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Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Assoc. Acquires Wisper Wireless

Expanding Broadband Wireless Service in Douglas County, Minnesota

Just more than a year ago, acquisitive Arvig Communication Services announced that it was acquiring nearby DiversiCOM, an ILEC/CLEC serving Melrose, Minnesota. Also included in the deal was wireless broadband service provider Wisper Wireless, which delivers Internet access service over leased EBS spectrum in Douglas County, Minnesota.

Yesterday the companies announced that Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association, based in Brandon, Minnesota, has acquired Wisper Wireless. Financial details were not disclosed, nor were subscriber counts.

Gardonville currently provides wireless broadband service over two leased 700 MHz licenses, also in Douglas County. The company intends to integrate the two systems and according to FCC filings, now has control of up to 55.5 MHz of spectrum in parts of the county.


Wisper Wireless offers six different monthly service plans, based on the speed provided. At the low end, customers can get 256k service for $29.95 per month; at the high end Wisper offers 1.5 Mbps for $54.95 per month. All plans include five email addresses, spam and virus filtering, 24/7 technical support and 50 MBs of disk storage.

In the transfer application for the leases, Gardonville and ACS pointed out that “When the Commission adopted new rules for this [EBS] spectrum, it did so to help meet its ‘goal of providing all Americans with access to ubiquitous wireless broadband connections, regardless of their location.’ By significantly revising its rules, the Commission has encouraged the ‘provision of new technologies and services to the public.’ In addition, the Commission expects that services in the 2.5 GHz band will ‘offer a significant opportunity to provide competition to cable and digital subscriber line (DSL) services in the provision of broadband services in all areas.’ Grant of this application will meet all of these Commission goals by permitting Wisper and Gardonville to hold the spectrum necessary to provide a competitive broadband service within the Douglas County, Minnesota area."

It’s interesting to see the EBS (Educational Broadband Service) spectrum being used for broadband service when most ILECs are jumping on the Verizon LRA bandwagon or waiting for 700 MHz LTE equipment and handsets to become available for licenses acquired at auction. At 2.5 GHz, however, the propagation characteristics are less attractive than 700 MHz, but for a one-county market area, it  just might do the trick. With a high end speed of just 1.5 Mbps, however, it seems to me that technological advances will be needed before the service can be truly competitive with cable broadband.

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