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Fixed Wireless Could Solve the Digital Divide, if Given the Chance

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WASHINGTON, June 12, 2019 — Congress should make it easier for small wireless internet service providers to acquire spectrum and deploy broadband in rural areas, said speakers at a Wednesday panel hosted by the Wireless Internet Service Provider Association.

Fixed wireless’ cost-effective deployment has made it the most rapidly growing sector of the broadband industry, said panelists at a WISPA-Crown Castle event entitled “Rural Broadband: Solutions for America’s 21st Century Infrastructure Challenge.”

Rural wireless providers are able to make broadband deployment profitable, with advocates claiming a return on investment for broadband projects in just 10 months, versus 11 years for fiber deployment.

There are more than 2,000 providers across the United States using fixed wireless to serve more than four million rural customers, said WISPA President Claude Aiken. The majority of these are very small businesses, led by local entrepreneurs using private at-risk capital to bring broadband to rural communities without the help of a government subsidy.

Amplex Founder Mark Radabaugh said that this proves the inaccuracy of the “conventional wisdom” that rural broadband will only be deployed if the government is subsidizing it. He suggested that the government should treat spectrum in the same way that it used to treat land—give it out to whoever is willing to develop it.

Jimmy Carr, the president of All Points Broadband, pointed out that the digital divide is a “last mile” problem, and the optimal solutions will be specific to each geographic area. The three main challenges that WISPs are currently facing, he said, are spectrum limitations, difficulty acquiring additional spectrum, and policymaker bias for specific access technology.

Providers use predominantly unlicensed spectrum for the last mile, but the frequency bands currently being used are unable to penetrate obstructions. Non line-of-sight spectrum is critical for connecting rural America, Carr said.

The difficulty with acquiring additional spectrum stems from the current auction rules being stacked against rural, “last mile” providers. The licensing areas being auctioned off are extremely large, making only so that the major mobile carriers can compete.

Carr showed an example of one area where his company has all of the necessary demand and technology to deploy fixed wireless but cannot afford to secure the spectrum license for that area because it would also require buying the exclusive rights to that spectrum spanning multiple states.

Carr and the others also criticized the Federal Communications Commission’s auction processes as inefficient and impossible for small wireless internet providers to obtain needed spectrum for specific rural areas.

Policymakers tend to gravitate towards the call to bring fiber to every home, said Carr. He disagreed with this approach, saying that it was unlikely to happen in the near future, and the focus should instead be on getting basic service to as many Americans as possible at the lowest aggregate cost.

Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., said that fixed wireless is a “critical and central component” of bringing broadband access to rural areas, and the government should invest in it. He warned that not doing so would put the United States at a competitive disadvantage against other nations.

However, Wittman argued against the practice of giving residents of rural areas a stipend to pay for services and recommended instead offsetting the initial capital cost that wireless providers need to build out the systems. Reducing capital cost would create a “longer range business plan, and viability within that business plan going forward, Wittman said.

Carr agreed to this, reminding policymakers that delivering broadband is “subject to the laws of finance,” meaning that it will require significant upfront investment.

Wittman highlighted the need for “aggressive” practices in terms of speed, pointing out that the current minimum requirement for certain Agriculture Department deployments at 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) down /1 Mbps up is already proving too slow, especially for businesses.

He advocated for a 50 Mbps down/5 Mbps up speed standard, saying that this would ensure “quality and longevity of business.”

(Photo of panel by Emily McPhie.)

Broadband's Impact

Dianne Crocker: Recession Fears Have Real Estate Market Forecasters Hitting the Reset Button

Growing fears of recession trigger pullback on previous rosy forecasts.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Dianne Crocker, Principal Analyst for LightBox

The lyrics to “Same As It Ever Was” by the Talking Heads certainly don’t apply to how 2022 is playing out in the commercial real estate market. Two quarters of negative economic growth has put a damper on market sentiment and triggered fears that the U.S. economy is heading for a recession. By midyear, market analysts were taking a good, hard look at their rosy forecasts from the start of the New Year and redrawing the lines.

