TIME | BY FELICIA FONSECA / AP | MAY 15, 2019
(FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.) — In a remote, roadless Arizona canyon that is home to a small Native American tribe, there’s a natural skepticism toward the internet.
The telemedicine equipment that health care officials promised would work gathers dust. School children who have online homework struggle to get online. And streaming a web-based conference or taking classes remotely? Well, “that’s a lot of luck you’d have to get,” said Ophelia Watahomigie-Corliss, who sits on the Havasupai Tribal Council.
Things started to change after a small company approached the tribe with a plan to broaden coverage for educational use. It’s now using the experience to help push the federal government to give tribes priority for broadband spectrum largely unassigned across the western United States.
The Federal Communications Commission has not issued any new permanent licenses for the Educational Broadband Services spectrum in more than 20 years. It asked the public a year ago to weigh in on possible changes to the licensing system to better define geographic areas, build in flexibility, create priorities for tribes and educational institutions, and possibly auction off the 2.5 GHz-band spectrum. It’s not clear when the FCC will act.
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