As we previously reported, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will provide rural tribes with an opportunity to apply for free wireless airwaves in the 2.5 GHz band. The FCC has now set the window during which qualified tribal entities can apply. The window will open on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, and will close on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020. The FCC has also established a mapping tool designed to aid tribes to determine their eligibility to apply and the amount of unused 2.5 GHz spectrum available over their tribal lands. The tool can be accessed here. The FCC will also host a workshop at its Washington, D.C., headquarters on Jan. 14, 2020.
Federally recognized tribes located in rural areas, as well as entities controlled by such tribes, are eligible to apply for this spectrum, which is well-suited for fixed or mobile broadband services. Successful applicants will receive a license from the FCC to use the spectrum but will also be required to meet deadlines by which the spectrum must be put to use in wireless networks. Within two years of receiving a license, tribes must show that 50% of the population of the licensed area can access a wireless network using this spectrum. Within five years, 80% of the population must have access. Once the deadlines have been met, tribes could sell or transfer their licenses. Tribes may wish to work with existing wireless carriers or infrastructure providers to plan and construct the necessary wireless networks.