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The FCC’s National Broadband Map is outdated and updating it is key to any infrastructure package hoping to boost the nation’s high speed internet.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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wireless Cyber Security Threats Real

More than half of mobile data traffic originates on mobile phones and that data is becoming more vulnerable to being hacked, especially as more devices connect to the internet. Holding up a smartphone, Symantec lobbyist Bill Wright told members of a House Communications and Technology Subcommittee on Tuesday “We need to start viewing these as computers and protecting them as computers.”

Though 4G LTE is ubiquitously deployed in the U.S., vulnerabilities exist in 2G and 3G mobile networks mainly outside the U.S., said Virginia Tech Professor Dr. Charles Clancy. Public WiFi hotspots here, such as those in coffee shops or airports, are especially vulnerable to cyber threats. Continue Reading

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

‘Partners in Broadband’ Forms for Rural America

Several rural infrastructure groups announced a joint campaign Monday to help promote collaboration and partnerships to deploy and operate broadband networks in unserved parts of rural America. The “Partners in Broadband” campaign focuses on creating alliances through a website that looks to connect those interested in delivering broadband to unserved rural communities with nearby partners that share a community commitment and have expertise in broadband network deployment and operation.

NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, the National Information Solutions Cooperative, NRTC and National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corp. developed the new site, and will promote it to their customers and members, representing more than 1,500 community-based broadband and electric service providers in 49 states. Continue Reading

Monday, June 12, 2017

Report Shows U.S. Lags Behind in Mobile Internet Speeds

Akamai Technologies, using its Akamai Intelligent Platform, analyzed and recently released its first quarter 2017 State of the Internet Report, which measures important metrics, like connection speeds, broadband adoption metrics and notable internet disruptions. 

“Increases in connection speeds and broadband penetration have helped enable the internet to support levels of traffic that even just a few years ago would have been unimaginable,” David Belson, the editor of the report, said in a company press release. “One need only look to January’s U.S. Presidential Inauguration, which broke traffic records for live coverage of a single news event delivered by Akamai.” Continue Reading

Friday, June 9, 2017

American Tower Makes Fortune 500 List

American Tower (NYSE: AMT), made its debut on the Fortune 500 at No. 449 with revenues of $5.78B, profits of $956M and a total revenue increase by 21 percent over last year.  American was ranked above brand name companies like Clorox, Arthur Gallagher, Citizens Financial, Mattel, Western Union and Yahoo, according to Fortune Magazine.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Dark, Urban Fiber is Crown’s Sweet Spot

Though most of Crown Castle International’s revenue (some 85 percent) comes from tall towers now, the company is investing heavily in small cells. “I think small cells could be as big as the tower business” is today, company President and Chief Executive Officer Jay Brown said Wednesday at the NAREIT Investor Forum.

Small cells are key to 5G deployment, where carriers need speed and less latency and can use small cells to densify their networks. “The asset we lease is fiber,” said Brown. Crown is trying to install as many antennas on distribution points as possible and use fiber to connect those points.

“The lease-up on small cells is about twice as fast” as it is for Crown’s 40,000 macro towers, according to Brown, who adds it can take only five years to lease a second tenant. Crown has 20,000 small cell nodes on-air now and 25,000 in the pipeline to be built. Thirty percent of those are additional tenants, to be co-located on existing assets. Continue Reading

Friday, June 2, 2017

FCC, OSHA Release Tower Climber Safety Guide

UPDATE The FCC and OSHA released a new Tower Climber Safety guide. Access the 29-page document here.

“As more Americans use mobile devices to call, text and stream content, the safety of workers who maintain and construct communications towers is more critical than ever,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Assistant Deputy Secretary for Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dorothy Dougherty in a joint statement. “Every day, communications tower workers face potential hazards that can be deadly if not performed safely, and dozens of fatalities have occurred over the past few years. Every tower climber death is preventable.” Continue Reading

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Most States Will Join FirstNet, AT&T’s Donovan Says

AT&T is working with FirstNet on developing state plans and aims to be ready to share those with governors for their evaluation on or around June 19. “We expect most, if not all, states will join” the effort to deploy a nationwide first responder communications network, says AT&T Chief Strategy Officer and Group President of Technology and Operations John Donovan.

