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Posted: August 19, 2020

FCC Extends 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window

On July 31, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the extension of the 2.5 GHz Tribal Priority Window. Due to the pandemic, the FCC will extend the deadline by 30 days to 6:00PM EDT on September 2, 2020.

The FCC allocates spectrum to non-federal entities to use for broadband services. In order to increase tribal access to spectrum, the FCC is accepting applications for the licensing of currently unassigned 2.5 GHz spectrum over rural tribal lands. Owning the license to 2.5 GHz spectrum allows tribes to expand broadband services on their lands ensuring high-speed internet is more accessible to the community. High-speed internet is necessary for telehealth, remote education, and teleworking services which are essential in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The FCC needs to do more to promote tribal access to spectrum. On July 20, 2020, the National Congress of American Indians, Amerind, Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association, and Public Knowledge filed an “Emergency Motion for Stay of the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window.” The motion requested the FCC extend the window to at least February 1, 2021, a deadline which accommodates the actual time tribes need to finish their applications. Additional advocacy comes from Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) with the DIGITAL Reservations Act. The Act would eliminate the FCC’s role in selling spectrum rights on tribal lands without tribal consent and create the Tribal Broadband Fund for developing and updating telecommunications infrastructure.

The length of this extension is unacceptable. Both the Bureau of Indian Affairs and members of Congress have called for the deadline to be extended further. NAFOA urges Congress to act and include a 180-day extension of the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window in the next COVID-19 stimulus bill.

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