Monday, December 18, 2017

State AGs Vow to Fight FCC’s Net Neutrality Vote in Court


FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn, Jessica Rosenworcel address protesters before the FCC meeting last Thursday. Photos: Free Press
Opponents vowed to challenge the FCC’s repeal of Net Neutrality in court. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was the first to step up, Inside Towers reported. He’s leading a multi-state effort. That includes Washington State, where AG Bob Ferguson announced he’s filing for a legal review “in the coming days.” 

ArsTechnica reports Oregon, Illinois, Iowa and Massachusetts will join the effort as well. Attorney Generals from 19 states previously asked the FCC to delay the vote over concerns about fraudulent comments filed in the public record on the issue.

One California state senator proposed a state Net Neutrality law. “California can regulate business practices to require net neutrality, condition state contracts on adhering to net neutrality, and require net neutrality as part of cable franchise agreements, as a condition to using the public right-of-way for internet infrastructure, and in broadband packages,” wrote State Sen. Scott Wiener (D) in a piece on Medium. He intends to draft the bill over the next 60 days. Continue Reading

Thursday, December 14, 2017

FirstNet Launches “Ruthless Preemption” for First Responders

 
AT&T says the nationwide public safety broadband network FirstNet now features “ruthless preemption” services for first responder subscribers. It’s for states and territories that have opted into their AT&T state plan for the communications network for first responders. 

Priority moves first responders to the front of the “communications line,” expediting their network needs. When the line becomes crowded, it shifts non-emergency traffic to another line, freeing up space for first responders to easily get through. Calls or texts to 911 will never be shifted from the network.

“As a first responder on 9/11, I experienced the communications challenges that can happen in large emergencies as networks become congested and overwhelmed,” said Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Chief Richard Bowers. Virginia was the first state in to opt-in. “Now, with the launch of preemption on FirstNet, for the first time, public safety is ensured a ‘fast lane’ to connect.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

CA Official: Alerts Reliant On Telecoms’ Profit, Not Public Safety


The Thomas Fire burns in the hills north of the Carpinteria Valley Monday  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo) Click here for an interactive map of evacuation areas in Santa Barbara County.  Seventy strike teams with fire engines are battling the fire with help from 10 dozers staffed with 30 personnel, eight hand crews with 160 personnel, 28 helicopters, six water tenders with 12 personnel, four fixed winged tankers and two VLATs, known as a 747 or very large air tanker.
With more fires moving faster than ever before in California, authorities are issuing more evacuation orders, earlier. And that’s placed a spotlight on emergency alert systems, which are controlled by local authorities, according to KPCC Radio.

Hours before the Thomas Fire hit Ventura County last Monday, the head of the California Office of Emergency Services told state legislators that he wants to standardize how and when authorities issue evacuation orders. Pointing to the deadly October fires in Northern California, he said notifying people to get out of the way of fast-moving flames is more critical than ever, KPCC reported.
“The events we’re seeing in California today are very complex, and the scale, scope and size are a tremendous challenge to us,” stated OES Director Mark Ghilarducci. He said Governor Brown plans to ask state lawmakers to provide more money to improve alert systems, which have evolved dramatically over the years.  Continue Reading

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Blanca Telephone Ordered to Restore Over $6 Million to USF

The FCC ordered Blanca Telephone Company to re-pay more than $6 million to the Universal Service Fund, which supports the deployment of communications networks in high-cost, rural areas.  
The eastern Colorado carrier became eligible in 1997 to receive high-cost support for providing local exchange telephone service in parts of Alamosa and Costilla counties. Blanca offered commercial mobile radio service (CMRS), a non-regulated service, both within and outside of its area. Blanca included the costs of this non-regulated service in the regulated cost accounts it submitted to the National Exchange Carriers Association (NECA), inflating the amount of high-cost support Blanca received from the USF.


In 2012, NECA discovered Blanca’s inflation and told the carrier to correct its accounting, and more, importantly, to re-pay $6,748,280 in improperly paid USF support for 2005-2010. Blanca argued to the FCC it was entitled to the money to deploy wireless service because wireless is a USF supported service. The Commission called that “erroneous” in its decision released yesterday.  Continue Reading

Friday, December 8, 2017

Southern California Takes the Heat


Rincon Peak is known for transmitting many things in Southern California but heat is not one of them. As of Thursday, Santa Barbara County firefighters were trying to keep that temperature to a minimum. The antenna farm on Rincon Peak, shared by most public safety agencies is home to several towercos, Crown, American and to Verizon (ASR#1215063).

An army of firefighters was battling on several fronts Thursday in their efforts to tame the giant 96,000-acre “Thomas Fire,” as it is called, scorching the Carpinteria Valley, according to Noozhawk.  The citizens of Carpinteria were evacuated in the early morning hours yesterday as flames continued to approach from the east.  The fire has menaced the community as it has much of Ventura County over the last two days, Noozhawk reported. Continue Reading

Monday, December 4, 2017

5G and Sunshine Don’t Mix


Before 5G has even been launched, it’s projected that hot, sunny weather could degrade cellular transmissions by more than 15 percent, which is troublesome in climates with consistently scorching weather. According to Phys Org, an engineer at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University says research will provide solutions to this predicted challenge.

Ahmed Sulyman, associate professor in Embry-Riddle’s Prescott, Department of Computer, Electrical, & Software Engineering, teamed up with colleagues in Saudi Arabia to publish the first comprehensive analysis of solar radio emissions on land-based wireless communications systems to determine how solar radiation can affect 5G. Continue Reading

Friday, December 1, 2017

Verizon Plans to Deploy Broadband in Up to Five Markets in 2018

 
Verizon Communications announced it will launch wireless residential broadband services in at least three and up to five U.S. markets in 2018. Verizon’s first commercial launch is planned for Sacramento, CA, in the second half of 2018. Details will be forthcoming, according to the carrier.

