As technology director of the Monforton School, a rural K-8 institution six miles west of Bozeman, Mont., Greg Hamley spends the better part of his days tinkering with network protocols and troubleshooting problems for teachers and students.

Perhaps that's why he was surprised when lawyers for Sprint Nextel, one of the nation's largest wireless providers, served him a very official-looking stack of documents that have since placed Monforton--once hardly a dot on the local roadmap--smack in the middle of a growing custody dispute over a coveted slice of real estate in the federal wireless spectrum.

Monforton, along with some 41 other...

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