Louis Peraertz, vice president of policy for WISPA, has endorsed the FCC’s proposed technical rule enabling widespread use of the 5.9 GHz band.
“Broad consensus exists among wireless internet service providers (WISPs) for adoption of the FCC’s proposed technical rules, enabling widespread outdoor unlicensed use of the 5.9 GHz band, says Peraertz.
He continued: “As the FCC’s 5.9 GHz STAs make abundantly clear, too, the demand is there for it to go into quick and innovative service, keeping American’s connected during the pandemic, and beyond. That use also shows it can occur without causing harmful interference to licensed operations.
“Prime mid-band spectrum is finite and too valuable for it to remain roadblocked by promises which have never gotten into first gear these past twenty years. We support the Commission’s proposals which would drive 45 megahertz of the band into higher use — Americans, especially those in rural and underserved areas of the country, would see immediate and lasting benefits should the FCC’s proposals move swiftly forward.”
As the Biden administration has combatted the COVID challenge through a data-driven approach, it must apply the same method toward bridging the digital divide, said Claude Aiken, president and CEO of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), in an opinion piece published today in Morning Consult.
In a piece entitled “Using the White House’s Approach to COVID to Amplify Infrastructure Policy,” Aiken urges the administration and congressional lawmakers to follow a science and truth approach to broadband policy, which is inclusive and solutions-oriented. In doing so, it would ensure that infrastructure legislation now being contemplated in Congress could have a positive effect, resulting in more American jobs and better, more affordable connectivity for consumers.
“On his first full day in office, President Joe Biden signed the ‘Ensuring a Data-Driven Response to COVID-19 and Future High-Consequence Public Health Threats’ executive order,” Aiken’s opinion piece reads. “This was the first step toward fulfilling his campaign promise to lead with science and truth in his administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, as the president and congressional leaders attempt to navigate a multibillion-dollar infrastructure package through Congress, the same science and truth approach could help ensure that the American Jobs Plan does what it is intended to do.
“To end the COVID pandemic,” Aiken continued, “we need all vaccines in arms as fast as possible. Broadband is no different. All technologies need to be in play in closing the connectivity gap. Truly data-driven and inclusive approaches to legislative policy will include multiple technologies that are well-suited to deliver robust and affordable broadband to all Americans.”
Reference: Morning Consult’s website
U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today led a bipartisan group of senators in introducing legislation known as the Rural Connectivity Advancement Program Act of 2021. The bill sets aside 10 percent of the net proceeds from spectrum auctions to be deposited into an FCC-administered Rural Broadband Assessment and Deployment Fund, to be used for building broadband networks.
Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined Thune in introducing the legislation.
Under terms of the Act, the FCC must use the fund to establish one or more programs to address gaps in broadband internet access service coverage in high-cost rural areas. The federal agency also would be required to address insufficient funding of other programs that could adversely affect the sustainability of broadband services or comparability of rates supported by such programs. Further, the FCC must establish transparency and accountability requirements for addressing such coverage gaps and funding shortfalls, and it must report annually on the distribution of amounts from the fund.
NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association, has its headquarters which is based in Thune’s home state. NATE’s president and CEO, Todd Schlekeway, said that NATE thanks the senators for their leadership in introducing the Rural Connectivity Advancement Program Act in the 117th Congress.
“NATE member companies are on the front lines of deployment, working on a daily basis to close the digital divide,” Schlekeway said. “The Association is proud to endorse this legislation that will ultimately provide an infusion of funds from proceeds generated from congressionally mandated spectrum auctions to promote broadband deployment services and communications infrastructure expansion.”
Christina Mason, vice president of government affairs for the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), said that the legislation puts forward a solid, common-sense and flexible solution toward eradicating the rural divide.
“We are encouraged by the bill’s focus on connecting rural communities to infrastructure capable of delivering reliable high-speed broadband, which COVID has shown to be more important than ever before,” Mason said. “Internet access helped America weather the storm, and WISPA’s 700-plus internet service provider members have proudly worked overtime to keep millions of Americans in the most remote areas of this nation connected during very difficult times. We believe no one should be left to compete in a 21st-century economy without access to broadband.”
Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, said that existing programs like the FCC’s Universal Service Fund (USF) play a critical role in helping providers deploy and sustain high-speed broadband in rural areas. It follows, she said, that NTCA endorses the Rural Connectivity Advancement Program Act because it is intended to to enable new initiatives and make use of existing programs to support the buildout and operation of broadband networks.
