Element8 invests $151M into Wisper to boost broadband in the heartland

Texas-based ISP Element8 is investing $151 million into rural provider Wisper Internet – a move that will help both companies bolster broadband access in the heartland of the U.S.

Element8’s head of Business Development and Innovation Jonathan Van said its expanded footprint will now include Texas and Wisper's markets in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. The investment comes after Element8 in March scored a $200 million cash infusion from private equity firm Digital Alpha.

Element8 tapped into those funds to acquire Oklahoma ISP AtLink Services for an undisclosed sum, and it’s using money from that original $200 million allocation to invest in Wisper.

“Element8 and Wisper will remain independent companies, but now our futures are aligned,” Van told Fierce. “We are bringing together our capabilities to advance the industry together.”

To deploy broadband, Element8 is leveraging Tarana’s next-gen fixed wireless access (FWA) platform. Other operators that are using Tarana’s tech to bolster rollouts include Bluespan and most recently Watch Communications.

For Wisper’s part, company CEO and founder Nathan Stooke told Fierce it and Element8 are employing a hybrid method of fixed wireless and fiber “to provide the best solution for the community.”

“The advances made by Tarana in fixed wireless allow the companies to build its network quickly, provide large amounts of bandwidth to each customer, all while providing very reliable service,” he said.

In a statement regarding the investment, Stooke said Element8 and Wisper “are combining both our federal and state funds with private investment to maximize both in pursuit of connecting the communities that so badly need it.”

Asked whether the companies plan to apply for BEAD funding, Stooke told Fierce they will do so “when it fits the community and deployment needs.”

“Right now, BEAD heavily favors fiber in most states. Unfortunately, this will limit the number of unserved and underserved locations that will receive broadband as a result of the program,” he explained.

“Government policy should choose the desired outcome, not technology. Companies should be allowed to choose the best solution to reach the desired outcome,” Stooke added.