Monday, November 30, 2015

Parity For Cablers, FCC Cuts Telecom Pole Rates

Just as turkeys were being prepared for the oven last week, the FCC reheated an issue leftover from 2011 when it was petitioned by industry advocates to realign the rates telecoms pay utility companies to be on their poles and bring parity to cable companies. Late Tuesday, the commission issued its long awaited, much discussed 44-page decision which effectively reduced telecom rates to what cable providers pay. What’s really behind all of it is the commission’s desire to promote deployment of broadband service nationwide.

“The 2011 revisions sought to bring the telecom and cable rates into parity,” the FCC said in explaining its new rule. “In the intervening time, we have seen that our revisions did not fully achieve that objective. Today, we take the next logical step in achieving the goals set forth in 2011.” The commission added, “We additionally act to support incentives for deployment of broadband facilities, particularly in rural areas, and to harmonize regulatory treatment between states where the Commission regulates the rates, terms, and conditions for pole attachments and states where such matters are regulated by the state.” The Commission said subjecting cable operators to higher pole attachment rates “merely because they also provide telecommunications services, such as broadband Internet access, could deter investment in states subject to Commission pole regulation, which would undermine the Commission’s broadband deployment policy. By keeping pole attachment rates unified and low, we further our overarching goal to accelerate deployment of broadband by removing barriers to infrastructure investment and promoting competition.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sprint Unveils LTE Plus Network

Sprint last week announced deployment of its LTE Plus network in “77 major markets,” promising faster service – double the network capacity and speed with peak speeds in excess of 100Mbps on devices capable of performing at that rate, strong service with smart antenna technology at 2.5GHz, and more reliable service using three bands of spectrum – 1.9GHZ for broad coverage, 800MHz for better indoor service, and 2.5GHz for even faster data speeds.

Spring’s CTO Dr. John Saw made the announcement on the carrier’s news site. He said LTE Plus, “takes advantage of our rich tri-band spectrum portfolio, and it uses some of the world’s most advanced technologies in wireless such as carrier aggregation and antenna beamforming.” He added, “Simply stated, while our competitors are sending LTE data meant for a specific customer to everyone in a sector, we are able to transmit more directive beams to exactly where our customers are located.” Continue Reading

Monday, November 23, 2015

Analyst: SBA’s ‘Ferrari Hits Speed Bump, Shares Priced Like A Ford’

If a tower company’s growth rate was compared to a car engine accelerating “zero to 60 mph in six seconds,” then SBA Communications might be a reversal of sorts, like 60-to- zero growth in four quarters. That’s the way Macquarie Securities analyst Kevin Smithen put it in his Friday afternoon research report headlined “Tower ‘Ferrari hits a speed bump but now priced like a ‘Ford.’” He said he and his research team spent the past week and a half researching the company to determine “what happened to SBAC’s premium growth rate.” Finally, he had “a long call with CEO Jeff Stoops yesterday (Thursday, November 19), we are now convinced that SBAC is seeing a pause in 2016 US growth almost entirely due to its lack of an MLA (master lease agreement) with AT&T. This fact also hurts its site augmentation revenue due to a more a compressed D&A schedule on this segment than peers (SBAC at 2.5 years vs. peers at 10 years).” Continue Reading here.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Spectrum Auction Mania, Sniping All the Way

T-Mobile wants the FCC to prevent Verizon Wireless from bidding on reserved Spectrum in a dozen U.S. markets. In a November 16 letter to the FCC, T-Mobile attorney Trey Hanbury of the DC law firm of Hogan Lovells told FCC it “incorrectly identified Verizon as reserve eligible” in 12 markets including Oklahoma City, OK, Brownsville, TX, Bozeman, MT, Springfield, MA, and Minot, ND among others. Hanbury provided a list of corrections to the list of nationwide carriers qualified to bid on reserve spectrum in the hope of “protecting against excessive concentration of low-band spectrum holdings by the nation’s dominant wireless providers while insuring competitive bidding.”
Continue reading here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

CTIA Rejects Higher FCC Regulatory Fees

The Wireless Association said taxes on wireless consumers are already too high and cable companies should pick up a greater share of the tab that it takes to keep the FCC funded, not the wireless world. The discussion was sparked by the commission’s budgeting process and the “Assessment and Collection of Regulatory Fees for fiscal year 2015.” In its review, the FCC laid out how much it proposes to spend for its Media Bureau ($120.15 million); Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) $132.81 million; Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) $69.07 million; and the International Bureau (IB) $18.56 million.

Both the American Cable Association (ACA) and the NAB have said CTIA-The Wireless Association should pay more. In fact, NAB said it should pay less because if some 200-to-400 TV stations go off the air as a result of the spectrum auction on March 29, the remaining stations will have a higher burden of regulatory fees to pay, said a BNA/Bloomberg report last week. NAB said, “Indeed, the only equitable approach is for the regulatory fees to ‘follow the spectrum.’ The spectrum to be repurposed through the incentive auction will benefit the wireless service providers.”
Continue reading here.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Judge to AT&T: See You in Court

 Inside Towers told you on November 6, how an AT&T attorney told a Philadelphia judge two days earlier that the carrier had “no presence” in the Keystone State and should be released from a Pennsylvania lawsuit brought by fallen tower climber Thomas Jeglum. Jeglum was employed by JTI Telecommunications as a tower technician, performing maintenance, installation, repair and upgrade to telecommunications towers and related infrastructure.

He was part of a crew working on a 51-foot tower in Allentown, PA, on June 15, 2013 when the rung on a detachable ladder came loose, causing him to fall more than 50 feet. He was critically injured and in a coma, miraculously waking just before Christmas 2013 to have a Christmas Day wedding to the mother of his children in the hospital. Read more here.

