This paper compares two emerging broadband access methodologies, Free Space Optics (FSO) and Local Multipoint Distribution System (LMDS) and the atmospheric propagation characteristics of each when exposed to a dynamically changing channel. The comparison focuses on bandwidth, availability, and distance requirements for the new broadband market and how LMDS and FSO can be used to meet these requirements. Possible network topologies and their associated costs are examined. This comparison takes into account the total cost of deployment, including equipment costs, installation fees, access fees, and spectrum licensing fees. LMDS and FSO are compared on speed of deployment, scalability, aggregate bandwidth, and bandwidth per customer. Present and projected capabilities of each technology are considered for their suitability in different locations in the network, from the Wide Area Network (WAN), to the Metropolitan Area Network (MAN), all the way to Last Mile Access. There is a discussion on the relative performance of LMDS and FSO, focusing on the different factors that can affect link availability. Since network design is a large factor in assuring overall reliability, the flexibility of each technology with regard to network design is compared. LMDS and FSO are both line of sight, space-propagated technologies, and as such, they are both susceptible to path impediments and atmospheric attenuation, dispersion, scattering, and absorption. LMDS and FSO are affected very differently by different meteorological phenomena. Problematic atmospheric conditions are, specifically scintillation, rainfall, and fog, are examined. In addition to a discussion of these conditions, various techniques for minimizing atmospheric and environmental effects are investigated. The paper concludes with a summary of findings and recommendations for a number of broadband wireless applications.