New OTARD Rule Supercharges WISP Model of Broadband Deployment

Washington, DC, January 8, 2021 – Yesterday’s unanimous FCC decision to extend the over-the-air-reception device (OTARD) rule is a major win for WISPs and the customers they serve.  It will facilitate the placement of broadband-only “hubs” and “relay antennas” – pizza box-sized technology – on homes, multi-tenant buildings and vertical structures, providing a potent tool for WISPs and other small innovators to grow broadband deployment beyond past limits imposed by the former rule.
Today’s networks are designed around smaller hubs placed closer to customers.  The new rule closes a 20-year-old loophole which excluded hubs and similar infrastructure from OTARD’s preemption of local zoning and homeowners’ association restrictions, thwarting the rapid and cost-effective deployment of scalable networks which can reach the unserved.   
WISPA alone requested that the Commission extend OTARD protections to cover all fixed wireless equipment, so long as it meets existing size and other reasonable restrictions for customer-end equipment.  The new OTARD rules will significantly lower barriers to siting fixed wireless infrastructure for WISPs and others. 
“Many wireless networks depend on good lines of sight, and our members will use any safe structures to do that – that is, where they’re available,” said Louis Peraertz, VP of Policy for WISPA.  “The rule change vastly increases the ability of our members to use customer locations to serve additional nearby customers in areas that lack other vertical infrastructure.” 
Peraertz added, “This narrow change in the rules will deliver an immense punch for those living in unserved and competition-free parts of the country.  It supercharges the fixed wireless broadband model of deployment, allowing the creation of powerful broadband networks in days, not years.  As COVID-19 has shown us, this is now more important than ever to achieve.  We appreciate the efforts of the FCC and the leadership of Chairman Pai on this important benefit.”
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 millions of residential and business customers, often in exclusively rural areas.

Mike Wendy