Friday, November 13, 2015

NY Appeals Court Invokes Telecom Act, Clears East Fishkill Tower

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York on Tuesday handed the tower industry a significant victory by embracing a lower court’s ruling earlier this year on an effective prohibition claim made by a tower company after a town denied its application to build a 150-foot cell tower for Verizon Wireless.

A three-judge Appeals Court panel denied an appeal by the town of East Fishkill, NY, after a lower court, the U..S District Court for the Southern District of New York, ruled on January 30 the town’s denial to Homeland was effectively prohibiting it from providing wireless services in violation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The landmark decision demands the town immediately issue Homeland Towers LLC and its tenant, Verizon Wireless, a permit to build the tower but it also sets a precedent for all similar cases going forward that courts will generally interpret the Spectrum Act in the same manner.

“We are thrilled that the Second Circuit adopted Homeland and Verizon’s position regarding the significance of the service to be provided, looking at the gap’s physical size, the number of wireless users affected by the gap, the location of the gap, drop call or failure rates and other real metrics associated with providing reliable wireless services to the public,” Christopher Fisher, one of four attorneys with the New York-based firm of Cuddy + Feder, LLP, who represented the plaintiffs, said. “This is a critical advancement of the law, particularly when it comes to regulatory barriers to services being provided in all wireless infrastructure scenarios including towers, DAS, small cells, whether it be coverage or capacity situations.” Continue reading here.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Former Facebook Executive Wants to Form America’s Fifth Wireless Carrier

Former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya, now with Social Capital, intends to spend $4 billion to $10 billion buying spectrum at the FCC’s March auction to build a wireless carrier to compete with the likes of AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint.

In an interview Tuesday with Forbes, the Sri Lankan-born, Canadian-raised 30-something billionaire venture capitalist said he plans to bid on the spectrum and has already lined-up deep-pocketed investors whom he declined to name. 

A part owner of the San Francisco Warriors NBA basketball team, Palihapitiya already is working on bringing Internet access to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, according to Business Insider, and it faces an uphill battle to gain spectrum in the U.S. As Forbes notes, “First, the company will have to start the slow and expensive process of actually building the towers and infrastructure that make up a wireless network. Palihapitiya said he wants to use “microcells,” or tiny cell towers installed on people’s homes, to help build the network quickly and provide better coverage.” Continue reading here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

NAB to FCC: Determine Repacking Deadline After Spectrum Auction

The National Association of Broadcasters yesterday (November 9) asked the FCC to back off its plan to require TV broadcasters to complete their move to new spectrum space—or new channels within 39 months. The broadcasters lobbying group wants FCC to survey the land after the auction, figure out how many stations will need to move and then decide what is a workable deadline. In a three-page letter to the agency sent by NAB General Counsel, EVP/Legal and Regulatory Affairs Rick Kaplan, the NAB said, “depending on the number of stations that ultimately must move to new channels, the current deadline of 39 months may not be achievable. In a report commissioned by NAB, Digital Tech Consulting, Inc. concluded that, under ideal conditions, as many as 445 stations can be relocated to new channels within 39 months. However, if the transition requires more stations to repack, there is simply no way additional stations will be able to meet the current hard deadline. This is not a reasonable approach.” Read more here.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

FCC Fines Florida Tower Owner $3K; Suspends $231K Fine

Johnson Tower Corporation of Seminole, FL, has been charged $3,000 in civil penalties after admitting it violated antenna structure rules. The commission, working with the Federal Aviation Administration, reached a Consent Decree with sole operator, Dan L. Johnson, who demonstrated it would be a financial hardship to pay a larger $231,000 fine. The FCC originally assessed the higher amount on November 1, 2013 when it first charged Johnson.

Johnson admitted it failed to install lights on two antenna structures in Pinellas Park, FL, and update registration information with the FCC to reflect the dismantlement of a third antenna structure. After being charged originally, Johnson installed proper lighting on one of the towers, reduced the height on a second tower so that it was not tall enough to require lighting, and... read more here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Cell Tower Scammer Gets Nine Years in Fed Pen

Gray bars, not cell towers, is what Daniel Williford, age 55, is going to be looking at for the next nine years. The former U.S. air pilot and Salisbury, NC, businessman was convicted in U.S. Federal Court in a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme after he defrauded 100 investors out of almost $18 million, which now is obligated to repay.

According to WBT-TV/Charlotte, NC, Williford promised victims their money would be invested in wireless Internet equipment, Internet towers and other facilities and companies. Instead, court documents say Williford used the majority of the funds to run a Ponzi-style scheme while using a portion to fund his personal lifestyle.

Cindy Adkins and her husband Brent operate a towing service in Statesville and Salisbury, and while they did not invest their money with Williford, they did do business with his company. Several years ago Williford rented space for antennas on a radio tower owned by the Adkins in Salisbury. Continue reading here.

Monday, November 2, 2015

AMT’s MLA with T is A-OK

Cowen & Company analyst Colby Synesael may have hit a nerve — or at least rung an alarm bell – during Friday morning’s Q3 results call when he asked American Tower Corp. CEO Jim Taiclet and CFO Tom Bartlett about reports the company’s Master Lease Agreement with AT&T’s is expiring in 2016.

“Let me be really clear: the Master Lease Agreement is not expiring. Okay?” Bartlett said emphatically. “There are certain elements that Jim talked about that change over that period of time but the MLA is not expiring. I know there have been some write-ups and I want to be very clear on that.” Continue reading here.