On Wednesday, Mobile Citizen and Mobile Beacon, companies that supply schools, libraries, and nonprofits with mobile broadband service, sued Sprint (PDF), saying that in a few weeks, the telecom provider will unfairly throttle the companies’ clients after they use 6GB of data. Thus far, clients of Mobile Citizen and Mobile Beacon enjoyed unlimited broadband over WiMAX, but Sprint is scheduled to shutter its WiMAX network and use the spectrum for its LTE network.
The trouble is, portions of that spectrum were actually granted to Mobile Citizen and Mobile Beacon, which are considered Educational Broadband Service (EBS) providers. The FCC granted the spectrum to the EBS providers, and nine years ago Mobile Citizen and Mobile Beacon decided to lease their spectrum out to Clearwire for 30 years, collecting rent on the spectrum as well as compensation in the form of use of the telecom company’s infrastructure.
Mobile Citizen and Mobile Beacon then sold that service at a reduced rate to their clients, including schools in rural areas that rely on mobile service for connectivity, church groups that set up Internet service for underserved members of the community, libraries, and non profits. But when Sprint acquired Clearwire two years ago, it soon decided to repurpose the struggling WiMAX network’s spectrum.