He told attendees of the Cowen and Company 45th Annual Technology, Media and Telecom Conference the carrier began planning for the project early in the year, so when the contract was awarded they’d be ready to move. AT&T believes it will be able to give states the opportunity to be on the carrier’s commercial network by the end of this year, rather than waiting until sometime in 2018. They’d have “preemption,” he explained, “so when all hell is breaking loose and states need to get on the network they can.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Comments Deadline Stretched to June 15 for Broadband Deployment Issues

The public has more time to comment on two FCC proceedings to speed wireless broadband deployment by removing regulatory barriers. CTIA, the Competitive Carriers Association, and the Wireless Infrastructure Association asked for the approximately one week extension. The FCC agreed, so now initial comments for both are due by June 15, and replies by July 17.

Despite being adopted by the Commissioners in April, the two items, WT Docket No. 17-79 and WC Docket No. 17-84 were published on different days in the Federal Register, giving them separate comment deadlines. CTIA, CCA and WIA asked the agency to align deadlines for both, saying that would “promote the filing of uniform comments” benefitting stakeholders and the public. Continue Reading

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

FCC Okays Michigan Sharing 800 MHz Network

The state of Michigan and the FCC reached an agreement about the state’s Public Safety Communications System and its 800 MHz radio network. The deal affects nearly 250 tower sites.

Michigan sought a waiver to the agency’s rules so it could share its 800 MHz statewide radio network with DTE Energy, a non-profit infrastructure provider. Michigan’s Public Safety Communications System provides communications for its state agencies, police, and more than 1,490 county, city, township and tribal public safety agencies. Some 74,000 radio users are on the network.

The state uses both 800 MHz and 700 MHz narrowband voice frequencies although the great majority of the system is 800 MHz. DTE wanted access to emergency and proprietary talk groups on the trunking system and the 800 MHz analog mutual aid channels. 
Continue Reading

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sprint Tells FCC: Tribal Siting Costs Are Rising Quickly

The FCC opened a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in order to ease wireless infrastructure siting barriers, Inside Towers reported. Now, Sprint gives us an inside look at what it paid to deploy small cells around Houston’s NRG Stadium for the Super Bowl. The company considers tribal siting costs to be spiraling out of control and suggests the agency review those.
 
Sprint paid more than $173,000 to deploy a total of 23 small cell sites around the stadium to comply with the National Historic Preservation Act. Filings to the FCC suggest costs were imposed on carriers by the city of Houston or the Texas Historical Commission, says Sprint in an FCC filing. But actually, the figures Sprint referenced were imposed by federal law, not state or local historic reviews, the carrier clarifies. Continue Reading

Friday, May 19, 2017

FCC Begins Net Neutrality Roll Back With Industry Backing

The FCC voted 2-1 to begin the process to roll back the Obama-era Net Neutrality rules, starting what will likely be a several-months long fight over the future of internet regulation. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says the current rules chill broadband investment while opponents dispute this. The issue is of interest to readers because it gets to the heart of the further rollout of street furniture such as small cells and antennas for 4G and eventually 5G.

The rules passed by former Chairman Tom Wheeler changed the classification of the internet from an information service, which they had been considered since the Clinton-era, to a utility in which ISPs must treat all internet traffic the same, with no fast or slow speed lanes.

Pai said “The internet was not broken in 2015,” yet the FCC at the time “succumbed to heavy handedness from the White House and changed course.” Seventy fixed wireless providers “say their hands are tied” by the regs and 22 of the smallest ISPs have slowed if not halted new builds.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

High Frequency Traders Turn to Towers for Competitive Advantage

According to Information Week Magazine: “A one (1) millisecond advantage in trading applications can be worth $100 million a year to a major brokerage firm.”  In the wireless arena it is referred to as “latency,” i.e., how much time it takes for a packet of data to get from one designated point to another.
 
