Save Our Spectrum, Educators Urge

WASHINGTON — A coalition of educators and wireless broadband providers plans to ask Commerce Secretary Donald Evans on Wednesday for help in their battle to preserve spectrum now designated for their use.

The spectrum, in the 2500 megahertz range, is one of two bands being studied for use as an international band for so-called third-generation mobile Internet service.

Current users of the band include companies like Sprint Corp. (FON) and WorldCom Inc. (WCOM), which are offering plans to set up fixed wireless Internet service, and smaller companies like Nucentrix Broadband Networks Inc. (NCNX) and IPWireless.

In addition, schools and nonprofits use the airwaves for educational broadcasts and broadband, and can lease their excess spectrum to commercial providers and plow the money back into education.

The 3G study is clouding the band’s future, educators say, even as studies reveal that 3G and educational fixed wireless uses aren’t compatible.

“If the cloud is removed from this spectrum, then we can move forward,” said Leslie Harris, an attorney who heads the coalition. “It’s time to take us off the table.”

Fearing that the U.S. was falling behind Europe and Japan in the deployment of mobile Internet services, the Clinton Administration last fall began in earnest the search on the nation’s airwaves for 3G space. The search focused on two bands that would harmonize with spectrum used for 3G in other parts of the globe.

One study focused on using some of the educational spectrum, while another looked at using some of the spectrum allocated to the Pentagon.

The search included tight deadlines that called for the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees spectrum used commercially or by nonprofits, and Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which oversees government spectrum, to make a final allocation by July 30. The agencies are widely expected to miss the deadlines.

The FCC has ultimate authority over the 2500 Mhz band, but Mr. Evans could be influential in the agency’s decision. A report by the FCC indicated that both shared use of the spectrum or relocation of current users would be difficult.

Copyright (c) 2001 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.