As Congress considers an infrastructure funding bill, wireless internet service providers (WISPs) are asking legislators not to be too aggressive in setting broadband speed targets. Doing so would delay broadband deployment and could be anti-competitive, more than 400 WISPs argue in a letter sent to key members of Congress Friday.
“[W]e are deeply concerned by proposals before Congress that openly call for fiber-only deployments by requiring 100/100 [Mbps] symmetrical speeds,” the letter organized by the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) says.
“[A]rtifically constraining the technology our industry can deploy means fewer consumers served and longer timelines for deployment,” the letter continues. “And as the pandemic has shown us, connectivity delayed is connectivity denied.”
The signatories argue that asymmetrical network speeds are what consumers are buying and using now and are projected to continue to use in the future.
“[W]e ensure the most consumers are served the most quickly if we match consumer usage with government policy,” the letter states.
The letter also argues that providing government funding to a competitor could mean the end to WISP community-based businesses.
“Good public policy encourages innovation [and] competition and protects your constituents,” the letter about the WISP speed target argues. “It supports small businesses, many in rural areas where job creation and economic development are desperately needed.”
Republicans and Democrats have agreed to allocate $65 billion toward broadband in the infrastructure investment legislation they are drafting. But details remain to be resolved.
Some proposals have called for target speeds as high as 1 Gbps symmetrical. Advocates argue that a 1 Gbps symmetrical fiber network would be the most future-proof and would not require an update for a long time.
While some WISPs claim to support gigabit speeds downstream, at least in some areas, upstream speeds are more limited, based on technology currently available today. Fixed wireless equipment supporting 100 Mbps asymmetrical speeds is available from multiple manufacturers, however, and represents a substantial improvement over the speeds that WISPs traditionally have been able to deploy.
According to the WISPs’ letter, WISPs now serve more than 7 million customers nationwide.