WISPA Names Aiken President, CEO

Reprinted with permission of TR Daily

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) announced today that it has hired its first full-time president and chief executive officer, Claude Aiken, who left the FCC last week as wireline legal adviser to Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn (TR Daily, March 22). Mr. Aiken will be based in Washington and started his new position today.

WISPA has had only volunteer presidents since its founding in 2004.

During his nearly decade at the Commission, Mr. Aiken also was an adviser to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. He also held leadership positions in the Wireline Competition Bureau and the Office of General Counsel, and also served as a staff attorney.

“I am honored to join WISPA and to have this opportunity to serve the fixed wireless broadband sector,” Mr. Aiken said in a news release. “Fixed wireless is playing a key role in closing the digital divide for the more than 24 million Americans who do not have access to fixed terrestrial broadband at the FCC’s speed benchmark of 25 Mbps/3Mbps, and we’re providing more broadband choices for consumers everywhere. I look forward to building on the great work WISPA has done to date, advocating on behalf of our members and friends, and building a strong organization that will support their growth and evolution.”

“Claude has a solid knowledge of the broadband business and policy landscape, along with an understanding of our industry and its key players,” said WISPA Chairman Chuck Hogg. “There couldn’t be a more ideal time for him to join our team, and we are excited for this new chapter in our organization’s growth.”

In an interview with TR Daily this afternoon, Mr. Aiken said his goal “is to continue the growth and the evolution of the association as ... the fixed wireless industry continues to be the fastest-growing broadband access technology.”

Mr. Aiken said that WISPA – which has more than 800, largely small members – has grown significantly in recent years, making it “pretty hard to maintain and sustain” being led only by a volunteer board and a small staff. There are five other WISPA staff members other than him, and they are generally focused on member support and recruitment, although the association does have outside counsel and public relations assistance.

“This is a big step for WISPA,” Mr. Aiken said, stressing that the group wants to continue asserting its “presence in the policy process.”

“The fixed wireless sector doesn’t get the credit it deserves,” he said, citing a report released last year that said the number of fixed wireless subscribers in the U.S. is expected to double by 2021 to 8 million from more than 4 million at the end of 2016 (TR Daily, Sept. 25, 2017). The report by The Carmel Group also said that “core” industry revenues are forecast to double from $2.3 billion to more than $5.2 billion.

The report was sponsored in part by WISPA and about 20 companies.

“There’s a great story to tell in fixed wireless,” Mr. Aiken said. “These are companies that are at the forefront of closing the digital divide, and they need to have their stories told here in D.C.”

The average WISPA member has between 1,000 and 2,000 subscribers, he said.

As for specific proceedings at the FCC, he was asked about the group’s efforts to convince the FCC to craft rules for the 3.5 gigahertz band that enable WISPA members to have reasonable access to priority access license (PAL) spectrum.

“We’re at the table. We’re making the case that this is a make-or-break moment for rural America and for broadband competition generally,” he said of negotiations over the rules, including the geographic area for licenses. “It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

Mr. Aiken acknowledged that his background has not focused on the wireless sector, but he said he doesn’t see that as a problem.

“I would like to think that I have a certain FCC expertise, and I’ve had the ability to work, to some extent, on wireless issues over the course of my career there, most recently in the context of the Mobility Fund,” he noted. “But, you know, I think it’s something that I will continue to gain expertise in.”- Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Reprinted with permission of TR Daily.

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