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In First In-Person Event Since Pandemic, WISPA Conference Discusses Infrastructure, Mapping

WISPA holds first trade show in two years, which touched upon broadband infrastructure, mapping, spectrum and other topics.



Broadband Breakfast photos from WISPAmerica

GRAPEVINE, Texas, April 27, 2021 – For the first time since 2019, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association held an in-person live trade show, which touched on President Joe Biden’s broadband plan, spectrum policy and mapping.

“I can’t tell you all how happy I am to see you here today,” said WISPA CEO Claude Aiken during the WISPAmerica 2021 kickoff event on Tuesday.  “It’s been a tough year, and I’m so proud and thankful to be part of an industry that has helped America stay on its feet during these incredibly trying times. It’s just great to be back!”

Aiken spoke on the benefits the broadband industry has seen recently. It’s been a great couple of years, both for legislation and regulation, he said. We’ve seen billions of dollars in federal funding and benefits in expanded spectrum and Over-the-Air Reception Device rules, he said.

He also praised the ‘use-it-or-share-it’ concept that has allowed more access to the Citizens Broadband Radio Service spectrum band. We continue to advocate for this concept on Capitol Hill and at the Federal Communications Commission, he said.

WISPA CEO Claude Aiken, right

Aiken criticized the idea that “future proofing” networks should focus only on fiber infrastructure, referencing the Biden administration’s new $100 billion broadband proposal that hints at emphasizing fiber over other technology. Fixed wireless can also be future proof, we know we can hit gigabit speeds with wireless, he said. Fiber is very important, but we should use the right technology for the job, and just “picking one technology over another is subpar, policy-wise,” he said.

FCC’s new Broadband Data Collection

In a separate panel during Tuesday’s event US Telecom’s Lynn Follansbee and James Stegeman from CostQuest laid out the details for the FCC’s new Broadband Data Collection (formerly called the Digital Opportunity Data Collection) that will replace the current Form 477 that all providers are required to submit.

The new BDC will create a new ‘fabric’ data set that is intended to greatly enhance the FCC’s broadband mapping system. The agency considers any speed below 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload as unserved, and the Form 477 data shows where those unserved areas are.

The problem, however, is that the data only gets down to the census block level, potentially leaving millions of Americans without any service, especially in rural areas where census blocks can span dozens of miles. The BDC improves on this by using more granular data with geographic coordinates, addresses or polygon shapefiles.

The BDC also includes many updated requirements for fixed wireless providers, including greater details on tower locations, strength of signal and latency, and requiring certification by an engineer, among other stipulations. It also provides a new process available for consumers to challenge the accuracy of the broadband maps submitted by their service providers.

The change in submission rules for wireless providers raised some concerns during the WISPA panel, with one audience member complaining that the government was asking too much of small providers, especially the need for certification by an engineer, calling the new requirements “stupid” and unnecessary.

The WISPAmerica conference continues on Wednesday and Thursday.

Reporter Tim White studied communication and political science at the University of Utah, and previously worked on Capitol Hill for a member of Congress. A native of Salt Lake City, he escapes to the Pacific Northwest as often as he can. He is passionate about politics, Star Wars, and breakfast cereal.

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WISPs Can do More Than Increase Speed to Improve Experience: Experts

Capacity planning and different congestion algorithms can improve users’ experience without adding speed.



Photo of the panel by Jake Neenan

LAS VEGAS, October 12, 2023 – Fixed wireless broadband providers can do more than just increase speeds to improve the customer experience, experts said on Monday. 

“Sometimes more bandwidth isn’t the answer,” said Dwayne Zimerman, owner of Crowsnest Broadband. He spoke on a panel at WISPAPALOOZA, the annual conference of small and wireless internet providers.

Capacity planning

Putting energy into good capacity planning can help wireless providers avoid crowded networks, Zimmerman said. 

That involves being aware of the maximum capacity a network’s access point is able to handle and the typical usage of the subscribers on the access point. Users tend to average about 5 megabits per second regardless of the speed they subscribe to, Zimmerman said.

But providers should keep enough headroom – free capacity on top of the 5 Mbps per user – on an access point for a subscriber to use the entirety of their plan. That will allow users to run speed tests and do other activities with the full bandwidth they subscribe to without compromising the experience of other users.

Capacity can vary over the course of a day based on environmental factors and usage, Zimmerman said, so providers should use a threshold lower than the technical maximum capacity of an access point for planning purposes.


Providers should also be aware of bufferbloat, said Jose Lopez, CEO of network optimization company Bequant.

Bufferbloat is excessive latency caused by more data being sent to a point in a network than can be processed. This leads to packets of data waiting for long periods of time in a queue before continuing.

This is sometimes caused by congestion control algorithms, Lopez said. These algorithms are usually based on packet loss, meaning the lower throughput when packets of data start to get dropped from the queue.