Traders making millions of transactions a minute recognize the superiority of wireless for sending and receiving data. Jump Trading LLC recently installed microwave antennas across the street from the data center operated by CME Group, the world’s biggest futures exchange located just outside of Chicago. The development was precipitated by the need to submit trades faster, and the company is not alone. Many companies are installing microwave equipment around the facility to stay ahead of other competition. According to ZeroHedge.com, faster data transfers can make the difference between billions in profits or losses for traders. Placing microwave towers close to the CME data center, reduces the amount of time data is transferred by fiber-optic cable, and allows trading firms to operate faster. Continue Reading

Monday, May 15, 2017

Study Reveals 911 Call Centers are “Woefully Behind the Times”

UPDATE In today’s world, we’re able to pay bills, schedule a ride pickup and even remotely control the thermostat and lights in our houses using our phones. But when we most need them—during times of emergency—our devices might prove useless, according to a recent study by south Florida’s WBBH-TV.

Investigators from the station placed phone calls using the four major carriers from inside a local 911 dispatch center. Each time, dispatchers could only pinpoint the caller’s location within three to four miles, as they were relying on pings from the nearest cell tower.
Charlotte County’s E911 coordinator Laurie Anderson explained that the technology dispatcher centers used were designed for landline devices, not cell phones. Current 911 technology dates to the 1960s and 1970s, Inside Towers reported.  Furthermore, Anderson said dispatchers rely on the carriers for the location accuracy of wireless 911 callers.  Continue Reading

Friday, May 12, 2017

Americans’ Wireless Data Use Continues to Skyrocket

CTIA released its Annual Wireless Industry Survey, which found Americans used a record 13.72 trillion megabytes (MBs) of mobile data in 2016, an increase of over 4 trillion MBs over 2015, and 35 times the volume of traffic in 2010.  The amount of data traffic sent over wireless networks in 2016 -13.72 trillion MBs – is the equivalent of 1.58 million years of streaming HD videos.

“Americans are using more wireless data than ever. As wireless becomes central to our lives and the U.S. economy, it’s no surprise that Americans’ mobile data usage continues to skyrocket,” said CTIA President/CEO Meredith Attwell Baker.  “This continued growth underscores the need to free up more spectrum and modernize infrastructure processes at all levels of government to make way for next-generation 5G networks – and hundreds of billions of industry investment.” Continue Reading

Thursday, May 11, 2017

U.S. Senator Thune and NATE Pay Tribute to the Tower Technician Workforce


NATE will unveil this morning a commemoration declaring today, Thursday, May 11, 2017, Tower Technician Appreciation Day. This day has been set aside by NATE to coincide with OSHA’s National Safety Stand-Down Week in order to pay tribute to the important work that tower technicians conduct on a daily basis to enable a mobile society.

NATE was joined by U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in honoring the work of the men and women who deploy and maintain America’s communications infrastructure.

“It’s a privilege to join NATE to congratulate and thank the dedicated men and women who work in South Dakota and around the country to build, upgrade, and maintain our nation’s communication towers and infrastructure,” said Sen. Thune. “Tower erectors and technicians put in long hours and hard work, and they possess a unique set of skills that is essential to effectively deploy today’s wireless broadband network and lay the groundwork for the 5G network of the future.”  Continue Reading

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Lower Broadband Capex Raises Concern From USTelecom

 
USTelecom says its early data “strongly suggests” that investment in broadband dropped in 2016, for the second year in a row. That raises a red flag for the association.

“Closing the digital divide and bringing more Americans access to the benefits of high-speed internet service won’t happen if new investment in broadband infrastructure continues to fall,” writes Patrick Brogan, vice president of Industry Analysis for USTelecom in a blog post. In 2016, capital expenditures for ISPs was $71 billion, down from $73 billion in 2015, and $74 billion in 2014, USTelecom’s current estimate shows. That’s $2.5 billion to $3 billion lower in 2016 than it was in 2014, the year before the FCC reclassified the internet as a utility – known as Title II.