“If the last 15 months have shown us anything, it is that broadband connectivity is essential for daily life,” Bloomfield said. “When the COVID-19 pandemic forced so much of our lives to move online, NTCA’s community-based providers went above and beyond to keep rural Americans connected. But we have more work to do, and the Rural Connectivity Advancement Program Act would provide significant resources and powerful tools to help with the dual objectives of deploying advanced networks and sustaining high-quality affordable services across rural America.”
Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine.
No doubt, broadband is a main driver in making our economy and our lives better. In good and tough times. A test of its mettle can be seen in how it helped us survive through the pandemic. Not just in big cities like Cleveland, but also in rural communities like mine in Luckey, Ohio, enabling access to schooling, work, telehealth, religious services, entertainment and, perhaps most importantly, our friends and families through the crisis.
Our networks worked in the most unforgiving of circumstances. Offering access to communities left behind by billion-dollar providers. Providing competition to those providers who delivered the bare minimum. And private investment was key to that.
I run Amplex Internet, a broadband provider serving rural northwest Ohio. I started the business in 1997 to meet the need for internet connectivity when the area was unserved even by local dialup service. In 2003, we began offering broadband via fixed wireless connectivity. Today, we offer 50/5 megabit per second, fixed wireless service (which is approximately twice the FCC benchmark standard); and, where we have built fiber networks, gigabit service. Importantly, Amplex has done this without federal or local subsidies and has been profitable the entire time.
Fixed wireless providers like Amplex play an important role in keeping our economic engine roaring. Altogether, small ISPs like mine provide fixed wireless broadband services to nearly seven million Americans, helping them thrive and stay safe. Moreover, we do it in places left behind or ignored by incumbent providers – in the toughest to reach and serve places of the country. In the digital divide.
Like the 30 million other small businesses that make America tick, many fixed wireless providers have done it on their own dime. Bootstrapping every available red cent to bring services to where they weren’t, successfully tapping a market that others won’t touch. The 2,800 local providers that comprise this small industry are on track to grow nearly 15 percent more than the prior year in both revenue and subscriber growth. This trend is not a fluke, but instead has been ongoing for years.
How can this be when the popular narrative firmly avows that the markets these providers are in – the digital divide – simply can’t be served because there’s no money in them? That the only answer to connecting the truly unserved are any number of $100 billion subsidy plans being considered in Congress to bridge that divide once and for all to bring futureproof internet to unserved Americans?
It’s got our heads scratching. Amplex provides over 45 local, good paying jobs with full benefits. We could not do this if we did not serve our market well.
One such troubling proposal to eradicate the digital divide is the president’s American Jobs Plan. It includes an ambitious goal of deploying futureproof broadband infrastructure to 100 percent of the U.S. population, prioritizing its billions in support for networks owned, operated by, or affiliated with local governments, non-profits and cooperatives.
Now, don’t get me wrong. A number of small fixed wireless providers have recently won government subsidies to help bring service where it was truly infeasible to do so. It’s highly likely that for any subsequent subsidy programs, we’ll see other fixed wireless providers bid for those subsidies, too. Maybe even Amplex.
But the plan seemingly states “no for-profit companies need apply,” knocking small innovators like mine off the road. In doing so, it promotes what could only be considered a government-subsidized monopoly, killing off private enterprise. Not only is this inherently anti-small business, the proposal’s bias for government-sponsored entities will result in less competition, innovation and broadband deployment – the exact opposite of the Biden administration’s stated goals.
The plan’s other central flaw is its focus on building so-called futureproof networks.
It is a false economy.
For the plan, futureproof means symmetric networks. That is, downstream and upstream traffic speeds are the same. And while that sounds cool and fashionable, particularly in these Zoom days, the plan devotes $100 billion to symmetry, which is not what folks want out in the real world.
A recent independent industry body – BITAG – noted, “Even with the growth in the use of upstream intensive applications such as video conferencing, the downstream-to-upstream traffic ratio is still highly asymmetrical and illustrates that asymmetrical broadband fulfills the requirements for most residential broadband users.” Most all communications networks are asymmetric, because that is how we deliver the best experience for customers who largely prefer to watch Netflix and play video games over uploading terabytes of data to the cloud. (Hint: no one needs to upload terabytes of data to the cloud.)
Broadband analyst Doug Brake puts it this way. Building symmetric networks with taxpayer dollars is not only expensive, it just doesn’t make sense – “like saying we should invest hundreds of billions of dollars to design our freeways so that cars can drive 600 miles per hour.”
