Wireless Broadband Booming In The Boondocks
By Mike Masnick, Thu Jul 01 06:00:00 GMT 2004

Rural telcos are doing everything they can to offer broadband services to their customers, and unlicensed spectrum is increasingly the path they're taking.

A few months ago, American rural WISPs were busy pressuring the FCC to give them more spectrum for high powered unlicensed devices. It's not hard to see why: rural telcos are now offering broadband at an astonishing rate. According to the latest National Telecommunications Cooperative Association survey, 92% of rural telcos are currently offering some form of broadband -- nearly double the rate from four years ago.

While most of the offerings are DSL, a noticeable 22% are offering unlicensed wireless (in combination with DSL or other broadband technologies), often to fill in gaps in coverage. Also, despite early stories of rural WISPs being able to charge an arm and a leg for wireless broadband, that does not seem to be the case any more. Thanks to increasing competition among broadband providers in rural regions, the average WISP was only charging $46.34 per month for a wireless broadband service -- just slightly more than the average $44.53 per month for DSL.

Clearly, there's quite a bit of demand being seen in rural communities for broadband, and the local telcos have quickly realized that unlicensed wireless spectrum is a great way to provide that service. This may finally put other competing services, such as satellite broadband to bed as an option for broadband in the boondocks. However, as new broadband wireless technologies like WiMAX gain traction, it will be interesting to watch how the rural telcos respond. As the study makes clear, they're much more interested in unlicensed, rather than licensed spectrum, but many are afraid that WiMAX will not do particularly well in with currently available unlicensed spectrum. With competition heating up, and new broadband wireless technologies coming to market, the rural market may prove to be a popular testing ground for many new offerings. It certainly has become a lot more connected these days.