Fixed wireless internet can provide internet to sparsely populated areas, avoiding the costs associated with installing fiber.
Transmitters are most effective on tall buildings or structures, known as vertical assets.
States can increase accessibility to vertical assets through a range of strategies, including mapping and vetting assets, and ensuring structure access.
Installing fiber optic cable to deploy broadband in low population or low income areas can be expensive for internet service providers (ISPs). Fixed wireless internet can achieve last-mile internet deployment by using transmitters with internet access (e.g., via fiber or from another transmitter) to send broadband internet to nearby receivers. Fixed wireless transmitters are often mounted on tall structures called vertical assets (Dawson, 2021).
Internet speed is most commonly measured by bandwidth in megabits per second (Mbps) (for more information, see our previous Science Note, Internet Speed). The quality of fixed wireless internet depends on (Dawson, 2021):
Fixed wireless transmitters are most effective when placed on vertical assets with a line of sight to many potential customers. Mapping and vetting assets can be time-consuming for ISPs. However, most states do not publish vertical asset mapping and ownership data publicly.
State and local governments can use a range of strategies to support fixed wireless deployment, including but not limited to (NCDIT, 1):
Broadband adoption in rural areas lags behind adoption in urban and suburban areas (see our Broadband Availability & Adoption Note). The federal government has taken steps to promote the deployment of wireless infrastructure in rural regions by making more federal assets available for rural broadband deployment.
To provide political subdivisions with more confidence about the legality of allowing their vertical assets to be used for fixed wireless transmitters, Missouri passed a provision in SB 820 in 2022 that explicitly allows political subdivisions to install transmitters on their vertical assets. Little to no research has been done to determine the effects of policies similar to the provision in SB 820 to improve fixed wireless deployment.
Dawson, D. (2021). (rep.). The Rural Broadband Industry. CCG Consulting, commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://www.pewtrusts.org/-/media/assets/2021/09/white_paper_rural_broadband_industry_final.pdf.
Federal Communications Commision. (2014). (rep.). Report and Order, FCC 14-153. Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/FCC-14-153A1.pdf.
Glenn Knox. Interview. North Carolina Office of Broadband. September 29, 2022
NCDIT 1. (n.d.). North Carolina Division of Information Technology. Community Broadband Planning Playbook. NCDIT. Retrieved October 31, 2022, from https://www.ncbroadband.gov/technical-assistance/playbook
NCDIT 2. (n.d.). Mapping Your Assets. North Carolina Division of Information Technology - Division of Broadband and Digital Equity. Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://www.ncbroadband.gov/technical-assistance/playbook/assets-needs/mapping-your-assets
NCDIT 3. (n.d.). Vetting Vertical Assets. North Carolina Department of Information Technologies - Division of Broadband and Digital Equity. Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://www.ncbroadband.gov/technical-assistance/playbook/assets-needs/vetting-vertical-assets
NCDIT 4. (n.d.). Rights of Way. North Carolina Department of Information Technology - Division of Broadband and Digital Equity. Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://www.ncbroadband.gov/technical-assistance/playbook/policy-broadband/rights-way
NCDIT 5. (n.d.). Building & Structure Access. North Carolina Department of Information Technology - Division of Broadband and Digital Equity. Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://www.ncbroadband.gov/technical-assistance/playbook/policy-broadband/building-structure
Supporting Broadband Tower Facilities in Rural America on Federal Properties Managed at Interior. U.S. Department of the Interior. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://www.doi.gov/broadband
U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). (n.d.). Supporting Broadband Tower Facilities in Rural America on Federal Properties Managed at Interior. U.S. Department of the Interior. Retrieved October 31, 2022, from https://www.doi.gov/broadband
MOST Policy Initiative is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides nonpartisan research information to members of the Missouri General Assembly upon request. This Science Note is intended for informational purposes and does not indicate support or opposition to a particular bill or policy approach. Please contact email@example.com with any questions.
**The topic covered in this Science Note was originally discussed in a previous Science Note. As a result, there is some overlap in the discussion of vertical asset management between the two Notes.