Verizon trialed 5G residential applications in 11 markets this year. The commercial launch is based on customer experience and on the carrier’s confidence in new technology using millimeter-wave spectrum. The carrier estimates the initial 5G market opportunity for residential broadband at 30 million households nationwide. Continue Reading

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Report Downplays 5G Demand

A new report suggests the number of cell sites needed for 5G wireless may not be as high as previously thought. According to ABI Research, nearly 20 countries have made regulatory announcements pushing for the use of 3.4-3.8 GHz bands with the 2019 launch of commercial 5G. The lower bands can transmit further than the higher frequencies previously used by companies with 5G spectrum plans, which may reduce the facility densification needed to support 5G.
In response to a request made by CTIA – The Wireless Association, the FCC is reviewing its plan for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service band (3550-3700 MHz), Inside Towers reported. The Commission previously designated this spectrum for small Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) to use for fixed wireless broadband, says Telecompetitor.com. Continue Reading

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Pai Takes On Net Neutrality ‘Hysteria, Hot Air’

 
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday defended his Net Neutrality proposal at an event organized by the conservative think tank, R Street Institute, and technologists community, Lincoln Network. The “Restoring Internet Freedom” order would undo the 2015 change that re-classified the internet as a utility so ISPs must treat all internet traffic the same, with no fast or slow speed lanes.
The upshot of that change, Pai said, has meant more regulatory burdens for smaller ISPs that cancel, curtail or delay fiber network upgrades. Nearly two dozen small providers submitted a letter saying the FCC’s “heavy-handed rules ‘affect our ability to find financing.’” A coalition of 19 municipal internet service providers—city-owned nonprofits—told the FCC that they, “often delay or hold off from rolling out a new feature or service because [they] cannot afford to deal with a potential complaint and enforcement action,” he said. 

As he “cut through the hysteria and hot air” surrounding net neutrality, Pai said the change he wants his colleagues to vote on at the December 14 meeting will “bring back the same framework that governed the internet for most of its existence.” He called it “light touch regulation,” unlike “destroying the internet” or “ending the internet as we know it,” that he’s reading from the opposition in the media lately. Continue Reading

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Why Pole Attachment Improvements Remain Elusive


The FCC adopted an order six years ago designed to equalize the regulated rates paid by telecom providers to attach equipment to utility poles. That has not panned out. In fact, a USTelecom survey about pole attachment rates charged by Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs) points out the opposite. The results show rates charged to Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILECs) have increased even as the pole attachment rates charged by ILECs to competitive carriers and cable companies have significantly decreased. USTelecom urges the Commission to move forward with its proposal to create a presumption that ILECs are entitled to competitively neutral rates when attaching to investor-owned utility (IOU) poles.

A filing shows a “wide disparity in pole rental rates,” according to the trade association. Surveyed ILECs pay IOUs nearly nine times what ILECs charge cable providers, and almost seven times the pole attachment rates ILECs charge CLECs. The ILECs pay an average of $26.12 to IOUs today in Commission-regulated states, compared to cable and CLEC provider payments to ILECs, which average $3 and $3.75, respectively, according to the survey.  Continue Reading

Monday, November 27, 2017

Net Neutrality Likely to End Up in Court — Again

 
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai explained how rolling back so-called “Net Neutrality” rules will impact internet service providers and consumers. He plans to do that in a vote on December 14, Inside Towers reported. The details of the plan were revealed last Wednesday. Here’s the official FCC version, and this is Commissioner Mignon Clyburn’s “factsheet.”
We are getting government out of the business of regulating how the internet works, and we’re going to return to the market-based approach that served us well for two decades, and we’re going to let this online platform be governed by engineers and entrepreneurs instead of bureaucrats and lawyers here in Washington,” he told Fox News.

Opponents of the plan to roll back the 2015 rules that re-classified the internet so it’s regulated like a utility rather than a communications service like Amazon and Google, are likely to fight the presumed December vote in court, reports Politico. A federal appeals court upheld the current rules in 2016, going against a challenge from AT&T, USTelecom and other industry trade groups. Continue Reading

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Twilight Towers on Tap For FCC Vote December 14

 
The FCC’s solution for so-called “twilight towers” has been circulated among all five Commissioners for a vote. If approved, the change could open up thousands of towers for wireless broadband deployment. The item will be on the agenda for the agency’s December 14 meeting.

The towers in question were built between 2001 and 2005 and did not necessarily go through review under the National Historic Preservation Act because back then, the FCC had not yet provided clear guidance on how to comply with that provision. Those towers cannot accept co-locations. Now, newest FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr announced yesterday, that if approved, the Commission’s approach means the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation would adopt a “Program Comment” document to exclude co-locations on twilight towers from routine historic preservation review. Continue Reading

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Rural Telcos Ask FCC to Help Close Digital Divide

 
A group of 21 rural telecom providers urged the FCC to help close the digital divide by adopting light-touch regulations that provide companies confidence to invest in network upgrades and expansions that can help close the digital divide between urban and rural households.  

“As executives of broadband companies serving rural and small-town America, we are writing to express our shared concern about the economic divide in our country evident in the slower growth and progress in many of the economically distressed communities we serve,” the companies wrote in the letter, adding that they are equally “concerned by the technology divide separating the digital ‘haves’ in our nation from the ‘have-nots,’ especially in our country’s rural areas.”

Returning broadband service to the light-touch framework under Title I that provided the foundation for the growth and success of the broadband enabled internet is essential to this effort, the companies wrote. “Broadband has traditionally been considered an interstate service, which is why it is important that states and localities not impose common carrier-like regulations on broadband providers.”  Continue Reading

Monday, November 20, 2017

WIA’s Adelstein Testifies Before Congress For More Support For 5G

The nation needs more spectrum and wireless infrastructure to support the data needs of 5G, according to Wireless Infrastructure Association President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein. “The massive growth in the number of connected devices will strain the capabilities of the infrastructure we have today,” he told members of the House Communications Subcommittee Thursday in a hearing on 5G. 

Others who testified included David Broecker, CEO of Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, Dr. Coleman Bazelon, Principal, The Brattle Group and Chris Pearson, President, 5G Americas.
“Supporting the demand for more infrastructure will require major investments. We need additional cell towers and poles and more antennas of all types and sizes that attach to structures of all sizes,” he testified.   

And that infrastructure can take many forms. In addition to antennas on towers, poles and the sides or tops of buildings, new networks will rely on “street furniture.” Bus stops, manhole covers, park benches, mailboxes, the lights at a local high school or even a gazebo in a public park are all candidates to host cellular antennas, he told lawmakers, adding that policies need to recognize that all types of infrastructure are needed. Continue Reading

Friday, November 17, 2017

FCC’s O’Rielly Cites “Commission Ineptitude” If U.S. is Late on 5G

The FCC took steps to free up more spectrum above 24 GHz for broadband; Commissioners are keenly aware the U.S. is in a worldwide race to deploy 5G first. This high-frequency spectrum will support innovative new uses enabled by fiber-fast wireless speeds and extremely low latency, according to the agency.  
 
“I will not let the U.S. lose the 5G race due to Commission ineptitude,” said Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, as he voted for the changes yesterday. The FCC needs to keep working on making other spectrum bands available as well, he said, adding he hopes to follow-up with an item for a vote in the first half of next year.

