Upon arriving to the Union Station Hotel in St. Louis, the air was filled with buzz. You could feel the energy of the anticipated WISPAmerica conference building with board members, vendors, WISP owners and their employees, salesmen and engineers arriving every few minutes. In less than 48 hours, the show would finally begin! WISPA board members worked alongside the hotel staff at Union Station to prepare conference classrooms and the exhibition hall. Exhibitors flocked to the hall with their booth set up in tow to prepare for the large wave of WISP enthusiasts that were sure to follow.
To kick off the week, the Unggoy team attended a technical LTE session instructed by Telrad Networks. Why LTE? Higher speeds, decreased latency, better spectrum utilization and simple transition paths are a few of the reasons LTE technology is emerging globally. It will also give WISPs more opportunities for ‘everywhere’ coverage along with their current Line of Sight technology. Unggoy Broadband was the first company in the United States to apply a software update from wimax to LTE. Unggoy’s milestone experience with LTE was sought and discussed throughout the entire WISPAmerica conference.
Following the LTE session, Unggoy loaded up and headed across the river to Belleville, IL to attend an open house for fellow WISP, WisperISP. What a great opportunity to see the home base of a WISP that has been thriving for over 10 years!
Tuesday, February 24, marked the official start of WISPAmerica 2015. With exhibits set up, classrooms ready and attendees rearing to go, it was time for the WISPA board to kick things off. Chuck Hogg, president of WISPA, addressed the crowd with a board and industry update. WISPAmerica 2015 boasts over 600 attendees, 70+ exhibitors and over 40 class sessions.
WISPA works to promote the development, advancement and unification of the Wireless Internet Service Provider industry. They strive to encourage Congress and the FCC to write laws that support the survival and success of community-based wireless Internet service providers (WISPs), and to provide the best online technical forums that enable and encourage the sharing and exchange of information between all the members of the WISP community.
WISPA members along with all the attendees were humbled to have FCC Commissioner, Michael O’Rielly offer an insightful keynote regarding the FCC ruling that would commence in just two short days. O’Rielly believes wholeheartedly that the FCC should “create an environment to allow WISPs to expand their services”. As WISPA Board President, Chuck Hogg, concluded earlier that day, one size does NOT fit all and community based WISPs should be encouraged to forge technology innovation for the industry – not be hindered by laws and regulations that could damper their success and service for rural Americans.
Unfortunately, the FCC voted 3-2 in favor of net neutrality rules that reclassify broadband internet service as a telecom service rather than an information service under Title II regulations giving them more power to regulate ISPs. We did learn that small WISPs, like Unggoy Broadband, having less than 100,000 subscribers will be temporarily exempt from some of these regulations. At this point, we as an industry have to let the dust settle and hope the 332 page plan for an open internet will be released to the public soon in order to decipher what these regulations will be and how they will affect our industry, our company and our customers.
Education was a key component of WISPAmerica. With over 40 class sessions spread across just three days, the Unggoy team came prepared to attend as many sessions as possible. Unggoy members attended classes focusing on customer/public relations, selling and marketing all the way to installation training, the Connect America Fund, LTE deployments and software. The sessions provided the opportunity to learn from other WISP members, industry leaders and technology experts.
Networking with other members of the industry was another crucial component of WISPAmerica. Unggoy had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time with representatives of our newest vendors Telrad Networks and iPifony.
Trying to sum up such a content packed week into just a few paragraphs proves challenging, but the Unggoy team could not have imagined a better WISPAmerica experience filled with education and networking. We’d like to thank the WISPA Board and the Union Station Hotel of St. Louis for such a fantastic event. We appreciate all the board does for our industry and look forward to future ventures. May all WISPs continue to forge innovation, push technological limits and strive to provide a better broadband service for all of rural America!