Once upon a time…

At the start of 2022, forecasters were bullishly predicting that commercial real estate investment and lending levels would be nearly as good as 2021. This was significant, considering that 2021 set new records for deal-making and lending volume as the debt and equity capital amassed during the pandemic while looking for a home in U.S. commercial real estate.

What a difference a few quarters have made. Virtually, all the predictions that started the New Year were obsolete by mid-summer. The abrupt shift in market conditions is palpable and surprised just about everyone. Now, markets are reaching an inflection point that is in sharp contrast with the strong rebound of last year.

The two I’s: Inflation and interest rates

At the core of the recent upset in market sentiment is the persistence of high inflation, which seems to be ignoring all attempts by the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates and bring prices down. Higher inflation is having a ripple effect throughout the economy, pushing up the costs of construction materials, energy, and consumer goods. Among the notable economic indicators showing stress at mid-year was the GDP, which fell for the second consecutive quarter, and the Consumer Price Index, which jumped 9.1% year-over-year in June – the highest increase in about four decades.

In July, the CPI fell to 8.5%, an encouraging sign that inflation was beginning to stabilize. By the latest August report from LightBox, however, hopes were dashed when the CPI showed little improvement, holding firm at a still high of 8.3%.

The market is responding to a higher cost of capital as lenders tap the brakes. As the cost of capital rises with each interest rate hike and concerns of a recession intensify, many large U.S. financial institutions are pulling back on their loan originations for the rest of 2022 and into 2023. This change in tenor is a significant shift, given that 2021 was a record-breaking year for commercial real estate lending. Many lenders have already shifted to a more defensive underwriting position as they look to mitigate risks.

The Mortgage Bankers Association, which had previously predicted that lending levels in 2022 would break the $1 trillion mark for the first time revised their forecast downward in mid-July. By year-end, the MBA now expects volume to be a significant 18% below 2021 levels—and one-third lower than the bullish forecast made in February. Now, investment activity is cooling as higher borrowing costs drive some buyers from the market.

In the investment world, transactions were down by 29% at midyear due to a thinning buyer pool as higher rates impact access to debt capital. Market volatility is causing investors, lenders, and owners to rethink strategies, reconsider assumptions, and prepare for possible disruption.

Looking ahead to year-end and 2023

The rapid and diverse shifts in the market make for an uncertain forecast and certainly a more cautious investment environment. The battle between inflation and interest rates will continue over the near term. As LightBox’s investor, lender, valuation, and environmental due diligence clients move toward the 4th quarter—typically the busiest quarter of the year–unprecedented volatility is driving them to recalibrate and reforecast given recent market developments.

Continued softness in transaction volume is likely to continue as rates and valuations establish a new equilibrium. If property prices begin to level out, there will be more pressure on buyers to consider how to improve a property to get their return on investment. The next chapter of the commercial real estate market will be defined by how long inflation sticks around, how high interest rates go, and whether the economy slips into a recession (and how deeply). The greatest areas of opportunity will be found in asset classes like office and retail that are evolving away from traditional uses and morphing to meet the needs of today’s market. Until barometers stabilize, it’s important to rethink assumptions, watch developments, and recalibrate as necessary.

Dianne Crocker is the Principal Analyst for LightBox, delivering strategic analytics, best practices in risk management, market intelligence reports, educational seminars, and customized research for stakeholders in commercial real estate deals. She is a highly respected expert on commercial real estate market trends. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Broadband's Impact

Reason 3 to Attend Broadband Mapping Masterclass: State Maps vs. Federal Maps

The 3rd of 5 reasons to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass with Drew Clark on 9/27 at 12 Noon ET

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WASHINGTON, September 23, 2022 – The third reason to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass with Drew Clark on September 27, 2022, is to get a handle on what state broadband officers have and are doing with broadband maps.

While much of the action has been at the Federal Communications Commission, after state allocations have been made, funding decisions will ultimately come from state broadband officers.

