WISPA Says RDOF Will Help More Rural Americans Get Broadband, Some Refinement Still Needed However

Washington, DC, January 10, 2020 – WISPA believes the FCC has done much good and necessary work to reduce the digital divide. The Commission’s $20 billion RDOF draft Order is a tremendous reflection of the agency’s, Congress’ and the Administration’s commitment to connecting all Americans, no matter where they live.  As the Order states, the CAF II reverse auction framework, which was successful in incenting cost-effective robust broadband deployment, is a proven model to bring the right companies to the table to deliver broadband to unserved Americans.  
We appreciate that the draft Order proposes a number of recommendations that WISPA made during the comment cycle, such as including a 50/5 Mbps speed tier.  Similarly, it is good to see that the Order declines to impose subscription benchmarks.  We also applaud FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for striving to design an auction that will lead to the deployment of “forward looking networks that will stand the test of time.”  To be sure, there are areas that can benefit from an auction design that incentivizes deployment of wired and fixed wireless networks that offer the fastest possible speeds.  We believe this important public interest goal should be balanced with bringing the current definition of broadband – 25/3 – to all of America, and doing so in a manner that minimizes the impact on the American taxpayer.  Our members are keen to compete to build the fastest broadband networks, as well as to work to bring 25/3 broadband service to all areas that currently lack such service.
While the Order on the whole works to invite a broad range of providers and technological solutions to the table to make the process robust, forward-looking and taxpayer-conscious, we look forward to working with FCC staff to further refine the bidding procedures for the reverse auction.  Additionally, WISPA believes that utilizing letters of credit, as opposed to performance bonds, diminishes the likelihood that small, rural companies will participate in the auction.  While we are grateful that the draft Order allows a support recipient to reduce the amount of its letter of credit as it meets service milestones, reducing some of the burdens on applicants while retaining substantial public benefits, the letter of credit requirement still requires applicants to spend more to finance the letter of credit than is necessary.  That funding would be better spent deploying networks in rural America.  
WISPs play an integral role in getting and keeping rural Americans online.  As the FCC’s most recent Internet Access Services Report demonstrates, the WISPs’ growth rate outpaces by far the rest of the fixed industry.  WISPs have proven that they can bring new communities online and keep them prosperous and connected to our digital economy.  As we continue to study the details of the RDOF draft Order, we are excited to be part of a process, which we believe will help get more Americans online no matter where they live.
WISPA is a membership-driven trade association that promotes the development, advancement and unity of the fixed wireless Internet service provider industry. WISPA has over 850 members that support WISPA’s advocacy, education and other collaborative industry initiatives. For more information, visit www.wispa.org.
Mike Wendy