Educational Broadcast Spectrum Introduction


In 1962, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allocated part of the broadcast spectrum in the 2.5 Gigahertz band and reserved it for use by educational institutions and nonprofit organizations to transmit instructional programming to local schools and colleges. This frequency allocation was referred to as Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS), as opposed to mobile service.

In 2005, in response to changes in technology and industry initiatives, the FCC adopted a new band plan that could be used for low-power cellular operations, which are needed for two-way data networks. The new band plan is designated as the Educational Broadband Service (or EBS). The primary use of the spectrum has shifted from television to high-speed data networks.

ITFS and EBS are the two types of educational broadcast spectrum licenses. The eligibility requirements established by the FCC provide that a nonprofit corporation must be organized for educational purposes and must use the spectrum to distribute instructional materials to accredited public and private schools and colleges, which are referred to as Receive Sites.

In the mid-1990s, Clarendon Foundation applied for and was granted ITFS licenses in 21 markets across the country. Those licenses were subsequently transitioned to EBS authorizations. The Foundation's primary educational program is providing free broadband wireless Internet access to accredited educational institutions.

As permitted by FCC regulations, the Foundation leases a portion of its EBS spectrum to wireless operators, including Sprint, Clearwire, Xanadoo, and CommSpeed. Under the terms of the spectrum lease, the wireless operator constructs and operates a mobile WiMAX network that uses Clarendon's EBS channels.

WiMAX is a new technology that is similar to WiFi, and it can cover an entire community. WiMAX uses the same cellular network architecture as mobile phones. Operators are now in the process of launching broadband wireless access networks. A number of Clarendon's markets have not yet been constructed.

The FCC required each licensee to provide "substantial service" in each market no later than May 1, 2011. Clarendon worked with the operators to deploy service and was committed to providing broadband connectivity to its Receive Sites schools before the regulatory deadline.

Clarendon is required by FCC regulations (47 CFR 27.1203) to provide "video, data, or voice transmissions to further the educational mission of accredited public and private schools, colleges and universities." The Foundation uses its reserved spectrum on the WiMAX network to provide free wireless Internet access to Receive Site schools and colleges. The wireless operator connects Receive Sites to the WiMAX network via T-1 capacity transceivers.

Receive Sites agree to provide free high-speed Internet access to students enrolled in courses for academic credit, and to faculty members and administrative staff for in-service training and administrative traffic.

The provision of free service and free equipment is authorized by regulations that have been promulgated by the FCC as a part of a spectrum-leasing regimen. ITFS and EBS can be thought of as government-benefit programs for the educational community. The provision of the free services and equipment to accredited educational institutions are required by regulations, but the spectrum licensee does not receive any reimbursement or compensation. Clarendon also performs the maintenance and repair of the receive site equipment.

The Federal Communications Commission has granted Clarendon Foundation educational broadcast licenses in 21 markets. To search for Clarendon Foundation Licenses, go to the Universal Licensing System on the FCC website. Click the dropdown menu under License Search and select "By Name." Then type "Clarendon Foundation" in the text window. Click the "exact matches only" radio button. Next, click the "Submit" button, and the results will appear. Clarendon Foundation has 21 EBS licenses and a national wireless broadband license in the 3.65 Gigahertz band.