House Dems Seek Longer Tribal 2.5 Window Extension

Say 30 days was not enough

House Democrats are urging the FCC to give Tribal communities more time to apply for free 2.5 GHz spectrum for 5G.

The FCC is auctioning the spectrum, but is giving tribal communities an early window to apply for spectrum. That window opening Feb. 3 and the FCC it has over 200 applications for the spectrum.

Last month, the FCC did provide a 30-day extension–from Aug. 3 until Sept. 2–of the priority window for rural Tribes to file for free 2.5 GHz 5G spectrum before the FCC auctions it to the highest bidder. But some Tribal entities had sought an extension to the beginning of 2021, citing the challenge of filing while dealing with a pandemic that is hitting Tribal areas particularly hard.

But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said a longer extension would substantially delay our award of licenses to Tribal entities and thus delay their ability to use this spectrum to connect those consumers living on Tribal lands.

Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) sent a letter to Pai Wednesday (Aug. 19) asking for the 180-day extension.

“We are concerned that the FCC’s failure to provide adequate time for tribes to take full advantage of the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window means fewer tribes will be connected to lifesaving internet service,” they wrote. “The coronavirus has underscored that the digital divide is a deadly chasm, but the FCC can help address this issue. Tribes have been hit particularly hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, and high-speed internet service helps governments better succeed when it comes to public health interventions. The Rural Tribal Priority Window is one important remedy to the digital divide for Indian Country, but without more time, it will not succeed.”

Pallone and Doyle asked for a response by Aug. 28.