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The question of providing throughput guarantees through distributed scheduling, which has remained an open problem for some time, is addressed in this paper. It is shown that a simple distributed scheduling strategy, maximal scheduling, attains a guaranteed fraction of the maximum throughput region in arbitrary wireless networks. The guaranteed fraction depends on the ldquointerference degreerdquo of the network, which is the maximum number of transmitter-receiver pairs that interfere with any given transmitter-receiver pair in the network and do not interfere with each other. Depending on the nature of communication, the transmission powers and the propagation models, the guaranteed fraction can be lower-bounded by the maximum link degrees in the underlying topology, or even by constants that are independent of the topology. The guarantees are tight in that they cannot be improved any further with maximal scheduling. The results can be generalized to end-to-end multihop sessions. Finally, enhancements to maximal scheduling that can guarantee fairness of rate allocation among different sessions, are discussed.