More Unlicensed Spectrum Will Make Our Community a Better Place To LiveBy Zachery Peres, Vice President, KwiKom Communications
Iola is a lovely town to live in. I know I’m preaching to the choir, but it has everything one could ask for to enjoy life and thrive. Great schools, hospital, infrastructure, community and friends. The list could go on and on.
We even have great broadband – an important tool, which helps us keep pace with the rest of America and the world. That’s saying something. According to the FCC, nearly 20 million mostly rural Americans lack broadband access to the Internet. An area like ours is particularly hard to serve because it is expensive to run broadband lines to sparsely populated locales, meaning that many rural communities like ours get left behind in the digital dust.
Not here, though. I should know. I run KwiKom Communications, and since 2010, our locally owned company has operated in Iola, Kansas, offering high-speed broadband for the citizens of Allen County and 24 other surrounding counties in Kansas and Missouri so they can use the Internet. In all, we cover over 12,000 square miles of terrain, or about 1/3rd of Kansas.
Fixed wireless technology is especially important because it allows us to quickly and cost-effectively extend our high-speed broadband “lines” from antennas perched atop over 50 grain legs, more than 90 water towers and dozens of other vertical structures to two-way receivers on homes and businesses throughout the area. Wireless allows us to reach areas with both dense and sparse population, including hard to serve rural communities. We deliver our broadband service primarily over unlicensed radio spectrum.
Thousands choose our service, and we’ve been growing like crazy. That’s because we go into places that have been neglected by the telephone and cable companies and offer a better, faster and more robust broadband Internet connection than they do. Our customers like what we do, and we like serving them with the services they want and need. Our great success has also allowed us to invest in wired, fiber technology for more densely populated areas, without aid of government subsidy.
Delivering broadband via unlicensed spectrum provides tremendous benefits for our area, but it has its limitations, too. We mainly use the 5 GHz band of spectrum to bring service to customers. We want to continue to offer evolving levels of broadband connectivity to our community, but unlicensed spectrum, which is a finite resource controlled by the Federal government, is becoming crowded and noisy, and new avenues to obtain spectrum for small companies like ours are extremely limited, or non-existent.
Hopefully, this is poised to change.
Over the past year, the FCC has sought to release more spectrum, in particular proposing to open up the underutilized 6 GHz band for new unlicensed consumer Wi-Fi uses and fixed wireless providers. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (who, by the way, hails right “next door,” from Parsons) notes the proposal would unleash approximately 90% of the band for use by small wireless companies like mine to serve our community.
We welcome the Chairman’s proposal! If adopted, it would allow us to substantially expand our reach and effectiveness in delivering broadband to our customers. It would mean faster web pages. Smarter, safer homes and farms. More productive businesses. And an even better connection to our digital economy, on par with our urban counterparts. Moreover, all this would be accomplished locally, years ahead of “5G” or other buildouts from traditional telecom and cable providers (you know, the ones who have neglected us in the first place).
Opening up the 6 GHz band is just good policy. It will put an underutilized swath of finite spectrum to better use. It will give new life to consumer uses of the Internet. And it will allow my company, and others like mine, to grow and bring broadband to hard to serve rural areas.
We support the FCC’s proposal. The residents and businesses of Allen and surrounding counties should, too – it will make our rural community an even better place to live in and thrive.