Tribal governments in rural areas, with a population of 50,000 or less, have until Aug. 3, 2020, to apply for a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to directly access unassigned spectrum over their lands. The spectrum available consists of three channels: 49.5 megahertz (MHz) channel, 50.5 MHz channel and 17.5 MHz channel. Applicants may apply for one, two or all of the channels, depending on availability. The FCC has provided rural tribal maps on its website to see if spectrum is available in your area.
What Are the Benefits of Accessing this Spectrum?
Ownership of the spectrum is an important aspect of tribal sovereignty and self-determination because it prevents third parties from charging tribes for using the spectrum in the airspace above their lands. Moreover, it allows tribes to proactively support mobile coverage and fixed point-to-point uses to spur development within their reservation. Spectrum also serves as an important economic development tool that can be leveraged for the development of other projects as necessary.
What if my Tribe Is Consumed by COVID-19?
Given the impacts that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is having on Indian Country, the House Native American Caucus and the National Congress of American Indians have called on the FCC to extend the tribal priority filing window for the 2.5 GHz band over tribal lands to close on Jan. 27, 2021, and the start of Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (Auction 904) by 180 days. Tribal leaders who are having difficulties submitting their applications before Aug. 3, 2020, should reach out to their members of Congress and send letters to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai requesting an extension.