At its quarterly meeting held on November 19, the South Carolina ETV Commission voted to ratify the Educational Broadband Service lease agreements.
That vote was the final step in allowing the excess capacity of ETV’s Educational Broadband Service spectrum to be leased to two telecommunications companies, Clearwire Spectrum Holdings and DigitalBridge Spectrum Corp.
ETV officials say through the 30-year, $142.7 million contracts, the companies will begin the task of building the infrastructure necessary to expand wireless broadband connectivity throughout South Carolina. The remaining five percent of spectrum will remain under ETV’s control to providing educational services to South Carolina schools.
A special Commission of state lawmakers negotiated those agreements.
ETV Commission Chairman Robert Rainey says his group will work with the Budget and Control Board and both spectrum vendors. Rainey says it will greatly benefit the citizens of South Carolina for many years to come.
But the broadband leasing has its critics, who worry about some poor, rural pockets of the state being properly served, and they say the $142 million contracts are still a small fraction of the value of what the spectrum may be worth in 20 years. And critics worry that once the companies develop the necessary infrastructure, South Carolina taxpayers may end up paying those companies more than they should for use of the spectrum they once controlled.
ETV’s Education Broadband Spectrum is completely separate from ETV’s regular broadcast channels.