The FCC has provided a 30-day extension of the priority window for rural Tribes to file for free 2.5 GHz 5G spectrum before the FCC auctions it.
That window opened Feb. 3 and the FCC said it has over 200 applications for the spectrum already. The window was supposed to close Aug. 3, but will now remain open until Sept. 2 at 6 p.m.
"Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I believe that it is appropriate to extend the application deadline by 30 days," said FCC chairman Ajit Pai in announcing the extension.
Some Tribal entities and others had sought a six-month extension, citing the challenge of filing while dealing with a pandemic that is hitting Tribal areas particularly hard. But Pai explained the 30-day decision: "A much longer extension would substantially delay our award of licenses to Tribal entities and thus delay their ability to use this spectrum to connect those consumers living on Tribal lands."
It could also delay the auction of the remaining spectrum, an auction the FCC said will "facilitate the rapid deployment of wireless networks across rural America.
Pai said a longer delay is also unnecessary, as evidenced by the large number of applications the FCC has already received.
The FCC was under pressure to extend the window, including from some in Congress, and groups including Common Cause, Common Sense, Public Knowledge, INCOMPAS, New America’s Open Technology Institute, The National Tribal Telecommunications Association, and the United Methodist Church.