Michelle Christian, SBA National Director Office of Rural Affairs, to Keynote WISPAPALOOZA 2019
Washington, DC, October 15, 2019 – Fixed wireless Internet service providers – or, WISPs – provide high-speed broadband service to six million U.S. households and businesses, largely in rural America. WISPs generally employ fewer than 10 individuals, have been in business for 15 years, and have risked their own private capital to bring service to their customers. They play a vital, if unheralded, role in bridging the rural digital divide.
Recognizing the importance of WISPs to getting all Americans online, Michelle Christian, the National Director Office of Rural Affairs for the U.S. Small Business Administration, will be keynote speaker at WISPA’s annual convention – WISPAPALOOZA – on Thursday, October 17, 2019, in Las Vegas, NV.
National Director Christian was first appointed by the White House on February 20, 2018, to serve as the U.S. Small Business Administration Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator. In that capacity, she was responsible for a staff of more than 100 loan, business and community specialists overseeing the delivery of the federal agency’s small business programs and business development initiatives throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region. Recently, she was elevated to the position of SBA National Director of the Office of Rural Affairs, where she oversees business and economic development throughout rural America.
Access to spectrum is central to the WISP business model – it is their fuel to carry affordable broadband services to their rural customers. But other, small business-specific issues are of paramount concern, too. Chief among them is access to capital, a perennial challenge for WISPs, many of whom are bootstrapped, operating on life savings or other forms of private debt. Coming in just behind this is the effect that regulations have on small businesses, the latter of which are tight-staffed and in need of every available resource to serve their customers instead of filling out burdensome paperwork, or dealing with regulations which are out of date or inapt for their businesses.
During the keynote – a fireside chat hosted by WISPA president and CEO, Claude Aiken, conducted in front of over 2,000 attendees – Christian is expected to touch on these and other topics, which are unique to WISPs and small businesses operating in rural America.
“We are excited and privileged to have Director Christian speak to WISPA’s members and show attendees,” said Aiken. “WISPs are making a difference in rural America, and the SBA has done great work to sustain them through the agency’s vast expertise, information sharing and loan guarantee programs,” noted Aiken.
Added Aiken, “Having the SBA in your corner ensures that WISPs have an advocate in DC, meaning that we can better focus on building our businesses. The SBA promotes this mission, which has resulted in getting millions of rural Americans online and participating in the digital economy. Quite simply, the SBA is a critical partner in our broadband deployment efforts.”
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.