No one needs to drive 600 miles an hour. Ever.
Symmetry is exorbitantly expensive, needlessly boosting costs to taxpayers with little corresponding return. Further, it is yet another arbitrary factor which removes solutions in the marketplace, clearing the way for prioritized support to broadband networks owned, operated by, or affiliated with local governments, non-profits, and co-operatives who have little experience in running them.
We service the digital divide. Companies like Amplex are potent allies in meeting this challenge. Of bringing new innovation to telehealth, remote learning and schooling, digital democracy, and, yes, even gaming. America doesn’t have to spend $100 billion to get all Americans online. Lawmakers could help build universal, real-world futureproof networks far more efficiently if they:
These steps will bring about evolutionary broadband networks that are competitive, ubiquitous and adopted by all. At tens-of-billions of dollars less and years ahead of schedule. In doing so, they will go the distance toward realizing the president’s call to build jobs and get all Americans online.
Small business gumption and private investment drove broadband to Luckey. It makes little sense to drive this model away when it has proven itself so worthy to serving the digital divide and helping our economy hum.
Mark Radabaugh is president of Amplex Internet in Luckey, Ohio, and WISPA’s chairman of the board.
Forget the lazy, hazy days of summer. The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association has been busy in the last month, lobbying hard for access to spectrum in small geographic areas in the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), which it thought it had sewn up three years ago.
Back in 2015, when it created the CBRS, the FCC designed Priority Access Licenses (PALs) to consist of 10-megahertz channels, each covering a census tract (a small, relatively permanent statistical subdivision of a county) as part of the CBRS. Up to seven total PALs were to be assigned in any given census tract. Then in 2017, the FCC launched a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would increase the size of the geographic area of the licenses and make other changes better suited to carrier control of the spectrum.
The proposed rule changes have frustrated WISPA President and CEO Claude Aiken. The response to the original auction rules brought in additional non-traditional players who had not be able to bid on the larger geographic area licenses, including Industrial IoT players such as FedEx, Port of Los Angeles and others, he said.
So now Aiken is fighting an uphill battle to save rules that passed unanimously in favor of his industry three years ago. He has spoken before the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, made an exparte presentation before the FCC (cosigned by 182 WISPs) and has written editorials, explaining why census tract licenses in the CBRS band are critical to his members’ ability to provide broadband to more rural consumers.
“We have been working hard. This issue is incredibly important to our members. It is the policy issue that we have been spending the most time on,” Aiken said.
As the wireless carriers and WISPs and others came to loggerheads, the FCC responded by asking for a compromise.
“There have been a lot of industry negotiations that led to compromise licensing framework proposals, one of which was supported by WISPA and a broad coalition of potential bidders, and the other supported by the carriers,” Aiken said.
The wireless industry proposed a two-tier system, with different geographic areas between urban and rural areas (based on counties). WISPA urged the Commission to maintain two of the seven census-tract licenses in all areas of the country.
Aiken maintained that WISPs are ideally suited for cost-effective, rapid rural deployment without government subsidies.
“5G isn’t just for the mobile industry. What we need to focus on is spectrum policies that are balanced, which will enable 5G in urban areas but also allow our members, who are already deploying broadband in rural areas to continue to do so,” he said. “Having good spectrum policy can, in a lot of ways, be a substitute for subsidies. Our members provide service in areas, without subsidies, where other companies say they need subsidies to provide service.”
During last week’s FCC congressional oversight hearing, Rep. Doyle (D-Pa) made his support for census-tract licenses very clear with a rhetorical question.
“How does making changes in the CBRS band to make it less accessible to rural broadband providers, who are deploying broadband in hard to reach communities enhance the Commission’s and this committees shared goal of bridging the digital divide?” he said.
Later in the hearing, Doyle bluntly asked each Commissioner if they would commit to the use of census-tract licenses. Commissioner O’Rielly, just as bluntly, said “no” he wouldn’t commit, while Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel supported them, saying “We are going to need smaller license sizes if we are going to get wireless providers to serve rural areas in this band.” Commissioner Brendan Carr said he was were undecided, while Chairman Ajit Pai told the hearing that Commissioner O’Rielly is taking the lead in working with staff on the 3.5 GHz proceeding and he was not going to presuppose the outcome of that work.
J. Sharpe Smith
J. Sharpe Smith joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 29 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence. Sharpe Smith may be contacted at: [email protected]