Continuing with the 5G race theme, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel urged colleagues to commit to deadlines. “We are not moving fast enough,” she said, saying the agency should hold its 28 GHz band spectrum auction “before our counterparts in Asia” hold theirs.  Continue Reading

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Indoor Wireless 911 Call Location Accuracy Takes a Step

Locating where someone is when they call 911 using a wireless phone inside a building has taken a step forward. The FCC has approved a privacy and security plan for the National Emergency Address Database (NEAD) submitted by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and NEAD, LLC. The database will enable carriers to use the media access control (MAC) address and Bluetooth Public Device Addresses (BT-PDA) information of fixed indoor access points to locate wireless devices being used to call 911.
Carriers have been working on technology to support the provision of dispatchable location information (such as street address, floor level, and office or apartment number) to Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) when indoor wireless customers place 911 calls. The database must be used only for 911 location and the FCC prohibited its use for commercial purposes. 

Wireless association CTIA created the non-profit NEAD which the carriers appointed to oversee development and operation of the database platform. The NEAD plan submitted in February explains when someone calls 911 from a wireless phone equipped with WiFi or Bluetooth, the carrier network automatically collects data from the handset about nearby wireless access points. The network then queries the database to determine whether the MAC address or BT-PDA information is in the database and associated with a street address. If so, the carrier provides the street address plus other in-building information to the PSAP as part of the 911 call.  Continue Reading

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

FirstNet Part of a “Perfect Storm” for Tower Workers


NATE Goes to Washington  (Part One of Four)
National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) representatives came to Washington, D.C. recently to lobby Congress, the FCC and other government agencies. Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief Leslie Stimson sat down with the six members of their lobbying team to discuss NATE’s regulatory priorities and get a sense of their 30 meetings. Sitting at the table were: NATE Board Director John Paul Jones, Board Chairman Jim Tracy, COO Paula Nurnberg, Board Director Randy Scott, Executive Director Todd Schlekeway and Director of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Jim Goldwater.

IT: Why did you come to Washington?
Tracy: We came here to explain our legislative and regulatory priorities, to members of Congress and their staff. At the end of the day we might do towers, we might do certifications, antenna swaps, new builds, DAS, small cell — all of the incredibly complex ecosystem that wireless has become, but we’re still the “elevate wireless safety people.” We elevate wireless and it’s safety first, safety always.

Worker Shortage
IT: Is it new to the people you’re meeting with that there aren’t enough workers to do the television repack work?
Tracy: It’s not just the repack. We talked about the perfect storm. We’re not done with 4G yet. We’ve got 5G right around the corner, FirstNet, tower marking and broadcast work. The public safety work alone that we’re looking at in terms of FirstNet, there’s 100,000 towers that are going to need to be somehow altered. Continue Reading

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

AT&T, Verizon Plot New Towers to Avoid Traditional Leases

AT&T, Verizon and Tillman Infrastructure said they’ve reached a deal to build “hundreds” of cell towers, in an arrangement the parties say is more cost-effective than traditional tower lease deals.
Tension over traditional tower lease arrangements has popped up in the past year during earnings calls and other finance discussions with both towercos and the major carriers. In Monday’s announcement, AT&T SVP Susan Johnson said, “We need more alternatives to the traditional tower leasing model with the large incumbents,” saying the current model “is not cost-effective or sustainable.” Verizon Chief Network Officer said the carrier is reviewing all of its long-term contracts as they come up for renewal “and we are excited to develop new vendor partners to diversify our infrastructure providers.”

Tillman owns and operates macro towers, small cells and smart cities infrastructure; it will build these towers to suit. AT&T and Verizon will lease the towers that will be co-located and co-anchored by the two carriers. Construction is slated to begin in the first quarter of 2018.  

The carriers confirmed to Inside Towers the deal is for macro towers only. Verizon said this is the first agreement of its kind with another large carrier and tower company in its history. AT&T told Inside Towers: “All of our desired site locations are being considered” with the Tillman agreement. Continue Reading

Monday, November 13, 2017

Advisory Committee Tells FCC to Take Down Deployment Barriers

From left: Ajit Pai, Mignon Clyburn and Jonathan Adelstein at the FCC’s 
Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee meeting. Photos by Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers

The FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee is closer to issuing recommendations to the FCC on how to reduce several types of regulatory barriers to broadband infrastructure deployment. The advisory group approved several draft recommendations at its third meeting of the year last Thursday and they plan to approve final recommendations at the next meeting on January 22 and 23, 2018.

Several FCC Commissioners addressed the all-volunteer group. Chairman Ajit Pai told the group as they began their all-day meeting: “The internet is poles, cables and physical infrastructure. Building these networks is hard and the government shouldn’t make it harder. When you find answers” to eliminating “barriers to wired and wireless infrastructure access will grow. That’s why it’s important that we get this right.” Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said even when the group handles all of the obstacles to pole attachments and access to rights-of-way, they “may be tempted to celebrate,” but that would be premature, “obscuring a simple reality that not every broadband problem is an infrastructure problem. For all Americans to be truly connected we cannot ignore … affordability.” 

WIA President Jonathan Adelstein chairs the Streamlining Federal Siting working group. Some 30 percent of the land in the U.S. is owned by the federal government and it’s often the last place infrastructure is sited due to varying and unpredictable fees and rates, lengthy application reviews and un-harmonized forms across agencies, to name a few reasons. “It’s a shame and we’re going to try to change that,” he said, noting the White House is supportive of the group’s efforts. “The administration wants to ensure implementation is consistent across all federal agencies.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Pai Sees Tower Site, “Unimaginable” Damage in Puerto Rico


FCC Chairman Ajit Pai traveled to a mountaintop tower in eastern Puerto Rico this week to get a first-hand view of recovery efforts and damage caused by Hurricane Maria. He met with government officials and communications company representatives to learn what still needs to be done to restore communications.

Pai met personnel from carriers AT&T, Open Mobile, T-Mobile and Verizon as well as fixed wireless providers Aeronet and Neptuno Networks; wired providers like Claro/PRTC and Liberty and several radio broadcasters. “They have stepped up to the plate, working overtime to connect the disconnected,” he said.

Pai called the damage “unimaginable” and said: “I saw some of it for myself, from a mountaintop tower in El Yunque National Forest, which is hard to reach due to storm damage but is precariously operational, to destroyed homes in San Juan. The path to recovery has met several challenges, most notably the lack of power and functional infrastructure. One thing is clear: overcoming these challenges won’t be easy,” the Chairman added in Tuesday’s announcement.  Continue Reading

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Sprint Stock Takes a Hit as T-Mo Calls it Quits But Tower Stocks Jump

 
T-Mobile (NASDAQ: TMUS) and Sprint (NYSE: S) jointly said they ended talks to merge as the companies were unable to find mutually agreeable terms.