Claims by some interest groups that broadband provider capex actually may have increased in 2015 and 2016, depend on figures that ignore accounting adjustments for certain non-material items like leased cell phones and acquisitions, such as AT&T’s merger with DirecTV and a Mexican wireless operation, according to Brogan. Continue Reading

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Comcast and Charter Partner Up As Expected

Comcast and Charter announced an agreement on a wireless partnership yesterday morning although it isn’t the first time they’ve done so. In 1994, TCI, Comcast and Cox partnered with Sprint creating the Personal Communication Services (PCS) band (1900 MHz). The service was discontinued four years later due to poor demand. The cable providers united with Sprint again in 2005, launching a wireless service called Pivot. Eventually that created the present MVNO agreement with VZ, which has allowed Comcast and Charter to look at entering wireless again, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Craig Moffett of MoffettNathanson said the announcement would only have been surprising if it hadn’t happened. “Still,” Moffett said, ‘there are surprises in the language of the 8-K.  The announcement pours cold water on all of the various M&A scenarios about which people have so incessantly speculated,” he said. Continue Reading

Friday, May 5, 2017

SpaceX Tells Congress They Can Bring Out-of-This World Coverage

While wireless broadband providers race to close the digital divide and service more hard-to-reach areas, they may face a new competitor — satellite-delivered broadband internet. Launch services provider SpaceX plans to deploy more than 4,000 non-geostationary satellites in a low orbit within five years to deliver affordable broadband service; the company, founded in 2002, by entrepreneur Elon Musk who remains CEO, hopes to begin testing a satellite by the end of the year and launching a prototype next year.

“Satellites will substantially alter access and competition,” SpaceX VP of Satellite Government Affairs Patricia Cooper told members of the Senate Commerce Committee at a broadband infrastructure hearing this week. “Our plan is to build fiber-like services at much lower cost.” The incremental cost of adding a rural customer to a satellite network is much lower than adding that rural customer to a ground-based cellular network, she testified. Continue Reading

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Senate Tries to Balance Local Control Over Speedy Deployment

Some localities are worried they would get less say in how broadband is deployed in their areas based on legislation that Congress is preparing and rules the FCC has proposed to streamline such deployment nationwide.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said during a hearing on reducing barriers to broadband infrastructure deployment on Wednesday regulators are working to reduce digital disparity between rural and urban areas, and with good reason. “In places like South Dakota, you are lucky if you have a six-month window to lay fiber,” noting companies need to begin the permitting process one to two years ahead of time.

Yet regulators must be cognizant of the roles localities play in the infrastructure permitting process. Wilton Manors, FL Mayor Gary Resnick told lawmakers when localities deny installs in public rights-of-way it’s for a good reason. “We pay a price in Florida to live in paradise. Because of hurricanes, it makes sense to construct utilities underground,” so residents can drive away quickly after a storm. “The only safe way to pull off a road and not get submerged is to not have anything in the way.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

AT&T Plans All LTE Band Availability for FirstNet, Potentially by Year-End


Just over a month after beginning its public-private partnership with AT&T, FirstNet is achieving milestones ahead of its planned timeframe. All of AT&T’s LTE bands are planned to be available for the nation’s first public safety wireless broadband network as soon as the end of this year, according to FirstNet CEO Mike Poth.

That can happen as soon as a state governor accepts the FirstNet State Plan (“opt in”), writes Poth in a blog. Preemption services will be available on existing AT&T LTE bands nationwide while FirstNet deploys Band 14 for public safety, increasing the available public safety capacity “without having to wait for the availability of Band 14,” according to Poe. Continue Reading

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Telecom Industry Presses FCC to Dismiss NAB Repack Petition

While NAB was holding its largest convention of the year in Las Vegas, telecom associations and companies were busy filing their opposition to changes broadcasters would like the FCC to make to its repack plan. NAB believes broadcasters will need about twice the amount of the $1.75B Congress has allocated to reimburse stations to relocate to different channels as the TV spectrum is repacked into a smaller portion of the band; the broadcast trade lobby has also consistently said 39 months is not enough time for everyone to move, given the limited number of tower crews that can handle tall TV towers and new, heavy antennas.

