The Learning Society, Inc. (TLS) founded in 1990, had been an advocate for "life-long learning" and "community in education" in Elkhart, Indiana. In 1991, The Learning Society was approached to secure a license from the FCC for the South Bend-Elkhart area in the ITFS (Instructional Television Fixed Service) band. The ITFS band was used to deliver educational channels over a wireless cable system. The was accomplished by leasing the spectrum to a wireless cable operator (American Telecasting) while retaining capacity to deliver the educational content.
ITFS licenses may only be held by accredited educational entities or educationally chartered non-profits. In 1991, American Telecasting approached TLS about acquiring additional licenses in other areas of the country. Views On Learning, Inc. (VOL) was chartered as a 501(C)3 educational non-profit for that purpose. Over the next few years, VOL acquired licenses in 23 service areas across the country. VOL provided access to video conferencing and educational video content to accredited schools in these areas.
In 2005 the FCC replaced the old ITFS video-centric band plan, technical detail, and operational rules with a new Educational Broadband Service (EBS) band plan. The technical details and operational rules were intended to encourage the spectrum to be used for wireless internet data transmissions.
All stations were required to be “transitioned” from ITFS operation to EBS operation by October 2010. During the transition from ITFS to EBS, the FCC allowed stations to be taken off the air. Following the transition (by November 2011), all EBS stations were required to demonstrate that they were operating under the new EBS rules and providing “substantial educational service” to each service area.
As EBS has transitioned, so has VOL. In 2008, The Learning Society, Inc. was separated from Views On Learning, Inc. This allowed TLS to focus more on local educational initiatives, while VOL took a more national approach. VOL turned its focus from video content and pointed more toward video conferencing and distance education over internet. Lifesize video conferencing equipment was granted to many schools in our markets and VOL hosted conferencing bridges and management resources to connect schools.
In recent years, the video conferencing services have been moved to the cloud and still remain a part of our offering to market schools. In addition to video conferencing, we also provide wireless internet connectivity through EBS spectrum resources. Annually each Spring, VOL awards over $250,000 in "Technology Innovation Grants for Educational Resources (TIGER)" grants to eligible schools in our service areas.
TIGER grants have helped schools reach their educational objectives by supporting many facets of school technology including; wireless broadband deployment on schools buses, mobile hotspots for student checkout in underserved areas, one-to-one classroom devices, and support for school robotics and other STEM programs. For more information about the TIGER Grants, click here.