Sprint stock hit a new annual low of $5.81 this morning, and was last seen down 11.5 percent in its five day average as of close of business yesterday, after the telecom called off its merger with T-Mobile on Saturday. Masayoshi Son, CEO of Sprint parent Softbank, is confident Sprint can grow independently, but said the company would still consider a merger if its management rights are preserved.

Tower stocks on the other hand reached new highs as American Tower (NYSE:AMT) is up 5.6 percent over five days; SBA Communications (NASDAQ:SBAC) is up 6.4 percent over five days and Crown Castle’s (NYSE:CCI) five day average is up five percent. All three hit 52-week highs yesterday.  Continue Reading

Monday, November 6, 2017

Even Buried Fiber No Match for CA Wildfires

 
During the infernos that blazed through Northern California in October, large areas of the region lost cell phone coverage and internet connectivity in the first few hours of the disaster, as Verizon and Comcast networks took a big hit. As the fires continued to rage on, as many as 77 towers were taken off the grid, despite swift reaction times from the providers, reported The Healdsburg Tribune. Even though Comcast and Verizon services were back up and running by October 10 and 11, respectively, there were still safety challenges for residents and emergency workers due to loss of connectivity.

During the fires, some emergency personnel used landlines to communicate since Verizon cell coverage was lacking. The Town of Windsor, for example, has 1,600 Verizon devices, including cell phones, tablets, and computers, according to County spokesman Scott Alonso.

“When the network went down we lost all our map data,” said Fire Prevention Officer Cyndi Foreman. “And visual landmarks weren’t any help, either.” Continue Reading

Friday, November 3, 2017

DOJ Ponders Antitrust Action on Time-Warner/AT&T Merger

Time Warner shares fell Thursday after a newspaper reported that the Department of Justice is considering an antitrust lawsuit to block AT&T’s acquisition of the media giant, according to a Wall Street Journal report yesterday.

Time Warner share price was down 4.1 percent after the Journal reported the department’s antitrust division is preparing for litigation in case it decides to sue to block the deal. At the same time, the department and the two companies are discussing possible terms that would allow the deal to receive the government’s approval, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. 

AT&T representatives have met with Justice officials in recent weeks, and the department hasn’t made a final decision, but the two sides aren’t close to an agreement, the Journal’s sources said.
Continue Reading

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Opting-Out of FirstNet Means Taking the Risk and Paying the Price


FirstNet’s Mike Poth (left), NH’s John Stevens. Photos by Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers.
As the December 28 deadline draws near for states to decide whether to opt-in or out of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), just under half of the states have yet to make a decision. Oklahoma became the 26th state to opt-in yesterday. The questions and options facing undecided states about the financial ramifications of building their own mobile broadband network for first responders have increased and were on full display during yesterday’s hearing of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee in Washington, D.C.   (see related story below “What Happens When a State Opts-In to FirstNet?”)
Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) said, “A lot of hay has been made recently about the opt-out process” and “states seeking to opt-out seem overwhelmed” by the process. “The risks to opt-out are steep,” he said during the FirstNet oversight hearing. Continue Reading

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Towerco Stocks Take an Uptick as Sprint/T-MO Merger Fades

Stocks in cell-tower companies — which have been in a general decline on the prospect of dealing with one less major wireless-carrier customer — are rising while the carriers involved took a significant drop.  Percentage of growth for the day (10/30) shown below:
  • American Tower (NYSE:AMT) is up 2.8%;
  • SBA Communications (NASDAQ:SBAC) up 2.4%;
  • Crown Castle (NYSE:CCI) up 2.8%.
  • T-Mobile (TMUS) down 5.3%
  • Sprint (S) down 9.3%

SoftBank Group Corp., will reportedly call off negotiations to merge its subsidiary, Sprint Corp., with T-Mobile U.S., according to Nikkei Asian Review, a Japanese financial news agency. It said that SoftBank may approach T-Mobile’s parent company, Deutsche Telekom as early as tomorrow, to end the deal.  
Inside Towers reported on October 13, that the merger was unlikely, citing a Reuters article that said the Department of Justice would “likely recommend putting a stop to any further plans” due to anti-trust regulations blocking its path. Continue Reading

Monday, October 30, 2017

FAA and White House Flying High On Drones

It may soon be easier for towercos to use drones to assist them in activities like mapping and inspections. President Donald Trump directed the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration to undertake an initiative to increase government and commercial use of drones.
 
The Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program would enable safety tests and validate advanced operations for drones in partnership with state and local governments in certain jurisdictions. The program is designed to provide regulatory certainty and stability to local governments and communities, drone owners and operators who are accepted into the program, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The program will help the USDOT and FAA develop a regulatory framework that will allow more complex low-altitude operations; identify ways to balance local and national interests; improve communications with local, state and tribal jurisdictions; address security and privacy risks; and accelerate the approval of operations that currently require special authorizations.  Continue Reading

Friday, October 27, 2017

Carr is FCC’s Point Man for Easing Wireless Infrastructure Deployment

New FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr is leading the agency’s efforts to streamline wireless infrastructure deployment. In his first speech as a Commissioner, Carr told attendees of the Competitive Carriers Association annual convention yesterday, the FCC intends to vote next month on several related orders. One eliminates the need for historic preservation review in cases where providers swap out utility poles that can hold antennas or other wireless communications equipment. This will go a long way towards helping carriers as they densify their networks in preparation for 5G, he said.
 
“5G is going to require a 10- to 100-fold increase in the number of cell sites in the country,” Carr said. “The current regime is not tailored to support this type of massive, new deployment. It costs too much, and it takes too long.” So the Commission is remedying this.   Continue Reading

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Pai and Dems at Odds Over Broadcast Regs

 
In the first FCC oversight hearing with the full complement of five Commissioners, Chairman Ajit Pai told House lawmakers he’s asking his colleagues to vote on an item that would eliminate several broadcast ownership regulations. His goal is to vote on the item at the agency’s November 16 meeting. He said the item would eliminate rules that ban cross-ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations in a market, plus cross-ownership of TV and radio stations in a market. It would also eliminate the requirement that Joint Sales Agreements for Television “count” for ownership purposes in a market and establish an incubator program for new, diverse broadcast station owners.

Democrats on the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee blasted Pai, saying to them, it’s clear the changes would benefit Sinclair Broadcasting before its planned merger with Tribune. Pai said the merger has nothing to do with the item, that the rules are archaic and hinder broadcasters. “The FCC rules still presume a market is defined by pulp and rabbit ears,” Pai said, adding the proposed text would be publicly available today. Continue Reading

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Controversial Changes to 3.5 GHz CBRS Closer to Reality

Inside Towers has been reporting the fight between Google and rural internet service providers versus large carriers over the licensing of the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum. The FCC proposed increasing the size and length of CBRS licenses to use the mid-band spectrum; CTIA and T-Mobile petitioned the FCC for the changes. They want carriers to be able to use the spectrum for 5G. Small carriers and rural ISPs say the changes will crowd out other users — like them.

