Written by Michael Saperstein, SVP of Government Affairs at WIA, and Rebecca Thompson, VP of Government Affairs at UScellular
5G fixed wireless home internet is shaking up the broadband marketplace. A new report shows 90% of net new broadband subscribers last year chose fixed wireless service for their in-home connectivity. WIA and UScellular recently travelled to North Polk High School in Alleman, Iowa (Go Comets!) to show Iowans why it’s such a fast-growing broadband service—it just works! Modern fixed wireless broadband is fast, reliable and more than capable of delivering on our specific connectivity needs.
We met with Iowa’s broadband leadership, including Lt. Governor Adam Gregg, State CIO Matt Behrens, and Governor Reynolds’ Empower Rural Iowa Task Force, about their goals for broadband connectivity. We discussed the role fixed wireless can play as a tool in a state’s BEAD broadband funding toolbox as a reliable, scalable and efficient solution.
While fiber broadband is also a reliable solution, in many areas FWA may well be the best solution for the individual needs of states. 5G Fixed Wireless Access is a commonsense choice in areas where distance between residences and terrain characteristics make the cost to deploy fiber impractical. It’s also a natural choice in areas where the same wireless infrastructure investment will provide both mobile and home service. As states begin the Herculean task of deciding how to allocate their broadband funding resources, in what may be our last best chance to truly connect all unconnected, they must think holistically about their options.
Even with more money available for broadband than ever before, decisions and tradeoffs abound, and states must make some difficult decisions. For example, if a state spends all its money on the most expensive form of deployment like fiber to the home, will the state have enough funding to fulfill the Congressional mandate of connecting every American? Will its technology choices support other broadband needs like supporting mobile connectivity? How long will the deployments take and how quickly does the state need service? Will any funding be left for other priorities like digital literacy, adoption, and workforce development? Will states be able to build on and upgrade the technology choices made today for the needs of its residents tomorrow? These are the hard questions we heard Iowans wrestling with in our conversations.
The truth is that there is a lot for states to figure out, and the best use of the funding in Iowa will differ from, for example, Rhode Island. Nevertheless, we know that a mix of technologies will likely be necessary to connect all Americans, and using highspeed, reliable licensed fixed wireless broadband as a BEAD deployment tool will expand the total connectivity package statewide.
As they consider their technology choices, the most important thing is that states should preserve their flexibility through an important detail called the Extremely High Cost Threshold. Much like presidential candidates visiting Iowa to kick off their campaigns, you can’t win the election at this early stage, but you can definitely lose it. States should do everything to maintain their ability to adapt to evolving connectivity needs and keep fixed wireless in their technology toolkit.
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