Sprint is facing a lawsuit from various non-profit organizations alleging that the carrier is illegally planning to shut off wireless broadband service to educational institutions and libraries.
At issue is WiMax network infrastructure that Sprint acquired when it purchased Clearwire in 2013. Clearwire had cut a deal to use Educational Broadband Service (EBS) spectrum from Mobile Citizen and Mobile Beacon, two service providers focused on offering mobile broadband services to schools, libraries and non-profit organizations. Mobile Citizen and Mobile Beacon are owned by multiple non-profit entities including EBS spectrum holders.
EBS spectrum, formerly known as instructional television fixed service (ITFS), is in the 2495-2690 MHz range and is intended for use for educational purposes. Licensees are allowed to lease spectrum to other network operators for commercial use provided that educational service requirements are met.
According to Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen, Clearwire in a 30-year agreement said it would offer unlimited high-speed broadband service to schools, libraries and non-profit organizations in exchange for the use of the spectrum.
Not long after Clearwire deployed WiMax in various parts of the U.S. (using its own and leased spectrum), it became clear that LTE was going to become the dominant 4G technology – and after purchasing Clearwire, Sprint made plans to shut down WiMax service and re-purpose Clearwire’s assets to support LTE.
According to Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen, Sprint’s plan to shut down WiMax operating in the EBS band will leave 300,000 people without broadband service, hence the Sprint lawsuit.
Sprint did not immediately reply to an inquiry from Telecompetitor asking for comment about the lawsuit and to ask what, if any, future plans the carrier has to use the EBS spectrum. We will post an update whenever we hear from them.