The FCC voted to begin a Notice of Public Rulemaking yesterday, and proposed including longer license terms with the possibility of renewal and larger geographic license areas. Proponents said the modifications could help increase incentives for investment, encourage more efficient spectrum use, and promote robust network deployments in both urban and rural communities.


Other countries are updating their policies for the 3.5 GHz band to enable core network deployments of 5G, and the U.S. must do this as well, noted Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. Looking to “fix the previous Commission’s missteps,” he called the current definition of the license geographic areas “flawed.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

AT&T, Project Loon, Bring Wireless to Maria-Hit Islands


A Loon balloon getting ready to take flight to Puerto Rico from the Project Loon launch site in Nevada

Project Loon is now up and running in Puerto Rico, supporting basic communication and some internet connectivity. Google’s been working with AT&T, the Government of Puerto Rico, the FCC, FAA, FEMA, spectrum partners and international aviation authorities to make it happen. Residents with LTE-enabled phones can send and receive text messages and access information online, according to Alastair Westgarth, head of Project Loon. It’s the first time the technology has been deployed quickly.

“This is the first time we have used our new … algorithms to keep balloons clustered over Puerto Rico, so we’re still learning how best to do this,” said Westgarth in a blog post. “As we get more familiar with the constantly shifting winds in this region, we hope to keep the balloons over areas where connectivity is needed for as long as possible.” Continue Reading

Monday, October 23, 2017

T-Mobile Ahead of Schedule After Incentive Auction

After this year’s incentive auction finished in April, the telecoms that acquired the 600 MHz spectrum licenses were expected to take up to three years to transition to the new frequencies. However, T-Mobile has already installed network sites broadcasting in the spectrum bands it purchased. The carrier acquired licenses to the spectrum between 617-652 MHZ and 663-698 MHz. It is currently operating in those frequencies in Wyoming and Maine. According to TVTechnology.com, T-Mobile plans to add more 600 MHz sites in Northwest Oregon, West Texas, Southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, Western North Dakota, Coastal North Carolina, Central Pennsylvania, Central Virginia and Eastern Washington, before 2018.
 
The quick turnaround is taking the former owners of the spectrum by surprise. Television broadcasters and wireless mic users who have been using the spectrum are scrambling to abandon the bands quickly. Mark Bishop, T-Mobile’s senior spectrum manager, requested all relevant parties to cease using the channel blocks by November 1, 2017. Continue Reading

Friday, October 20, 2017

First Look at the New ANSI 222 Standards

TO ORDER
In an industry where change comes frequently, new equipment, improved procedures, climatic events and accelerated demand have all contributed in pushing a new set of rules forward in the industry standards and practices. Through the collaboration of the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and American National Standard Institute (ANSI), those new standards have been revised and today will be made available to the telecommunications industry and reissued as the ANSI/TIA-222-H.  Although the official announcement will be made later today, Inside Towers has been given an exclusive look at the new standards and permission, via TIA, to publish advanced access to the links to acquire the document itself.  

The cost of the ANSI/TIA-222-H is $750 and it can be purchased by following this link.

“This new revision will keep the industry moving in the right direction,” Task Group Chairman Mark Malouf, President of Malouf Engineering Int’l, told Inside Towers.  Overseeing the Editorial Committee and various Ad Hoc Committees was a daunting task for the Chairman, considering all of the ground that had to be covered. Beginning the revision in 2013, Malouf coordinated the efforts and input of over 100 companies comprised of individuals from many backgrounds including: manufacturers, owners, consulting engineers, government entities, research and construction industries. Continue Reading

Thursday, October 19, 2017

SoftBank and Lendlease Team Up for Tower Roll-up

In a joint venture with Australia’s Lendlease Group, SoftBank Group Corp. intends to buy approximately 8,000 cellular sites across the U.S. Lendlease will be the joint venture manager, asset manager and development manager.

The new infrastructure company, Lendlease Towers, aims to partner with major U.S. carriers to roll out further phases of their infrastructure plans to meet growing demand for data. The goal is to obtain $5 billion of telecom assets, “over the medium term,” through a development and acquisition-based strategy, says a Lendlease spokesman. According to Fox Business, Sprint Corp. is selling its interest in rooftop transmitters and other sites to Lendlease Towers, to get the process started. SoftBank currently owns about 80 percent of Sprint’s outstanding shares. Continue Reading

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

California’s SB 649 Vetoed by Governor Brown

UPDATE Earlier this month, Inside Towers reported on California’s Senate Bill 649 proposed by Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), aiming to lower the build-out cost for wireless infrastructure, allowing more telecoms to enter the market and compete, specifically regarding small cells. The decision came down to Gov. Jerry Brown, who vetoed the bill late Sunday, reported The Mercury News.

In a signing statement, Brown wrote that while he saw the value in “extending this innovative technology rapidly and efficiently,” the bill took too much control away from cities and counties.
Industry trade groups were quick to react.  “WIA is disappointed that Gov. Brown decided to veto this important piece of legislation,” said Jonathan Adelstein, President and CEO of WIA, “which would have spurred the widespread deployment of the wireless infrastructure that is needed to improve network capacity in the near term and provide a foundation for the deployment of 5G networks going forward. California needs to enact laws that streamline the permitting process and grant greater access to public rights-of-way or its residents will be left behind.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Wildfires Didn’t Take the Weekend Off

 
Communications in the region have been difficult since the fires broke out last weekend, with many residents losing their power and struggling to find reliable cell coverage. State officials said Wednesday morning that the National Guard has brought in a satellite cell system to help people connect with loved ones. (see AT&T article below about donating for relief efforts)
Of the 77 cell towers knocked out in the fires, all but eight have been restored, according to the California Office of Emergency Services.

AT&T has deployed mobile cell sites to Santa Rosa, Willits and the Napa Town & County Fairgrounds to connect customers and emergency responders who have been without wireless service and connectivity since early Monday. Comcast has expanded use of its WiFi hotspots to the public for free.  Continue Reading

Monday, October 16, 2017

Repack Tower Work Predicted to Peak Next Year

 
American Tower Corp. has been helping broadcasters with stations on its towers develop a repack plan. Of the 987 stations being repacked, the towerco has 218 licensees on 133 towers, according to James Stenberg, Principal Engineer, RF Broadcast for American.

