Mike Wendy

Claude's Blog: Urban WISP DC Access Brings Capital Competition

While the majority of WISPA members are laser-focused on rural markets, several WISPA members have taken it upon themselves to provide affordable, high-speed broadband competition in urban markets as well.  One of these members is DC Access.

DC Access is a WISP that has been providing a competitive and cost-effective broadband solution to downtown Washington D.C. for over 15 years. Recently they hosted the WISPA DC team to show us what a competitive offering looks like.

“Our customer base is around a couple thousand,” said Martha Huizenga, COO and Co-Owner of DC Access. “Our niche market is customers who feel like the big guys aren’t providing them with the quality and personalized customer service they need.” Many of their customers do not take the highest speed, highest cost plan because DC Access takes the time to educate them on what they need for their use cases. “If you’re not doing multiple streams of 4K video, you don’t need our highest speed plan,” Martha said.

DC Access' Matt Wade (left) and Marth Huizenga (right) explain vertical infrastructure in urban environments to WISPA's Christina Mason (middle).

Like many WISPs, DC Access uses predominantly unlicensed spectrum to get the job done. “More unlicensed spectrum would be a fantastic thing for us, especially in the 5.9 and 6 GHz bands," said Matt Wade, CEO and Co-Owner of DC Access. It would just be a software upgrade for their wireless gear to be able to provide more bandwidth to their existing customers, often accomplished with low- or no-cost upgrades. “We’ve never raised prices without at least doubling our speeds,” said Matt.

Also like many WISPs, DC Access uses whatever low-cost infrastructure it can use to serve customers, whether it is mounting access points on the roof of a Capitol Hill low-rise apartment building, or securing their network cabinet in a bicycle storage room. “We run a secure, lower-cost alternative to the incumbents, and will continue to do so,” stated Matt.

From millennial cord cutters to low income households, these cost savings allow urban WISPs like DC Access to serve customers that would otherwise be overlooked or left behind by the big providers. They serve families looking to make ends meet or young professionals just starting out in the world by providing quality access at a fraction of the cost of cable or fiber.

And like so many WISPs across America, urban and rural alike, DC Access does so all while being a fixture in the community – a presence that they are very proud to maintain. “We’ve sponsored the local baseball team for nearly 10 years now,” says Martha. “We know the families, we know our customers. We’ve watched their kids grow up. We take pride in being a part of the community and servicing the people we work and live side-by-side with every day. And that makes all the difference in the world.”

We deeply appreciated the time they took to show us around, and for the work they do to provide a competitive option for broadband in downtown DC!

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