WISPA Echoes Rep. Eshoo's Concerns on Infrastructure Barriers to the Digital Divide

Washington, DC, October 7, 2020 – Access to infrastructure, such as poles, rights of way and conduits, remains a major hurdle for WISPs and other communications providers when seeking to connect to customers.  This is especially true in rural areas, where vertical infrastructure is sparse or of a type, such as utility poles, to which WISPs lack statutory access.  To this end, WISPA has long pushed for fast and fair access to infrastructure for broadband deployments no matter the location – whether federal, state, municipal, or private – to reduce this stubborn physical barrier to broadband deployment. 
Recently, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) sent a letter to the FCC supporting the NCTA’s request of the FCC to clarify certain aspects of the Commission’s pole attachment rules.  According to Rep. Eshoo, “Rural communities face significant burdens in access to broadband due to unevenly distributed infrastructure.”  As she points out “[d]isagreements between attaching entities and pole owners inhibit timely deployment in unserved areas, and any national strategy to expand broadband access must address this issue.”  This and the high cost of deploying infrastructure “leaves many Americans in digital isolation and prevents communities from accessing 21st century technology,” Rep. Eshoo notes.
We agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly.  Nearly 20 million Americans do not have access to FCC-defined broadband.  “WISPA appreciates Rep. Eshoo’s recognition of the burdens pole attachment regulations and their steep costs place on small ISPs who are at the frontlines of the digital divide,” said Christina Mason, VP of Government Affairs for WISPA.  “Opening up these policies would significantly improve the ability of WISPs to deploy cost-effective, high speed networks in their local unserved communities, and we pledge to work with Rep. Eshoo and any others to remove the artificial barriers that keep too many Americans from getting broadband.
The FCC has made tremendous strides in opening up other infrastructure, such as spectrum.  Clarifying the Commission’s rules to allow broadband-only providers non-discriminatory access to poles and other similar infrastructure would take that work further.  It would give even more value to new, and soon-to-be released, “commercial” spectrum, drastically shrinking the digital divide.  Millions of Americans could more quickly be brought online as a result.   
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