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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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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.

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.

WISP

Wireless Internet Service Providers to Connect More Fiber Points as Bandwidth Consumption Increases

‘The only way to get that density is to get fiber out there. That allows you to get more subs with your wireless.’

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Photo of Jay Anderson, chief technology officer of FiberLight

LAS VEGAS, October 6, 2022 – By employing more fiber points, wireless internet service providers can improve network performance and innovation, industry players at the WISPAPALOOZA conference told Broadband Breakfast.

Jay Anderson, chief technology officer of FiberLight, which has built fiber networks in several states, including Texas, Florida, and Virginia, told this publication as wireless internet service providers get more subscribers online, the existing connections to the fiber backbone can get congested without more densification of fiber points.

“The only way to get that density is to get fiber out there, and that allows you to get more subs with your wireless,” Anderson said.

Anderson said he expects WISPs to adopt a “hybrid architecture” moving forward. FiberLight’s Texan WISP partners have grown “leaps and bounds,” he said. “They’re using our infrastructure…to get that capacity out there…our job is to get as much of it out there, [at as high a] bandwidth as possible,” he added.

Mike Rowell, senior vice president of operations for Hilliary Communications, related some of his own professional experience with fiber to Broadband Breakfast. Hilliary provides internet, telephone, and television service across Texas and Oklahoma.

“We can see fiber helping us out tremendously in some areas getting us to a wireless access point,” Rowell said, explaining that a single fiber deployment can replace a less-reliable, multi-device connection to a hard-to-serve area. He said this strategy enabled his company to offer higher internet speeds and reach new customers. 

Rowell has worked in telecommunications for four decades. He said he has seen once-prohibitive costs for fiber-installation machinery plummet, which makes fiber a far more viable option than it previously was.

“Fiber – from just…two years ago – was totally different than today,” he said. “You can [now] have fiber splicers that can do a really, really nice job for under $3,000.”

Rowell also emphasized the importance of foresight and innovative business planning. “We never thought we’d be selling one-gig, and here we are selling it,” he said. “It’s going to be the same thing: We don’t think we’re going to be selling 10-gig, but we’re going to.”

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WISP

Wireless Internet Service Providers Facing Challenges Meeting BEAD Program Requirements: Experts

Hurdles WISPs face include defining reliable service, regulatory burdens, and financial requirements, experts say.

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Carol Mattey, principal at Mattey Consulting LLC, via Twitter.

LAS VEGAS, October 4, 2022 – Several requirements for providers receiving funds from the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program present significant difficulties for wireless internet service providers, said experts at the WISPAPALOOZA conference on Monday.

The BEAD program, administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, will allot $42.5 billion dollars to the states to promote broadband access. States will in turn issue awards from their allotted funds to “subgrantees” – such as wireless internet service providers – for broadband deployment and other projects.

“The biggest concern is the way that NTIA has defined ‘reliable broadband service’ to exclude locations that are served exclusively with unlicensed spectrum,” Stephen Coran, attorney in the broadband and communications practice group at Lerman Senter, told Broadband Breakfast Monday. “There’s nine million people who are getting broadband service that way. Many of them can’t get it any other way and the service is reliable.”

Areas covered solely by unlicensed spectrum are considered unserved by the NTIA. Carol Mattey, principal at Mattey Consulting LLC, told Broadband Breakfast Monday that although WISPs who operate such networks can apply for BEAD funding to alter their networks to meet the NTIA’s definition of “reliable broadband,” navigating BEAD’s complex regulatory framework will be difficult for many small providers.

“Most small providers don’t have the in-house staff or expertise to manage regulatory compliance,” she explained. “They’re…in the business of building networks. They don’t have people [who are] regulatory compliance experts.”

Mattey said small networks will have to adapt to overcome BEAD’s regulatory barriers. “They either have to acquire [regulatory-compliance] resources of share resources with others,” she said.

Possible financial hurdles

States or subgrantees must provide matching funds of at least 25 percent of each project’s cost. In addition, the NTIA’s notice of funding opportunity requires subgrantees to provide a letter of credit from a bank, totaling no less than 25 percent of the subgrantee’s award from the state.

Subgrantees receiving BEAD funding must also comply with Build America, Buy America provisions, which require construction material produced domestically make up at least 55 percent of total project cost – even if foreign sourcing would be cheaper. The NTIA is moving to waive some of these requirements for recipients of the NTIA’s $1-billion Middle Mile grant program.

Many subgrantees must also comply with the Davis-Bacon Act, which empowers the Department of Labor to set wage thresholds for contractors working on federally funded projects.

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WISP

Wisper Internet CEO Takes Issue With Federal Government Preference for Fiber

Wisper CEO Nathan Stooke said the attitude to connect more Americans should be to let the “best technology win.”

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September 13, 2022 – The CEO of a wireless internet service provider took a shot at the federal government’s preference for fiber infrastructure, saying the attitude to connect more Americans should be to let the “best technology win.”

Officials from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a Commerce agency that is handling $42.5 billion for broadband infrastructure, have said that they prefer fiber builds because of their claimed ability to stand the test of time.

But Nathan Stooke of Wisper Internet said during an Ask Me Anything-style interview with Broadband.Money on August 26 that the government shouldn’t “dictate the technology.”

“What is their goal?” Stooke asked in an exchange with Drew Clark, Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher. “I mean they keep saying it’s to get people who don’t have service, service. We have to bridge the digital divide by forcing it to be fiber. You’ve now shrunk down the number of people you can serve right because it’s just the reality of it.

“I think there should be some fiber projects there. I’m never advocating for ‘don’t exclude anything.’”

A similar sentiment was expressed last month during a panel at the TPI Aspen Conference, in which representatives from private industry, trade associations and academia urged the government to give alternative technologies – like fixed-wireless and satellite – a chance to show their potential. That came after the Federal Communications Commission denied SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband service nearly $900 million from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund because it is still a developing technology.

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