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Judge orders Sprint to keep WiMax network up after nonprofits sue

Sprint had planned to shut down its aging WiMax network tonight at midnight, but after a last-minute emergency decision, that won't be happening. A judge has ordered Sprint to keep the network up until a lawsuit brought by nonprofit groups can be resolved.

The lawsuit, detailed by The Verge last month, accused Sprint of shutting down the network while making it impossible for groups to efficiently switch over to the modern LTE standard. The nonprofits — two Educational Broadband Services, or EBS's, called Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen — cut a deal with the company Clearwire that let them provide affordable internet access on the network to customers like schools and libraries. But the nonprofits say that when Sprint fully took over Clearwire and the WiMax network in 2013, data speeds for the nonprofits' customers were unfairly throttled. Sprint has countered that other customers on the network have switched over without issue.

The nonprofits filed for an injunction that would stop the network from being shut down until the issues are resolved, and a judge has now allowed the motion. "Plaintiffs have demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits," the decision reads. The decision's "intent is to put plaintiffs in that position that they would occupy under their existing agreements with Clearwire," but does not have any bearing on parts of the network that Sprint has already shut down.

"We hope that Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen will take this time to work cooperatively with Sprint to resolve the contract dispute," Sprint said in a statement. "Our goal is to ensure that our EBS partners and our subscribers can use Sprint's 4G LTE advanced broadband services as soon as possible."

Update, 3:40PM ET: Includes statement from Sprint.