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Start Your Own ISP Lowers Barrier to Establishing Wireless Internet Service Providers

Start Your Own ISP founder discusses how WISP technology enables rural communities to access broadband.

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Start Your Own ISP's Graham Castleton

June 8, 2021–A company that helps wireless internet service providers get off the ground has been integral to getting communities connected during the pandemic.

Graham Castleton founded Start Your Own ISP to educate local communities on how to bring broadband to communities, as education has often been an overlooked aspect of the building process.

“Once the pandemic hit, it reinforced the broadband gap,” Castleton said at Connectivity Con 2021 on Friday. “People could not go to school or go to work. This ramped up interest from people in building something in their community.” Knowing your people need better broadband is half the battle. States and city governments come asking how to meet their constituents’ demands, he said.

A project in Taliaferro, Georgia exemplifies the approach SYOISP takes in bolstering connectivity. With a population of 1700, Taliaferro is one of the poorest, most rural counties in the state.

The Georgia Cyber Center partnered with Start Your Own ISP to figure out how to connect one of the hardest places to reach. In rural areas like Taliaferro, a combination of sparsely populated residences, an abundance of trees, and low economic development make it geographically and financially difficult to connect them to high-speed broadband. Their work establishes an effort to set up wireless access points in rural homes, whose research Graham states will be open access for other localities to replicate.

Castleton spoke about the ways in which WISPs solve connectivity gaps, especially in rural and remote areas. He said that in areas such as in Texas, he saw “people were coming from the town, in a parking lot trying to get Internet outside the library.”

As Graham says, “during the pandemic, schools were closed, but students [went] there, or to McDonald’s trying to get service.” His organization consults localities to add wireless hotspots in public areas such as libraries and main streets, where more users can access WiFi outside of school or work.

While challenges linger in improving access, cases such as that of Taliaferro and in Texas will serve as a model for how to reach those most underserved.

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WISP

WISPA Announces David Zumwalt as New CEO

Zumwalt’s tenure will begin on June 1.

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Photo of David Zumwalt used with permission

WASHINGTON, May 4, 2022 – In a press release Wednesday, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association announced that David Zumwalt will be the association’s president and CEO as of June 1, following selection by a search committee.

Zumwalt will be replacing Claude Aiken, who in February announced that he was stepping down from his position in April, moving to provider Nextlink Internet to serve as its chief strategy officer and chief legal officer.

Zumwalt has served as the CEO of Broadband VI, a major internet service provider in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He was formerly the founder, chairman and CEO of CNet, Inc., a provider of radio-frequency engineering and operational support system software and services.

Zumwalt was recruited to Broadband VI to prepare the company for scale, and during his tenure helped guide the organization to a historic $84.5 million from the Federal Communications Commission Connect USVI fund as well as provided operations leadership last year through the organization’s acquisition by a unit of provider Liberty Latin America.

He also has experience leading policy, workforce investment, infrastructure and market outreach initiatives as the CEO and executive director of the University of the Virgin Islands Research and Technology Park Corporation.

“David is simply the best person to guide our members to the tremendous opportunities at stake,” said Todd Harpest, WISPA’s chairman of the board.

Zumwalt praised the work WISPA has done upon his selection.

“WISPA’s active advocacy efforts extend the reach of members at the Federal level and within state and regional jurisdictions,” said Zumwalt.

“I am delighted to be joining WISPA and look forward to leading it as our membership, staff, and Board work to advance our Association’s mission.”

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WISP Executives Debate Whether Government Unfairly Favors Fiber Builds Over Wireless

Critic cites RDOF program as an example of bias toward fiber.

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Drew Clark, Jason Guzzo, Matt Larsen, Donny Smith and Rory Conaway

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2022 – At a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event last month, the federal government faced criticism for allegedly favoring fiber builds over wireless projects in broadband expansion efforts.

The assertion was a topic of debate among panelists at the event, with Donny Smith, CEO of midwestern wireless internet service provider Fibersmith, disagreeing with the initial claim from Rory Conaway, CEO of Phoenix-based WISP Triad Wireless.

At Broadband Breakfast’s event held at the WISPAMERICA trade show, Conaway cited the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund as an example in which the government has favored fiber builds, saying the agency went forward with the builds even though wireless deployment would be more economical, and fiber would take years to deploy.

Smith on the other hand stated that government projects are generally “skewed against fiber.”

Broadband Breakfast’s event focused on the question of whether WISPs should overbuild their networks – where infrastructure is deployed where there is existing facilities.

Throughout the discussion, WISP executives hailed overbuilding as necessary to meet increasing connectivity demands of consumers.

They also highlighted some of the key challenges facing connectivity via fiber, such as building around vegetation, and the comparative utility of fixed wireless to overcome such issues.

Matt Larsen, CEO of Nebraska-based WISP Vistabeam, pointed out that even all of Google’s funding could not be harnessed to overcome right-of-way issues in some areas, and as a result the company shifted its focus to fixed wireless in urban areas.

The discussion ended with a warning from Jason Guzzo, general manager of New York state WISP Hudson Valley Wireless, cautioning that poor decision making from the government with regard to its funding allocation will only further the digital divide for those left unconnected once projects are completed.

Drew Clark, Jason Guzzo, Matt Larsen, Donny Smith and Rory Conaway

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. You can also PARTICIPATE in the current Broadband Breakfast Live Online event and REGISTER HERE.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022, 12 Noon ET — Should Wireless Internet Service Providers Overbuild Themselves?

