Friday, June 23, 2017

Infrastructure Plan Includes Rural Broadband, Trump Confirms

Wireless stakeholders have been hoping and now President Donald Trump has confirmed that expanded access to broadband internet service in rural areas will be part of the $1 trillion infrastructure proposal he will send to Congress. “You’ll be seeing it very shortly,” he said Wednesday evening in Cedar Rapids, IA.

His plan to use $200 billion in federal funds to prompt investment in national infrastructure has spurred rural groups to seek broadband inclusion, Inside Towers reported. Previous administrations ensured rural areas were electrified and received water upgrade projects to bring them in line with their suburban and urban peers, noted lawmakers at a House Communications Subcommittee hearing on rural broadband earlier this week. Their point was rural America should have access to high-speed internet too.  Continue Reading

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Updating FCC Broadband Coverage Map Critical to Rural Expansion


The FCC’s National Broadband Map is outdated and updating it is key to any infrastructure package hoping to boost the nation’s high speed internet. Several witnesses speaking at a House Communications Subcommittee hearing Wednesday suggested the FCC continue to concentrate on ensuring areas that don’t have broadband at all are targeted by public and private investment rather than upgrading areas that do have some broadband service.

Subcommittee Chair Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and full House Commerce Committee Chair Greg Walden (R-OR) said they intend to learn from past mistakes and get the map right first before distributing any federal funds. Continue Reading

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hasty USF Fund Changes Could Leave ‘Rusty Towers’ Across Rural America

C Spire’s Eric Graham and NTCA’s Shirley Bloomfield testified on Capitol Hill Tuesday. Photos by Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers
 
Ten years of flat funding in the FCC’s Mobility Fund have led to a situation of wireless carriers “robbing” from potential new rural customers in order to keep existing broadband service operating. Witnesses told lawmakers on a subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday the FCC needs to hit “pause” before going ahead with planned funding changes to re-distribute monies for rural broadband.  They said the FCC needs to fix a few things first to ensure money goes where it will actually do some good.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has criticized the Mobility Fund, which is part of its Universal Service Fund, for “wasteful” spending of some $25 million each month to subsidize wireless carriers in areas where private capital has been spent building out networks. He wants to redirect that money to bring 4G LTE coverage to rural areas. But NTCA, The Rural Broadband Association and the Competitive Carriers Association as well as several small wireless companies have told the agency the issue isn’t that simple. Continue Reading

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

CTIA, WIA to FCC: Speed Up Historic Preservation Infrastructure Siting


CTIA and the Wireless Infrastructure Association have several suggestions how the FCC can update the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), so federal agencies can determine whether historic sites are present near proposed wireless infrastructure projects and, if so, whether those projects might impact important Tribal sites located on non-Tribal lands.  Antiquated procedures are hindering the build-out of wireless networks, say the trade associations.  The associations also cited how the FCC has historically administered NHPA, resulting in long delays and unreasonable costs.

New data indicate that Tribal review takes an average of 110 days to complete—with evidence of some reviews taking over 500. In just the last two years, application fees jumped by 30 percent and the average co-location fee increased 50 percent. To that end, CTIA and WIA suggest:  Continue Reading

Monday, June 19, 2017

FCC Plans Action on FirstNet, Blue Alerts This Week

The FCC has been voting up a storm at its public meetings since the administration change and Pai’s appointment to Chairman; the meeting this week is no exception. The agency will consider six telecom-related issues on Thursday. Two items are emergency-related. One is a proposal to add a Blue Alert code to EAS to deliver actionable information when a law enforcement officer is in trouble. Blue Alerts can be transmitted to cell phones and wireless devices, broadcast stations, overhead highway message signs, and other secondary alerting mechanisms – in the same way that Amber Alerts are commonly issued. While the Commission is initially proposing to add such alerts to EAS, it’s considering whether to add the code to Wireless Emergency Alerts too. Continue Reading

Friday, June 16, 2017

State DOT Challenges FCC“Shot Clock” Sharing Policy

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) alerted the FCC to concerns regarding barriers to wireless infrastructure siting at the state and local level, advising that both industry and localities should carry the weight of issuing timely permits, reports Law360. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed plans to ease wireless infrastructure deployment; some local officials have expressed concern about the potential preemption of local authority, Inside Towers has reported.

The FCC uses a “shot clock” for wireless siting applications and if a local authority goes beyond the prescribed timeline, carriers can take the issue to court, according to experts, cites Law360. Continue Reading

Thursday, June 15, 2017

FCC Awards Over 2,300 600 MHz Licenses

The FCC granted more than 2,300 licenses in the 600 MHz band to wireless bidders; this is the broadcast television spectrum the carriers bid on in the incentive auction. We knew how much the carriers bid on the spectrum, a total of about $10 billion. What’s new, is how many licenses each bidder won and the markets those licenses are for.

T-Mobile was awarded the most licenses — 1,525 according to an Inside Towers examination of the lists. T-Mobile told the FCC it may start operations or conduct testing on the band using some of its licenses later this year.

Dish Network, which bid through ParkerB.com Wireless, came in second with 487 licenses. U.S. Cellular Corporation was next with 88 licenses and AT&T was awarded 23 licenses. Docomo Pacific received six for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, and NEIT Services was awarded one license for Manchester, IA. Click here to read the 52 pages of licenses sorted by market.  Continue Reading