March 4, 2011 By Bradford Bowman
This weeks NEBSA (National Educational Broadband Service (EBS) Association) conference at the Trade Winds Resort in St. Petersburg, FL. illustrated a refreshing new outlook for Clearwire when it comes to helping our community EBS licensees and educators. Many EBS license holders boasted about how Clearwire has helped them to fulfill upon new and reformative educational applications and innovations through the use of the EBS spectrum that Clearwire leases, mostly from educational entities.
This individual was very pleased to see that Clearwire continues to donate equipment like WiMAX enabled laptops and dongles to help cash starved EBS licensees address the needs of ubiquitous Digital Access, Inclusion and Literacy programs for low-income families and students that qualify and are in need of high speed wireless broadband. And this could catalyze conscious business practices beyond the means of large incumbent carriers that is their traditional revenue and business models.
Gerry Salemme, Executive Vice President, Strategy, Policy, and External Affairs at Clearwire Corporation gave an excellent presentation on "The Road Ahead for EBS" in which he stated unwavering support for the ongoing educational mission of EBS license holders and their constituency. He was unable to comment on rumors surrounding transition and future operating models of the commercial EBS due to ongoing negotiations with majority Clearwire owner Sprint or resellers Comcast, Time Warner or Bright House Networks - or even the possibility of a Sprint/T-Mobile merger that may be in the works.
Regardless of all the rumors it seems pretty evident that Sprint and T-Mobile US need a 4G LTE strategy moving forward, and the EBS spectrum could play a pivotal role - but what possible ownership restructure of Clearwire will take place remains to be seen.
Clearwire continuing to get funded would be a huge lift. They are going to have to look towards strategic alliances and funding from partners outside of traditional carriers (or their original investors) to help them to sustain and grow the company.
One such strategic alliance may lie with that of News Corporation. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp ($56 billion company) recently announced the formation of a new Education Division. They hired away Joel Klein, who was Chancellor of the NYC School System, to run the new News Corp Education Division (ED). The new ED's first move was to purchase 90% equity ($360 million) in a company called Wireless Generation. Wireless Generation, Inc. “provides computer-based formative assessments, Web-based reporting, data analysis, and instructional planning tools to PreK-12 educators. The company offers mCLASS software, which enables teachers to use handheld devices for formative assessments in the elementary grades; and Burst:Reading, a K-3 reading intervention that is used to analyze assessment data and produce sequences of lessons for students.”
These types of applications go hand-in-hand with educational reform criteria being introduced through the ARRA "Race to the Top (R2T)" program which pumped out $4.35 billion in grant money to 12 states. It goes without saying that a dedicated ubiquitous high-speed mobile and fixed core wireless infrastructure would go a long way in supporting all the criteria encompassing education reform through Race to the Top initiatives – not to mention services for our local governments, public safety, non-profits, etc. The Clearwire EBS is well suited to compliment and provide infrastructure for all of this.
To take this alliance a step further News Corp could partner with Clearwire to provide newspapers and magazines the ability to transition seamlessly to digital delivery of their content. This would open up a huge subscriber base for Clearwire and News Corp while providing a ubiquitous interactive content delivery platform for all newspaper or magazine publishers.
Overall I have to say that Clearwire is starting to see the advantages of new levels of collaborative partnerships in education reform and core infrastructure to support the transition. All newer components, apps and innovation that will be borne from education reform, and the technology to support it, will become the primary catalyst for regional and community workforce development, job creation, innovation and economic recovery and sustainability in the United States and around the world.
As we start to change the future landscape of broadband infrastructure and facilities in the United States probably the most important initiative that we can undertake is to educate the American public and invite public participation on broadband policy reform. The evolving social change and the resulting workforce, collaborative and educational entrepreneurship models that are empowering new 21st Century shifts in paradigm, while recognizing the need for and incorporating emerging conscious capitalism and Corporate accountability/responsibility now presenting in the U.S., will surely gain favor as we strive to improve asset-based community development through sensible broadband policies and infrastructure.