(Update - 11/6/2015) Massachusetts superior court judge, Janet Sanders, has granted an injunction to stop Sprint from shutting down portions of its WiMax network. The injunction compels Sprint to honor previous commitments to companies, such as Mobile Citizen, that offer services in the impacted communities. A 90-day window has been added to give the organizations more time to move users to the new LTE network. Hopefully, this will prevent the loss of internet access for those who would have otherwise been impacted.
The world is coming to an end. OK, maybe that's a bit extreme. But for 300,000 people tomorrow, it will certainly feel that way. Tomorrow, Sprint's WiMax network shutdown will leave several schools, libraries and communities without the Internet.
If you don't recognize the term, WiMax was a next-generation wireless technology that Sprint championed as an alternative to LTE cellular. Considering that every carrier is now using LTE, you can guess how it went. Still, it suddenly became a problem for a large number of people.
Fortunately, the shutdown won't be permanent. The connection will only be lost while Sprint retires the older WiMax system and updates to a new LTE standard system. The outage will go into effect at 12:01 Friday morning.
What's troublesome is that the areas impacted by this cut-off are already disconnected from technology, due to economic reasons. This means the cut will occur in areas that are already struggling. And it would be different if Sprint was merely improving the system to benefit these communities by offering better services, but that's not the case.
Many organizations were provided with the WiMax service at a discounted cost through companies called Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen. For these users, the service was just $10 per month. They relied on it. Because of this, representatives of Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen reached out to Sprint requesting that their users be moved to a different network before the big shutdown. They wanted to avoid any losses.
"We have disabled people who can't leave the house affected; we have students who can't do their homework affected. It's a real thing," says John Schwartz, founder and president of Mobile Citizen.