Digital Divide

The Divide: WISPs are the digital divide's 'first responders,' says new WISPA CEO

This week on the podcast, we're joined by David Zumwalt, president and CEO of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA).

Zumwalt assumed his role roughly two months ago, in June 2022, after former CEO Claude Aiken stepped down from his post at the organization in April.

We discuss what Zumwalt learned about the digital divide from his prior role at an ISP in the US Virgin Islands and his vision for WISPA as the federal government prepares to hand down tens of billions in broadband grants for states to eradicate gaps. We also get into the important role that WISPs play in closing the digital divide, and why he likens them to emergency first responders.

"If you're trying to triage an emergency, you want the first responders to be the ones who are on the scene, not something that's going to take longer, or, you know, might be the long-term solution 30 years from now. And the folks who can triage are the WISPs," he said.

Here are some other topics discussed in this episode:

  • The digital divide in the US Virgin Islands (02:34)
  • Zumwalt's vision for WISPA (05:17)
  • Why WISPA is shifting policy advocacy to the states (07:50)
  • What the NTIA got wrong with its notice of funding opportunity for broadband grants (10:57)
  • The use of unlicensed spectrum, and why it got excluded from funding for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program (13:17)
  • Local policies that help and hurt WISPs (16:34)
  • Challenges with the FCC's broadband mapping effort (19:32)

Related stories and links:

Nicole Ferraro, editor, Light Reading, and host of "​​The Divide" podcast.

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