WISPA argues fiber overbuilds of fixed-wireless access are wasting broadband funds

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Billions in federal funding have been made available to expand broadband access since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) CEO Claude Aiken argued some of that money is being wasted on wireline rollouts in areas already covered by fixed wireless access service. As noted by Pew Charitable Trusts, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of March 2020 handed states $150 billion in funding which could, among other things, be used to extend broadband connectivity. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) followed a year later, making another $350 billion available, and the congressional infrastructure bill is expected to provide an additional $65 billion. According to Aiken, guidance issued by the Treasury Department about how states should use those funds to expand broadband access essentially ignores the presence of fixed wireless access networks. That, he said, has led to fears of overbuilding and wasteful spending. In July 2021, UTOPIA fiber argued the term overbuilding is bandied about by incumbent providers to make new competition sound like a bad thing. Aiken said that’s not quite the case here; as an example, he noted one WISPA member who serves rural Nebraska with a fixed wireless service offering speeds of 200 Mbps downstream and 100 Mbps upstream. But since fixed wireless isn’t counted when determining whether or not an area is served, the state decided to fund fiber within that WISPA member’s service area.

WISPA argues fiber overbuilds of FWA are wasting precious broadband funds