Fixed Wireless ISPs Urge ‘Tech-Neutral’ Government Broadband Spending

White House
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Fixed-wireless internet service providers (WISPs) are trying to finesse some broadband subsidy funds out of an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) program that the Biden administration has signaled should focus its dollars on wired broadband.

Included in ARPA's broadband billions is a homeowners assistance fund in the Department of Treasury that will contain $9,961,000,000 that states can tap (until 2025) for payment assistance for "qualified expenses" of individuals, primarily low-income households, who need help due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to the Treasury's interim guidance on ARPA spending that says it should go to wired networks rather than other technology, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) has reached out to the governors of all 50 states, plus territories, to argue that a one size fits all solution is not the right fit for a rollout of ubiquitous broadband and that the government needs to take a "technology neutral" approach.

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"This approach will result in slower deployment of much-needed services, arbitrarily constraining the market to use the most expensive and time-consuming option to connect Americans who need broadband today, not years from now," WISPA told the governors in making its case.

That case, said WISPA president Claude Aiken, is that the states have the flexibility to follow treasury's guidance while still using "the right tool for the job" when that tool is not wired broadband but a more cost-efficient and expeditious route to online broadband.

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“As [your state] considers applications for ARPA funds, we respectfully ask that you instruct the relevant broadband officials in your state to fairly and equally consider the ARPA applications of all viable technologies, whether fixed wireless, fiber, or cable,” writes Aiken to the governors.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.