Live from WISPAmerica, Broadband Breakfast brings its Live Online program every Wednesday at 12 Noon ET on the road to New Orleans! In this special edition, Drew Clark of Broadband Breakfast will be interviewing WISPs about their take on the topic. What are the pros and the cons of seeking funding to build a fiber network on top of a wireless network? Should WISPs become fully invested in federal- and state-funded broadband expansion efforts? Learn more about the topic that has WISPs talking.

Panelists for this Broadband Breakfast Live Online session:

  • Jason Guzzo, General Manager, Hudson Valley Wireless
  • Matt Larsen, CEO, Vistabeam
  • Donny Smith, CEO of FiberSmith
  • Rory Conaway, CEO, Triad Wireless
  • Drew Clark (presenter and host), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Jason Guzzo is General Manager of Hudson Valley Wireless (https://www.hvwisp.com/). Hudson Valley Wireless currently operates New York’s largest Private LTE network covering over 3,500 sq miles passing over 120,000 homes, 8,500 businesses, and 450 anchor institutions. Jason currently serves on the Board of Directors at WISPA and focuses on various topics, including Broadband Access, Digital Equity, and Mission Critical Infrastructure.

Matt Larsen is the CEO of Vistabeam (http://www.vistabeam.com).   Vistabeam operates a fixed wireless and fiber broadband network covering 40,000 sq miles in Western Nebraska, Eastern Wyoming and Northern Colorado.   Matt is a founding member and past President of WISPA, serves on BITAG (http://www.bitag.org) and publishes the Wireless Cowboys blog (http://www.wirelesscowboys.com)

Donny Smith is the founder of The Fibersmith Company, a design and engineering company specializing in Fiber to the Premise (FTTP). He is a 20 year veteran in the FTTH arena working in design and construction of APON, BPON, GPON and lately various 10GPON networks.  He and his firm specialize in rural fiber network design and implementation.

Rory Conaway is CEO of Triad Wireless, a WISP operation in Arizona with infrastructure from the Grand Canyon to Arizona border. An engineer, he has been in the IT and Wireless Industries for the past 25 years as an author and consultant. He is also an industry consultant for  investors, manufacturers, and WISPs. In addition to writing articles in industry publications such as Mission Critical Magazine, he writes the series “Tales from the Towers” that can be found on www.muniwireless.com.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

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WISP

Wireless Internet Service Providers Association CEO Claude Aiken to Step Down in April 2022

Aiken helped elevate the profile of the wireless association in Washington.

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Photo of WISPA CEO Claude Aiken speaking at WISPAPALOOZA 2019 by Drew Clark

WASHINGTON, February 9, 2022 – The Wireless Internet Service Providers Associations on Wednesday announced the departure of CEO Claude Aiken. Aiken’s official last day at the association will be April 30, 2022.

Aiken, a former official in the office of Federal Communications Commissioner (and former acting chairwoman) Mignon Clyburn, worked to elevate the profile of the association in Washington. Prior to Aiken’s tenure, the association was led by volunteer executives or board members.

In his role as CEO since March 2018, Aiken helped bring WISPA into more of the broadband and telecommunications policy debates here.

Aiken was a frequent guest on Broadband Breakfast programs, including Broadband Breakfast Live Online in January 2022.

Infrastructure Money Must Go to Better Networks — Even If in Areas with Existing Infrastructure

“We are grateful for the four years in which he helped us grow and we wish Claude much success in the future,” said Todd Harpest, WISPA Chairman. “Claude has been a positive impact on WISPA and the thousands of innovators and entrepreneurs who are laser-focused on providing better connectivity across the world.  Although Claude has elected to not renew his contract with WISPA, he will remain at WISPA until the end of April 2022 and has made himself available even after that. For that, we are thankful. Thank you, Claude.”

Todd further added: “We hope to see many of you at WISPAmerica 2022 (March 14-17) in New Orleans. This will be a great time to thank Claude for his service.  Also, you will not want to miss the Broadband Billions Bootcamp on Monday (March 14), and learn about the newest industry advancements throughout the week.”

Claude indicated that he has been grateful for the opportunity and thanked WISPA and its members for placing trust in the association and in his leadership.

“The future, of WISPA and its members, is bright. It continually amazes me how much our members can accomplish, and this role has been one of the greatest joys of my professional career. Incredible volunteer leaders and dedicated staff have come together to accomplish things that I couldn’t have imagined possible when I first started in 2018,” said Aiken.

WISPA members continue to bring ingenuity and innovation to the communications industry. Said both Aiken and Harpest: “We are seeing members deploy fiber optic and hybrid fixed-wireless networks driving faster speeds and better service to homes and businesses. WISPA is a home for all technologies, enabling broadband operators to connect and bridge the digital divide in urban, rural, and remote communities.”

WISPA has organized a search committee for a CEO, with an outreach email for interested parties to SelectionCommittee@wispa.org.

WISPA is composed of about 1,000 members. These wireless internet service providers are part of what the association described as an evolving industry that supports fixed broadband connectivity, including equipment suppliers, support services, and other components.

Aiken is also scheduled as a forthcoming guest on Broadband.Money’s “Ask Me Anything!” series on March 11, 2022. The event will take place immediately prior to the WISPAmerica show, Aiken’s last as CEO.

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