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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.



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 ( 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 (   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 ( and publishes the Wireless Cowboys blog (

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

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of 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.

Reporter T.J. York received his degree in political science from the University of Southern California. He has experience working for elected officials and in campaign research. He is interested in the effects of politics in the tech sector.

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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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