But this can happen for other reasons than a network operating at maximum capacity, Lopez said, causing speeds to slow down when a network can in fact handle more.

He said non-loss-based congestion algorithms, both at servers and at points on networks, can help cut down on bufferbloat.

Traffic management and net neutrality

Another tool many providers use is traffic management, which involves temporarily limiting download and upload speeds at certain times and for certain applications.

Providers should be mindful of the proposed reinstatement of net neutrality rules from the Federal Communications Commission, the panel agreed. When net neutrality was first put in place in 2015, traffic management was allowed, but only when networks were congested.

The FCC will vote on putting its proposal up for public comment at its open meeting on October 19. If that goes forward, the commission will be seeking comment on whether to keep that exemption in place.

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WISPA Urges Members to Engage State Broadband Offices Ahead of BEAD

Advocacy on high-cost thresholds could help fixed wireless providers get BEAD funds.



Photo of the panel by Jake Neenan

LAS VEGAS, October 11, 2023 – The state policy head for the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association urged Wednesday that fixed wireless broadband providers engage state offices and legislators on including them in BEAD plans.

The $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program prioritizes fiber because of the high speeds it is capable of providing. BEAD guidelines exclude unlicensed spectrum from its definition of reliable broadband and require states to consider non-fiber technologies only when fiber would be too expensive to deploy.

States can set the cost threshold at which they do that. This is where WISPs – wireless internet service providers – can push for inclusion in BEAD plans, said Steve Schwebel, WISPA’s state advocacy manager. 

Some states will not be able to get fiber to every household lacking adequate broadband with their BEAD allocations, Schwebel said, and WISPs should talk with state broadband offices about setting a low enough threshold to allow fixed wireless providers to compete for grants in hard-to-reach areas.

“We can be a good partner in helping a state find a solution to that problem,” he said at WISPAPALOOZA, the annual conference of small and fixed wireless broadband providers.

The trade group has hired state lobbying group 50State to help in this effort. Colm O’Comartun, a partner at the firm, echoed Schwebel’s sentiment.

He encouraged WISPs to think about “regular engagement with our local elected officials and regulators.”

WISPA had a hand in setting Ohio’s high-cost threshold – about $5,100 per location – for a state grant program, Schwebel said. He added Pennsylvania is also consulting with WISPA on its BEAD threshold.

States are in the process of drafting initial proposals for implementing the program, due to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration by December 7. Those proposals will outline states’ plans for their high-cost thresholds.

Schwebel also encouraged WISPs to fill out Broadband Data Collection forms with information on locations they provide with broadband service. Participating in the recently launched Federal Communication Commission program keeps states informed on how fixed wireless providers are already operating in their communities and helps maintain good relationships with state officials, he said.

BDC data is due to the FCC each year on March 1 and September 1.

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WISPA Looking to Change Reliable Broadband Definition Under BEAD

The group’s policy heads said they are advocating to include unlicensed wireless.



Photo of WISPA president David Zumwalt addressing members by Jake Neenan

LAS VEGAS, October 10, 2023 – The trade group representing small and fixed wireless internet providers is focused on combating a provision in the Joe Biden administration’s major broadband funding program that designates areas served with only fixed wireless as lacking adequate connectivity, WISPA policy heads said on Tuesday.

“We’re continuing our aggressive advocacy to overturn the deeply flawed decision,” said Louis Peraertz, WISPA’s vice president of policy, in an address to the group at its yearly conference WISPAPALOOZA.

The notice of funding opportunity for the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program excludes from the definition of reliable broadband fixed wireless technology that operates on entirely unlicensed spectrum – spectrum bands not licensed to designated carriers by the Federal Communications Commission. That makes areas served by some WISPA member providers open to infrastructure projects funded by the program.

WISPA’s arguments against the provision, Peraertz said, have “received support from several congressional offices.”

The group is also pushing state broadband offices to make BEAD funds available to fixed wireless providers. Steven Schwerbel, WISPA’s state advocacy manager, said WISPA had a hand in setting Ohio’s planned extremely high cost threshold, the point at which the state will look to technologies other than fiber-optic cable to keep costs down.

“Thanks to our input, that threshold is being set in a way that will allow our members to compete for state grant dollars as widely as possible,” he said.

Pennsylvania’s broadband office is in active talks with WISPA about its high-cost threshold, according to Schwerbel.

States are in the process of submitting BEAD initial proposals to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, due by December 27. They come in two volumes, the second of which includes the high-cost threshold and other grant awarding procedures.

WISPA is also meeting with Federal Communications Commission officials to argue for changes in the commission’s plan to reinstate net neutrality rules, saying its members do not have the market share to engage in the anti-competitive practices the rules are designed to prevent.

The FCC will vote on putting its plan up for public comment at its open meeting on October 19.

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