The company has categorized the type of tower work needed, from antenna work to moderate modifications to complex jobs, such as candelabra towers or heavily loaded smaller towers, he told attendees at the IEEE Broadcast Symposium in the Washington, D.C. area last Thursday. “There’s a lot of work early on” in the schedule, he said. “The peak is next year.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

U.S. Air Power Flies Portable AT&T Towers to PR

Federal agents from multiple law enforcement agencies are helping to restore communications in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency, Postal Service and others worked with the Air National Guard and the Air Force to bring and erect at least five AT&T portable cell phone towers to the San Juan area, according to the Department of Defense and the carrier. Normally, the towers are trucked in to a location; this marked the first time the mobile cell towers were flown to a location in need, according to AT&T.
 
“We can put them wherever they are needed and once an area gains stable cell communication, we can move them to the next location,” said Col. Rick Seymour, Alabama National Guard, who is helping to coordinate the effort. Moving the portable towers required the Air Force’s heaviest airlifter – the C-5 Galaxy, flown by the 436th Airlift Wing based at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, according to the Air Mobility Command. Continue Reading

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

FCC Okays Balloons to Restore Connectivity in PR

 
The FCC granted an experimental license for Project Loon, led by Google’s parent company Alphabet, to help provide emergency cell service in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria struck, millions of Puerto Ricans are still without access to much-needed communications services,” said Chairman Pai. Project Loon is a network of balloons that provides connectivity to users on the ground. Pai called the approach “innovative” and said more such ideas are needed to restore connectivity on the island.
 
“I’m glad the FCC was able to grant this experimental license with dispatch and I urge wireless carriers to cooperate with Project Loon to maximize this effort’s chances of success,” said Pai. Project Loon obtained consent agreements to use land mobile radio spectrum in the 900 MHz band from existing carriers operating within Puerto Rico. Continue Reading

Monday, October 9, 2017

Governors to Issue RFP For FirstNet Alternative

Governors for Washington and Oregon said they will jointly issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for potential alternatives to FirstNet, the broadband public safety communications network being built by AT&T. They plan to release the RFP this Friday, with bids due on November 13.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wrote in a letter to the Washington Statewide Interoperability Committee, the RFP would explore available options, stating a “regional solution with our partners in Oregon” should be looked at, reported Urgent Communications. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown echoed his thoughts. Those who answer the RFPs would submit proposals that cover both states.  Continue Reading

Friday, October 6, 2017

Is FirstNet the Solution For Connecting Rural America?

There’s a lot of interest from citizens, states, counties and the federal government to bring broadband to rural America. The biggest issue is: “How do you make it feasible?” broadband public safety advocate Andrew Seybold asked rhetorically. “Everyone seems to be focused on fiber to the home,” which is “not economical” in many cases, he says. Many organizations don’t consider microwave for backhaul or wireless solutions, he said during a Wednesday webinar organized by the International Wireless Communications Expo. The topic was “Alternative Wireless Sites for Increased Coverage.”

He’s high on the FirstNet project, the nationwide broadband communications network for first responders being built by AT&T. FirstNet “is required to cover America,” plus it has enough spectrum for both first responders and citizens, Seybold said. Continue Reading

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Cities and Counties Scrap Over Spectrum

Several counties and municipalities oppose any sharing of the 6 GHz band used by their microwave systems. Los Angeles County, CA, the City and County of Denver, CO, Kansas City, MO, Ozaukee County, WI and the Government Wireless Technology & Communications Association jointly told the Commission they’re worried about interference with their public safety systems which consist of numerous tower sites.

They’ve been through two forced relocations to accommodate carrier interests, including the 800 MHz re-band and the 2 GHz relocation to create PCS spectrum. “At a certain point the needs of public safety must take precedence,” they tell the agency in filed comments, as the FCC is reviewing whether mid-range bands (3.7-4.1 GHz, 5.925- 6.425 GHz and 6.425-7125 GHz) are appropriate for flexible use. “Interference from mobile devices is notoriously difficult to locate for mitigation. Increasing the opportunities for mobile interference within the band is an unnecessarily high risk,” state the counties and cities.  Continue Reading

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Pai Proposes Giving Carriers USF Funds for PR, USVI Restoration


In order to jumpstart the communications restoration in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed allowing carriers to use their Universal Service Fund allocations. Pai circulated a proposal among his colleagues for a vote; if passed, the order would quickly make available up to $96.9 million to repair wireline and wireless communications in the hurricane-ravaged islands.
Pai proposed giving carriers the option to receive those funds before performing the work. “Instead of receiving a standard monthly payment, carriers could elect this month to receive seven months’ worth of funding immediately in order to expedite repair and restoration efforts,” said Pai. He asked his fellow Commissioners to approve the item as quickly as possible. If that hasn’t happened by the October 24 meeting, the agency will vote on it then.  Continue Reading

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Ajit Pai Confirmed as FCC Chairman


The U.S. Senate last night voted 52 to 41 to reconfirm FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to a second five-year term retroactive to July 1, 2016. (Not all 100 senators voted.) The vote followed party lines, following floor speeches from Democrats blaming Pai for trying to overturn Net Neutrality to favoring media consolidation with the pending Sinclair acquisition of Tribune.  

Sen. Tom Udall was one of those who opposed Pai’s reconfirmation, saying he’s “put corporate interests first” and is “poised to dismantle” the 2015 Open Internet order. Sen. Elizabeth Warren-(D-MA) chimed in, saying “Pai has worked at breakneck speed to transform the FCC” from an agency that works on behalf of the public “to one that works for corporate interests,” specifically citing the proposed Sinclair-Tribune merger. Her colleague, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) said: “Under Pai the ‘FCC’ stands for ‘Forgetting Consumers and Competition.’”  Continue Reading

Monday, October 2, 2017

Towercos Stand Up to Havoc in Puerto Rico

The three publicly-traded tower companies, American, Crown Castle and SBA all have a substantial footprint of sites in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. American Tower and SBA spoke with Inside Towers last week to give their assessment of the damage and their efforts in trying to turn chaos back into order.
 
American Tower
“Of the sites we’ve been able to gain access to and inspect, it appears that the structural integrity of our towers has held,” Matt Peterson, Vice President, Communications, American Tower told Inside Towers. “However, a substantial amount of the carrier customer equipment on the towers and at the sites is badly damaged. This damage to carrier equipment and the loss of electrical power has resulted in very few cell sites being operational. American Tower has resources on the ground now who are helping with recovery efforts, performing full site audits on our 118 towers and identifying priority projects. Peterson said they are in active discussions with all of their customers to determine their priority sites and are working with the FCC, FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security on a coordinated response. “There is a lot to do and we are working closely with these partners to get as much done as soon as we can,” Peterson said. Continue Reading

Thursday, September 28, 2017

TV Tower Crane Gives Way Killing Three


Three people working on the WSVN television transmission tower have died after the ginpole they were on collapsed in Miami Gardens, FL late Wednesday afternoon according to WSVN, the station that housed the tower.  Miami-Dade Fire Rescue responded to the scene at 501 NW 207 Street in Miami Gardens, at around 4 p.m.

