Federal Internet Law & Policy
An Educational Project
Wireless ISPs Dont be a FOOL; The Law is Not DIY

"The past decade has seen the creation of unlicensed device-based telecommunications services. The most recent of these being the wireless Internet service provider or WISP - that uses unlicensed equipment to provide Internet service to third parties. These providers use equipment that was basically designed and authorized as unlicensed Part 15 wireless LAN equipment. For example, most connectivity with WISPs is through use of Wi-Fi or IEEE 802.11b devices. In addition, unlicensed devices are also being used to provide point-to-point microwave service. Unlicensed systems, for example, are being used by cellular and PCS providers for emergency and other backhaul operations to connect cell sites or base stations to the network."

"Under Part 15, equipment and devices are approved as a "complete" system, i.e., a transmitter and associated antenna.22 This ensures that the device is not used improperly and does not cause interference to other services or uses. This approach makes sense for most Part 15 consumer devices. However, in providing service to an area, WISPs often want to select an antenna that is optimized for local circumstances. Under present Commission rules, they are limited to antennas sold with the system. This may limit the available technical choices and result in higher costs due to lack of effective competition for antennas. In addition, both WISPs and point-to-point microwave system operators have suggested that higher power should be permitted for unlicensed operation in rural areas. The WISP community has indicated, for example, that it could bring broadband service to more areas if it was allowed higher power in rural areas." [FCC UDELWG p 14]

Derived From: Connected & on the Go; Broadband Goes Wireless, Report of the FCC Wireless Broadband Access Task Force, Feb. 2005

The development and growth of wireless broadband services by Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) constitutes another significant trend. WISPs use networks of wireless devices, typically unlicensed devices, to provide broadband connectivity, providing a facilities-based broadband alternative to cable and DSL services.83 Often WISPsí networks span many miles, including multicounty and multi-regional geographic areas. Some WISPs serve major metropolitan areas like New York and Chicago, other WISPs serve smaller cities like Tampa and St. Louis, and yet others serve very small communities.

One of the most significant market sectors for WISPs are rural and underserved areas, many of which do not have access to either cable or DSL services. A market survey of WISPs noted that more than 40 percent of WISPs deployed wireless broadband services because there were no other broadband alternatives.84 Subscriber bases for WISPs also vary, from fewer than 100 to tens of thousands.















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  • Cafés find Wi-Fi boom unsettling, IHT 6/14/2005
  • Some Cafe Owners Pull the Plug on Lingering Wi-Fi Users, NYT 6/14/2005
  • Chairman Powell and Commissioner Martin Visit a Wireless Broadband Service Provider in Rural Virginia, FCC 9/11/03