A telecommunications industry veteran says there are viable and affordable wireless local access solutions that can work in rural and remote parts of the country. Nick Kauser of NR Communications, a broadband wireless equipment company with ties to Craig McCaw’s Clearwire, stated during a session on local access alternatives at the Telecommunications Policy Review Panel’s Access Forum in Whitehorse last month that the city could be outfitted with a broadband wireless system for about $120,000 "all-in." "The technology for the access is here today" and "it’s affordable," Kauser told delegates to the one-day event. "It can be purchased by people; it can be provided in competition to other forms ." Kauser referred to technology provided by NextNet Wireless Inc., a subsidiary of Clearwire, which has supplied equipment for service deployments in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Belgium, Denmark and Ireland. He added that Spain would soon launch similar services based on this technology. Another company providing wireless access in unserved areas is Inukshuk Internet Inc., which uses NextNet equipment in Richmond BC and Cumberland ON. If there were questions about the reliability and affordability of the technology, Kauser put them to rest at the conference, noting that the fixed wireless access services are deployed in well-served areas. "We compete in every single market with cable and DSL. I think that proves the robustness of the system," he said. "So, we have some experience under our belts...I would say that you could equip a home today for less than $300 all-inclusive." Despite the existence of viable and competitive local access alternatives, there are still problems associated with providing broadband in rural and remote Canada. Kauser highlighted the high transport costs as being a major issue. Referring to the cost of blanketing Whitehorse, the big challenge, he noted, would be the $80 or $100 per megabit price of backhaul. This is where the ongoing operating expenditures or opex come into play and remove the viability of the business case. Some suggested that satellite could be used as to provide transport to these rural and remote communities. Matt Wenger, VP of PacketFront, a Swedish company focusing on the use of open access networks to solve the rural access issue, didn’t mince words about his feelings towards satellite, suggesting it was a poor cousin to other technologies. "As long as we’re comfortable creating second-class citizens in this country, then satellite is fine. As long as we’re comfortable that those people will have less access, less selection of services, less access to economic and social opportunities than the rest of Canadians have, then it’s great. "The reality is that satellite will always be in a catch-up position with other technologies than the urban, and rural communities will have, the remote communities won’t have them," Wenger stated. He suggested that the best way to address this divide is to have open access networks. "In telecommunications, it’s the same thing . We have one network where we allow multiple services onto that network and allow people of that community to access those services freely at their will." For more information on issues surrounding transport, please refer to the September 16 issue of Report on Wireless affiliate publication Network Letter.