The ginpole gave way, according to witnesses, killing three crew members hired by WSVN to work on the tower, which is shared with WPLG, WSVN reported. According to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, the crew fell about 300 to 400 feet. WSVN said they had hired Tower King II out of Texas to do work on the tower. Continue Reading

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sparks Fly As Commissioners Debate Mobile Wireless Competition


For much of yesterday’s FCC meeting, Commissioners agreed on many things, but when it came to the 20th Mobile Wireless Competition Report, the gloves came off. Republican Chairman Ajit Pai and his fellow GOP Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr agreed the statistics from 2016 and early 2017 show there is effective competition in the wireless markets. The report makes interesting conclusions about tower site pricing as well.

O’Rielly said “nationwide providers are investing in infrastructure and fiercely competing for customers.” Carr agreed, adding: “Wireless prices are falling. Speeds are increasing. To get there, the FCC has to do its part, finding ways to drive down the regulatory costs of deploying fiber and small cells.” Getting this done is going to be one of his priorities, Carr said. Continue Reading

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

AT&T Creates Website to Help Locate People in Puerto Rico

 
AT&T continues to work around the clock to help the people of Puerto Rico recover from Hurricanes Maria and Irma. The company set up a website that will let anyone stateside (regardless of carrier) to register the cell phone number of a family member or friend who is an AT&T wireless customer in Puerto Rico. When the Puerto Rico-based customer’s cell phone connects to the AT&T network in Puerto Rico, the customer will be notified their family or friends in the U.S. have been trying to reach them.
 
The family member or friend who registered will also be notified through email when additional service in Puerto Rico has been restored. AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan said critical help began arriving over the weekend and more is on the way. He went with one of the relief flights into San Juan to help assess damage and develop recovery plans. More flights and ships carrying communications equipment and supplies are arriving in the coming days. The equipment includes generators, fuel and satellite devices for first responders as well as food, bottled water and personnel.  Continue Reading

Monday, September 25, 2017

Lowering Broadband Speed Threshold Proposal Draws Hundreds of Opinions

More than 1,600 public comments have poured into the FCC in response to the agency’s inquiry about broadband deployment. Inside Towers examined some of the comments concerning one controversial FCC proposal that calls for lowering the threshold speed for mobile broadband from the current 25 Megabits-per-second (Mbps) download speed and three Mbps upload speed, down to 10 Mbps download speed and one Mbps upload speed, to more closely match the current speeds subscribers are paying for.

That benchmark was “arbitrarily selected” based on a hypothetical family’s theoretical bandwidth requirements for simultaneous use of multiple devices engaged in bandwidth-intensive activities, according to USTelecom. “It would be disruptive for the Commission to change or eliminate the current benchmark without evidence that broadband at those speeds does not meet the need of consumers as they typically use broadband services today,” USTelecom told the Commission, urging no change to the standard.  

ITTA – The Voice of America’s Broadband Providers, agrees, saying the FCC should maintain the current speed thresholds for fixed broadband. Changing it would be confusing and if replaced often, it would no longer provide the reference point that is the essence of a “benchmark.” Continue Reading

Friday, September 22, 2017

FCC Urged to Reject 3.5 GHz Proposals

A battle is being waged over whether the FCC should foster access to spectrum for a variety of network solutions, or primarily for the current, large mobile carriers in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service. The FCC in 2016 opened up the CBRS band for both licensed and unlicensed sharing with U.S. Navy radar operations at 3.5 GHz and satellite earth stations. The FCC wants to make licensed spectrum affordable to deliver high quality broadband internet, cellular offload and capacity densification, and similar connectivity services, like the Internet of Things. Priority Access Licenses (PALs) cover small areas and are re-auctioned after relatively short (three or six-year) terms.

However, CTIA and T-Mobile recently petitioned the Commission to redefine PALs to be like traditional cellular licenses – covering multi-county areas and renewing automatically, arguing that small-area and competitive licenses don’t provide business certainty or an investment incentive, Inside Towers reported. Companies such as General Electric, rural co-ops and local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) – argue this would make the licenses unaffordable to all but the large national mobile carriers. Companies like these, that want to deploy services on the CBRS band, made the case for the FCC leaving the rules largely intact during a panel discussion at the New America think tank in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. Continue Reading

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Texas, Idaho Choose FirstNet


Idaho and Texas have become the 20
th and 21st states to opt-in to the FirstNet nationwide mobile broadband communications network for first responders, after Maryland joined earlier this week.
Texas is the largest state to make the decision. “As we saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, our first responders are often the last and only hope for safety in rapidly-changing and life-threatening situations, but this partnership with FirstNet and AT&T,  allows Texas’ fire, police, EMS and other public safety personnel to be better equipped when responding in these emergencies,” announced Governor Greg Abbott.

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar agreed, calling the support the state received from AT&T and FirstNet during the response to Harvey “incredible, and with this partnership, it will only get better.”  
Continue Reading

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

FCC’s O’Rielly: Rate of Return for Rural Broadband is “Sound”

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly told rural broadband providers Tuesday the agency’s “rate of return” framework is “sound” and not too complicated. Released last spring, the Rate of Return Order was intended to achieve a long-term fiscally-responsible system to provide certainty for carriers to invest in broadband and expand their service to rural America.

He spoke at the fall conference of the WTA, Advocates for Rural Broadband, formerly called the Western Telecommunications Alliance. O’Rielly said the reforms established requirements to extend broadband to unserved consumers, to better target funding to where it is needed most while being cognizant of prior investments, and to prevent funding areas where actual competition exists. They also improved transparency and accountability regarding how the funding is used. It’s voluntary for carriers. More than 200 rate-of-return carriers in 43 states elected and have been authorized to receive model support.  Continue Reading

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Verizon Tells FCC ‘One-Touch Make-Ready’ Will Speed Pole Attachment

Verizon is lobbying the FCC in support of lessening barriers to fiber deployment and speeding review of small cell applications. In meetings with the Wireless and Wireline Bureaus, among others, Verizon discussed the need to deploy small cells and fiber quickly, to support network densification. The carrier secured a supply of fiber through its multi-year deals with fiber manufacturers like Corning. “But to make it a reality – and thus to support the investment and jobs that come with fiber expansion,” executives explained the company needs to hang small cells and string fiber to provide the necessary backhaul.    
 
