IT Infrastructure

School-Owned Airwave Rights Studied by FCC

By Rhea R. Borja — March 26, 2003 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Airwaves that are now licensed to schools for educational television could become a new pathway for high-speed Internet and wireless access to students, according to a proposal under review by the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC also may allow K-12 schools and universities, many of which are experiencing budget cuts, to sell those much-sought-after “spectrum” rights to high-tech businesses and other companies.

The proposed changes are part of the agency’s big-picture plan to streamline and modernize rules on the use and management of the nation’s increasingly crowded airwaves, as well as to promote competition and innovation in new wireless technologies. FCC officials estimate it would take at least a year, and opportunities for public comment, for the agency to decide on the proposed changes.

“The opportunity is monumental. ... [T]he time has come to chip off the regulatory barnacles encumbering [these airwaves],” FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell said in a statement this month.

Not everyone agrees, however.

While changes are needed, allowing schools and other nonprofits to sell the rights to their portions of the airwaves is a bad idea, argues FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps.

“Such an outcome would threaten this important educational tool,” he said. “If [these parts of the airwaves] become just another commercial service, we will have lost the last place on the spectrum reserved specifically for education.”

There are 1,275 schools, universities, churches and other nonprofit groups that hold 2,400 spectrum licenses, and which serve millions of students on thousands of channels in more than 70,000 locations.

‘Anytime’ Learning

The South Carolina Educational Television Commission, for example, serves nearly 800 public schools and more than 400,000 students, mostly in rural areas. The Catholic Television Network serves more than 500,000 students and 4 million households nationwide, according to the FCC.

At issue is 190 megahertz of the spectrum in the midst of prime “real estate” desired by wireless and broadcast providers—an area of the airwaves that is often underused by schools and universities, the FCC and some technology-industry officials point out.

Currently, the spectrum space used for educational and cultural programming is about equal to that devoted to cellular phones.

Despite the high stakes involved, it seems that many officials in education don’t know about the proposed FCC changes.

In Missouri, there’s been talk among educators that the licenses are indeed valuable, but they haven’t tried to cash them in, said Joel D. Denney, the associate executive director for education advancement for the Missouri School Boards Association.

“They say, ‘Here’s something we’ve got and don’t use and could reap money for,’ but there’s always the hesitancy to give something up that may have value down the road,” he said.

Other proposed changes are also being weighed. They include modifying burdensome paperwork requirements that hamper wireless services and creating a flexible broadcast “band” that protects traditional television broadcasting, while accommodating newer technologies such as wireless fidelity.

The changes wouldn’t decrease the amount of educational programming for schools, but would increase their ability to use technology, argued Patrick Gossman, the chairman of the National Instructional Television Fixed Services Association. His Detroit-based group is part of a coalition of educational and commercial users that asked the FCC in October to update the rules.

For example, he said, instead of having students use laptops in their science classrooms, they would be able to take those computers or hand-held personal digital assistants, such as Palm Pilots, outdoors to conduct biology or other science experiments.

“We’re pushing for anywhere, anytime learning,” Mr. Gossman said. “The technology is there, but we just can’t do it under the current regulations.”

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Recruitment & Retention Webinar
Be the Change: Strategies to Make Year-Round Hiring Happen
Learn how to leverage actionable insights to diversify your recruiting efforts and successfully deploy a year-round recruiting plan.
Content provided by Frontline
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Critical Ways Leaders Can Build a Culture of Belonging and Achievement
Explore innovative practices for using technology to build an environment of belonging and achievement for all staff and students.
Content provided by DreamBox Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Strategies for Improving Student Outcomes with Teacher-Student Relationships
Explore strategies for strengthening teacher-student relationships and hear how districts are putting these methods into practice to support positive student outcomes.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

IT Infrastructure Internet on School Buses: FCC Eyes E-Rate Change to Expand Access
FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel announced a proposal that would allow the use of federal E-rate funding for Wi-Fi in school buses.
2 min read
A Brownsville Independent School District bus acts as a Wi-Fi hotspot for students needing to connect online for distance learning at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year in the Texas school system.
A Brownsville Independent School District bus acts as a WI-FI hotspot for students needing to connect online for distance learning on the first day of class Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in the parking lot of the Margaret M. Clark Aquatic Center in Brownsville, Texas. The bus is one of 20 hotspots throughout the city to help students have access to their online classes as part of the remote start to the school year due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald via AP
IT Infrastructure Stopping Cyberattacks Is Top Priority for Ed-Tech Leaders. But Many Underestimate the Risk
Most K-12 district tech leaders rate common cybersecurity threats as just low or medium risk, survey shows.
4 min read
Images shows a symbolic lock on a technical background.
iStock/Getty
IT Infrastructure Spotlight Spotlight on Infrastructure Modernization
This Spotlight will help you grasp the reality of school infrastructure, parent privacy concerns, watchdog recommendations and more.
IT Infrastructure The Infrastructure Bill Includes Billions for Broadband. What It Would Mean for Students
Students who struggle to access the internet at home may get some relief through $65 billion in funding for broadband, approved by Congress in the new infrastructure bill.
2 min read
Chromebooks, to be loaned to students in the Elk Grove Unified School District, await distribution at Monterey Trail High School in Elk Grove, Calif., on April 2, 2020.
Even as school-issued devices such as Chromebooks, shown above, have proliferated in the pandemic, many students still lack internet access at home, putting them at a disadvantage for completing homework assignments.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP