200 WISP Industry Reps Urge Senate to Take Technologically Neutral Approach toward Bridging Digital Divide

Washington, DC, July 23, 2020 – WISPA delivered a letter signed by 200 WISP industry representatives, urging the U.S. Senate to take a technologically-neutral approach to COVID-19 proposals which seek to promote the rollout of broadband to unserved communities.

The letter notes, “As local providers, our industry knows who needs service and can build solutions for the unique and difficult areas. Particularly during the pandemic, this ability to rapidly and cost-effectively deploy broadband has connected thousands of Americans shut-in and cut-off from the rest of the world by this nation’s necessary efforts to ‘flatten the curve’…” 

It points out, “Our ‘toolbox’ is diverse, doing whatever it takes via a broad array of transmission technologies to connect our communities. This technologically-neutral manner of building Internet access leads to the rapid deployment of broadband networks, which cost-consciously map and scale to the real-world needs of our customers…Policies that favor any one technology over others limit this needed flexibility.  Moreover, they promote taxpayer waste and can undermine the important goal of eradicating the digital divide, too…”

Finally, it urges that the practical effect of proposals which seek to accelerate the FCC’s RDOF auction would result in many communities being left behind “when overpriced, so-called ‘future proof’ networks take the lion’s share of funds, leaving the truly unserved behind once more,” adding “Policies that pick winners and losers in this way only exacerbate the issue – an unintended consequence that we do not have the luxury of time to address…”

Even before the pandemic, WISPs have aggressively added broadband ‘lines’ to unserved, rural Americans.  This has only accelerated with the pandemic, with WISPs quickly, flexibly, and almost entirely on their own dime expanding their coverage.  Today, WISPs serve approximately 6 million customers in rural and urban communities throughout America.   

“WISPs can turn on the broadband switch virtually overnight, delivering robust, evolving solutions to those in the hardest to reach areas of the country,” said Christina Mason, VP of Government Affairs for WISPA. “The pandemic shouldn’t be gamed by powerful interests selling ‘fiber-favoritism’ to wire communities with expensive and wasteful technologies which could never come online in time to combat COVID-19.  A technologically neutral approach to deployment support ensures that those who want to compete for Federal dollars can do so fairly, in a taxpayer-friendly way, and in a manner which does not further widen the digital divide.”

A copy of the letter can be found here.  

WISPA’s 1000 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 6 million residential and business customers, often in exclusively rural areas.
Mike Wendy