Broadband Breakfast is hosting the 2-hour Broadband Mapping Masterclass to help Internet Service Providers, mapping and GIS consultants, and people in everyday communities concerned about broadband mapping.

This 2-hour Masterclass, available for only $99, will help you navigate the treacherous waters around broadband mapping. The live Broadband Mapping Masterclass is being recorded, and those who make a one-time $99 payment will obtain a guaranteed place during the live session.

ENROLL TODAY for our Zoom Webinar through PayPal.

Registrants will also receive unlimited on-demand access to the Masterclass recording. And they will receive Broadband Breakfast’s premium research report on broadband mapping.

Learn More about Why You Should Participate in the Broadband Mapping Masterclass

We’re presenting five additional reasons to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass.

Additional reason number 3 to attend the Masterclass

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allocates $42.5 billion for the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program. Every state will receive at least $100 million in funding, but the remaining more-than $37 billion will be allocated among states based upon a formula that is primarily determined by their percentage of the unserved population. (According to IIJA, a location is “unserved” if it lacks access to broadband at 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload. An area is “underserved” if it lacks 100 Mbps * 20 Mbps broadband.)

That’s where the FCC’s updated broadband map come in: Once challenges to the map are concluded, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration will allocate that $37 billion pool according to the “denominator” that the NTIA reads out from the FCC map.

But state and their broadband offices have a trump card: They can and are developing their own maps to check, verify and challenge the FCC map. Furthermore, they are under no obligation to award funds according to the actual places that the FCC says are unserved or underserved.

In the Broadband Mapping Masterclass, you’ll learn what you need to know in order to tap into these efforts by state broadband offices.

ENROLL TODAY  to find out what happens next.

Learn More about Why You Should Participate in the Broadband Mapping Masterclass

Read more about the reasons to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass

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Broadband's Impact

Reason 2 to Attend Broadband Mapping Masterclass: Aren’t There Other Databases?

The 2nd of 5 reasons to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass with Drew Clark on 9/27 at 12 Noon ET.

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WASHINGTON, September 22, 2022 – The second reason to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass with Drew Clark on September 27, 2022, is to find out what other databases and software tools are available to get a handle on broadband mapping.

Broadband Breakfast is hosting the 2-hour Broadband Mapping Masterclass to help Internet Service Providers, mapping and GIS consultants, and people in everyday communities concerned about broadband mapping.

This 2-hour Masterclass, available for only $99, will help you navigate the treacherous waters around broadband mapping. The live Broadband Mapping Masterclass is being recorded, and those who make a one-time $99 payment will obtain a guaranteed place during the live session.

ENROLL TODAY for our Zoom Webinar through PayPal.

Registrants will also receive unlimited on-demand access to the Masterclass recording. And they will receive Broadband Breakfast’s premium research report on broadband mapping.

Learn More about Why You Should Participate in the Broadband Mapping Masterclass

In addition to obtaining lifetime access to the recording – and a premium research report from Broadband Breakfast – we’re presenting five additional reasons to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass between now and the LIVE Zoom Webinar on Tuesday, September 27, 2022, at 12 Noon ET.

Additional reason number 2 to attend the Masterclass

The first version of the National Broadband Map was published with much fanfare on February 17, 2011. Each of the 50 states, 5 territories and the District of Columbia compiled broadband information from providers on a Census block basis. Significantly, carriers were required to disclose their service locations and feed that information into state and federal maps.

The National Broadband Map lasted for about five years, when the data collection effort – a partnership of the FCC, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the state broadband offices – concluded. But the publicly available data fed by the National Broadband Map remained. Many private companies and non-profit entities began to use this publicly available data and integrate into other public collections of data.

In the Broadband Mapping Masterclass, you’ll learn about these resources, databases, tools and projects – and how they provide many more forms of broadband data than simply that which is available from the FCC.

ENROLL TODAY  to find out what happens next.

Learn More about Why You Should Participate in the Broadband Mapping Masterclass

Read more about the reasons to attend the Broadband Mapping Masterclass

ENROLL TODAY

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