WISPA Welcomes Senate Letter on BEAD NOFO Concerns

The following statement may be attributed to Matt Mandel, VP of Government Affairs, WISPA – Broadband Without Boundaries:
Washington, DC, April 20, 2023 – WISPA welcomes Senators Thune, Cruz, Wicker, Fischer, Sullivan, Blackburn, Young, Budd, Schmitt, Vance and Capito and their recent correspondence to the NTIA, noting their concern that the path the agency is taking in its BEAD NOFO is “inconsistent with NTIA’s statutory authority” and will undermine the IIJA’s goal of connecting all Americans to the Internet. 

Tech-neutrality is a central tenet of the IIJA. Congress put it in place because it invites more solutions to the table, thereby boosting the chances of overall success of the law. In this regard, the IIJA permits all technologies to be eligible for funding as long as they meet the law’s network requirements.

But the BEAD NOFO favors only one approved technology for the States and their subgrantees to access BEAD funds for broadband deployment. This rigid and inconsistent view of the law will harm the very communities Congress sought to help. As rightly noted in the letter, States “should not be precluded from awarding sub-grants to alternative technologies, if doing so is the right solution for their communities,” adding, “In the absence of such flexibility, NTIA will fail in its mission to efficiently connect all Americans.”

WISPA wholeheartedly agrees.

WISPA members adapt to the needs of the communities they serve. Fiber, licensed spectrum, shared spectrum and unlicensed spectrum sit ready in their flexible toolbox to connect their customers. This open model of network development has proven exceptionally effective and agile in reaching unserved, under-resourced and Tribal communities throughout the country. Today, WISPs deliver reliable broadband to nine million Americans, mostly in the hardest to reach and serve areas of the U.S. – the very areas the IIJA wants the BEAD program to connect.

WISPs are excited by the many opportunities within BEAD to grow deployment and shrink the digital divide. They stand ready to help the IIJA and BEAD succeed. To be partners. But BEAD’s narrow technological bias, and other procedural infirmities noted within the Senators’ letter, will sideline many of the most able players that can do the job, ultimately undermining the IIJA’s and BEAD’s success.

We thank the Senators for their important letter and encourage the NTIA to fashion their program in a manner which brings more solutions to the table to eradicate, once-and-for-all, America’s pernicious digital divide. 

A copy of the Senators’ letter can be obtained here.

About WISPA – Broadband Without Boundaries
WISPA’s approximately 1000 members provide fixed broadband connectivity, and include equipment suppliers, support services, and other industry partners and stakeholders. Our members provide broadband access to millions of residential and business customers in rural, urban, and Tribal areas across America.
Mike Wendy