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WISPs Urge Congress for Law, Policies That Help Build Wireless Broadband Infrastructure for Rural Americans

Washington, DC, June 12, 2019 – Today, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) and broadband infrastructure provider, Crown Castle, hosted a congressional briefing for Hill staff and policymakers, outlining for attendees how the fixed wireless Internet industry is working to bridge the rural digital divide by deploying high-speed internet to unserved and underserved rural communities quickly and inexpensively.

Representative Rob Wittman (R, VA), Co-Chair of the Rural Broadband Caucus, offered some brief opening comments, noting, “A lot of times we hear about fiber, about the wired aspects of the [broadband] system, but we all know that if we are going to build-out successfully a rural broadband system, wireless will be a critical and central component of how that happens.”

Also featured at the event were presentations from fixed wireless providers Nathan Stooke, WISPA Chairman of the Board and President of WISPER Internet; Mark Radabaugh, Founder, Amplex; and Jimmy Carr, President of All Points Broadband.

The panelists pointed out that there are 2000 WISPs nationwide in all 50 states, serving over four million individuals. They accomplish this with an average 10 employees per company, serving approximately 1,200 subscribers each, mostly in rural areas of America. Most WISPs built their networks with their own money, free from government subsidies.

They then laid out how WISPs are key to closing the digital divide. Fixed wireless networks can be built and upgraded rapidly – at a fraction of the cost – of those based on DSL, fiber, cable or satellite technologies. But, the panelists cautioned: Because the WISPs deliver their services via spectrum, Congress needs to work to open up more of it, on terms that make sense to small businesses. Unlicensed spectrum, lightly-licensed spectrum, and small area licensed spectrum is the “raw fuel” they need to continue providing fixed wireless, high-speed broadband to rural customers.

The panelists urged other changes, too, such as: Ensuring that subsidies do not incentivize overbuilding; requiring non-discriminatory access to poles, ducts, conduits and rights-of-way; making sure that when spectrum is auctioned, that process does not exclude small providers; promoting vibrant secondary markets for spectrum; and boosting competition in multi-tenant environments, among other suggestions. 

Monica Gambino, VP Regulatory Affairs at Crown Castle, remarked on the importance of wireless broadband infrastructure, stating, “We are focused on helping our customers deploy the next generation of wireless services throughout the U.S., including in rural America. In today’s connected world, broadband is increasingly becoming a necessity of life. Crown Castle works with WISPs and other telecommunications providers to help keep rural communities connected.” 

Claude Aiken, President and CEO of WISPA, summed up the whole event, noting, “When it comes to spectrum policy, we need policy that includes all players in the wireless ecosystem, especially small businesses. So, we’re asking for modest policies that will level the playing field to a greater extent; that will bring rural America into the digital economy. Clearly, spectrum is vital infrastructure for delivering wireless services to all of America. Congress should ‘build’ more of it in the heartland if it truly wants to get unserved and underserved communities online quickly and cost-effectively.”

WISPA’s approximately 800 members are composed of fixed Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) and the industry that supports fixed wireless broadband, including equipment suppliers, support services, and other components needed to run a successful business. Our members, and WISPs in general, provide broadband access to over 4 million residential and business customers, often in exclusively rural areas.

About Crown Castle
Crown Castle owns, operates and leases more than 40,000 cell towers and approximately 70,000 route miles of fiber supporting small cells and fiber solutions across every major US market. This nationwide portfolio of communications infrastructure connects cities and communities to essential data, technology and wireless service – bringing information, ideas and innovations to the people and businesses that need them. For more information on Crown Castle, please visit www.crowncastle.com

Mike Wendy

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