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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

Colleges Retain Portion of Broadcast Spectrum

June 15, 2004

The Federal Communications Commission voted last week to allow educational institutions to retain ownership of a portion of the broadcast spectrum that has been assigned to them for decades.

A proposal under consideration would have allowed corporate interests to develop a portion of the Instructional Television Fixed Service with technologies including digital broadcasting. Colleges and other organizations successfully lobbied against the proposal.

The vote is meaningful because institutions very effectively use the spectrum to deliver distance education. Also, some universities generate extra revenue by leasing unused spectrum to companies such as Sprint Communications. Thanks to the commission’s decision, institutions will be able to maintain those leases. In their decision, the FCC asked institutions to forfeit a small portion of underused spectrum.

The FCC is expected to release a document providing details of the ruling. In three years they could reconsider the same plan, and evaluate whether educational institutions are promoting digital broadcasting, as college officials have said they would.