distances with minimal interruption. The Nisqually Indian Tribe in Washington State and the Havasupai Tribe in Arizona both secured EBS spectrum to bring internet connectivity to their citizens. This is an opportunity for Tribal Nations to expand or establish broadband coverage in unserved or underserved areas of their lands,” states Melissa Begay, Operations Manager for Native Public Media.

According to NPM President and CEO Loris Taylor, while the FCC has yet to announce a date for a 2.5 tribal priority filing window, including the time period for the window, Tribes have expressed concerns regarding the EBS licensing process.

“What Tribes articulated clearly during the workshop was that the 2.5 licensing window of 90 days is much too short. Others expressed concern about the inclusion of a “rural” requirement when the reality of Indian Country is that all tribal lands are either un-served or underserved. Further, because the digital gap in Indian Country is so wide and so deep, Tribes expressed interest in other spectrum including 3.5 GHz which is slated for auction by the FCC,” explains Taylor.

NPM, FCC and NCAI encourage federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Villages to take advantage of the Rural Tribal Priority Window to gain access to unused and unassigned EBS spectrum before it is auctioned off to the public. Other entities controlled and majority-owned by a federally recognized tribe or consortium of federally recognized Tribes are also eligible to apply. All Tribal applicants must have a local presence in their desired license area.

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