“In some locations, local electric companies take nine months or more to complete the pole-attachment process, and we have often seen delays of twelve months or longer to get new fiber on a pole,” states Verizon Managing Associate General Counsel Katharine Saunders, in a filing describing the meetings. “We’ve found that the sequential nature of make-ready work means that one party’s delay in completing its make-ready work often delays other parties’ ability to begin their make-ready work.” Continue Reading

Monday, September 18, 2017

FCC Adopts Criteria to Evaluate States’ FirstNet Opt-Out Plans

The FCC finalized the technical criteria the Commission will use to evaluate plans from those states that elect to opt-out of the network that will be deployed by the First Responder Network Authority. In June, the agency adopted procedures for administering the state opt-out process, Inside Towers reported, and then sought public input on its technical criteria.



FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the decision is another step towards the creation of a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network. First responders “put their lives on the line each and every day to keep us safe. We owe it to them to give them the tools they need to do their jobs.” Continue Reading

Friday, September 15, 2017

Lawmakers Tell Pai to Act Against Lifeline Scammers Now


Sens Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO).Photos by Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers
In a hearing that turned contentious at times, members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday examined waste and mismanagement in the FCC’s Lifeline program, which helps subsidize broadband and phone services for low-income users. 

Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson, (R-WI) said given the problems the Government Accountability Office found in its investigation, hard questions need to be asked. “Should we end the program? Maybe we should start thinking about banking the money.” Continue Reading

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Pai, Clyburn to Inspect Florida Irma Damage on Monday

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn plan to travel to Florida on Monday to see first-hand, the damage caused by Hurricane Irma. They’ll meet with those engaged in recovery operations, and receive updates about the ongoing efforts to restore communications services.


“Hurricane Irma has had a serious impact on communications networks in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Pai. “The FCC is committed to supporting recovery efforts, and I am grateful for the work that first responders, emergency personnel, and state and local partners are doing to restore service in affected areas. I’m pleased that Commissioner Clyburn is joining me to get a firsthand look at the damage caused by Irma and meet with those engaged in recovery efforts.”
Continue Reading

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pai: Wireless Connectivity Was Literally A Lifeline For Many

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai praised the efforts of the wireless communications industry in the wake of back-to-back hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Speaking to attendees of the Mobile World Congress Americas 2017 on Tuesday, Pai said the FCC, along with other federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as state and local agencies, monitor communications. He thanked all the agencies’ “incredible staffers on the ground.”



“It will be a long time before we’ll be able to calculate the total amount of damage inflicted by Harvey and Irma. But we already know one thing: it would have been a lot worse if it weren’t for wireless communications,” said Pai. Continue Reading

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Severe Storms Highlight Senate Legislation to Aid Carriers

As Hurricane Irma leaves the battered Southeastern coast, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is taking the opportunity to stress the importance of a bill currently up for debate in the U.S. Senate. According to the New York Daily News, H.R. 588 will require cell phones to work on all carriers’ networks in the event of natural disasters. Originally presented by Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) in January, the Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act already passed the House of Representatives. Although it places more requirements on carriers, the bill will also provide telecommunications companies with emergency access to repairs reserved for utilities, says NJ.com. Continue Reading

Monday, September 11, 2017

Repack, FirstNet All Part of Tower Climber’s ‘Perfect Storm’


Tower companies are facing a climber crunch, a factor to consider as television stations face the upcoming channel repack. The television tall tower work, combined with densification of carrier networks, tower work for FirstNet and upcoming FAA tower marking mandates are all happening at the same time, according to National Association of Tower Erectors Chairman Jim Tracy.

“This is creating the perfect storm for tower companies,” he told lawmakers at the House Commerce Communications Subcommittee on Thursday. During a hearing on the repack, Tracy said NATE has contacted OSHA, the FAA, the FCC and other federal agencies to discuss safety and bring more climbers into the industry. “At present, there are not enough qualified workers to do all this work,” and the demands will be exacerbated by the repack, he testified. Continue Reading

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Irma Eyes Florida

On Monday, Governor Scott issued Executive Order 17-235 declaring a state of emergency in all 67 counties within the State of Florida. Yesterday Governor Scott requested that President Donald Trump declare a pre-landfall emergency for the State of Florida in preparation for Hurricane Irma to provide important preparation resources and assistance from the federal government. The State Emergency Operations Center has been activated to level one, which is a full-scale, 24-hours-a-day activation.

Emergency Support Functions by State Emergency Response Team

TELECOMMUNICATIONS
  • The state has contacted telecommunications partners to activate protective action plans and procedures for Central Offices, tower sites, mobile response units and any other critical infrastructure.
  • Telecommunications Partners are monitoring fuel levels for generators and back-up power supply.
  • The state is drafting 24-hour staffing schedules and all Telecommunications remain on standby to respond if required.
  • At this point, no out of ordinary reports of any major outages.
Continue Reading

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

CTIA, T-Mobile Urge FCC to Keep WEA ‘Blue Alert’ Simple

CTIA-the Wireless Association and T-Mobile have weighed in on the FCC’s proposal to add a Blue Alert code to Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and the broadcast Emergency Alert System (EAS). Blue Alerts, meant to signal a police officer is in danger, can be transmitted to cell phones and wireless devices, broadcast stations, overhead highway message signs, and other secondary alerting mechanisms – in the same way Amber Alerts are issued.

The FCC proposes calling the new event code “BLU” and classifying it as either an Imminent Threat Alert or a Public Safety Message, depending on the circumstances. CTIA and T-Mobile tell the agency in filed comments, Blue Alerts could be incorporated into the existing WEA as an imminent threat without any new standards or system modifications. “This approach would allow the integration of a dedicated ‘BLU’ code within an existing alert class, without the delay that would result from new testing requirements and network/handset modifications,” says CTIA. “Notably, integration as an Imminent Threat alert would allow a seamless delivery of Blue Alerts to all WEA-capable mobile devices, including legacy devices.” Continue Reading

Friday, September 1, 2017

Local Telecoms Working 24/7 on Harvey Restoration Efforts

Several USTelecom members have operations in and around the areas that have been impacted by Harvey, and their employees are working 24/7 in emergency operations centers to keep networks up and running, as well as restore service in areas around Houston that have been flooded. While Inside Towers has been keeping readers up-to-date with the restoration efforts of the larger carriers, USTelecom shines a light on what some of its other members are doing in a blog post.

Consolidated Communications activated its Emergency Operations Center, equipping its fleet with extra fuel, ensuring backup generators are working and placing extra emergency supplies in key areas, so employees can focus on keeping the network operational.   

Orlando-based Smart City Telecom, which provides internet services in convention centers, amusement parks and hotels, flew staff to Texas to help relieve local employees and keep its WiFi and voice networks operational for storm victims who’ve taken refuge at the George R. Brown Convention Center and NRG Stadium in Houston. Continue Reading