The current 39-month deadline should not be the driver of the entire process,” NAB representatives recently emphasized to the Commission. NAB earlier petitioned the FCC to modify its repack plan, Inside Towers reported, saying if the agency doesn’t make the proposed changes, the repack will take longer, cost more and cause more disruption than it has to. Continue Reading

Monday, May 1, 2017

Cities Protest Bill Allowing New 5G Infrastructure to be Built “Anywhere”

 
On April 26, Senate Bill 649, removing a city’s ability to control where technology is placed and transferring power to the state, was unanimously approved by the Senate Government and Finance Committee. The bill will make it easier for wireless telecom to distribute 5G technology via small cells. SB 649 “would provide that a small cell is a permitted use, not subject to a city or county discretionary permit, if the small cell meets specified requirements,” reported KCRA-TV.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, has caused cities like Roseville, Rocklin and San Francisco, plus the League of California Cities to fight back. A letter sent from the League to Sen. Hueso details the complaint about “limiting local discretionary review” of small cell sites and calls out the “unconstitutionality” of the bill by requiring cities to cooperate. Continue Reading

Friday, April 28, 2017

Pai Opts For Classifying Broadband From Commercial to Private Service

As he said he would, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai had the Commission release a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Open Internet yeaterday. If passed, the changes proposed by the Chairman would include re-instating the classification of all internet access services, including both fixed and broadband, as information services. That means they’d revert back to being treated as private, rather than commercial services, an FCC official explained to reporters.

In 2015, the internet access services were re-defined as common carrier services, Inside Towers reported. The Chairman said this week the change stifled broadband investment and deployment, especially in low-income urban and rural areas.


The Small Business Administration considers the majority of the some 1,368 wireless telecom carriers to be small because most of them employ less than 1,000 people, according to the NPRM, citing U.S. Census Bureau data from 2012. Pai said smaller ISPs told the agency the re-classification introduced regulatory uncertainty into the broadband rollout, making it harder for them to get funding.   Continue Reading

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Pai Sees Lightening Rules on Net Neutrality As a Boost to Broadband

Re-defining the internet as a common carrier inhibited broadband infrastructure investment, especially in rural areas, according to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. That’s why he  circulated among his colleagues a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking yesterday to seek comment on reversing the two claims of legal authority that underlay the 2010 and 2015 Open Internet Orders. He intends to release the draft text today and have the item up for a vote at the FCC’s next open meeting on May 18.

Pai addressed the future of so-called Net Neutrality at an event at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. yesterday. Pai wants to go back to a “light-touch regulatory framework for the internet,” saying that worked for decades. “Under this framework, the private sector invested about $1.5 trillion to build the networks that gave people high-speed access to the internet,” said Pai. Continue Reading

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Pai Bears Gifts for Broadcasters

 
In his first speech at the spring NAB show as chairman, Ajit Pai said Tuesday that after four years of attending the show and presenting in smaller panel discussions, speaking on the big stage brought more notice and pressure. But he delivered in a big way.

Pai intends to do away with unnecessary and outdated broadcast regulations, noting that many of the media rules are “decades old.” He circulated a Public Notice to his colleagues yesterday to begin a review and plans to tee that up in time for a vote at the May 18 public meeting.

“Given the realities of today’s media marketplace, we need to see which rules are still necessary and which should be relaxed or repealed,” Pai said to vigorous attendee applause. “That review will also include exploring whether certain rules should be changed to provide regulatory relief to small businesses.” The proceeding will apply to cable and broadcast satellite rules as well. Continue Reading

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Broadcasters Embrace IP Connectivity as NAB2017 Opens

Photography courtesy of Robb Cohen Photography and Video and Megan Reed of Inside Towers

John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life.” That’s certainly true of broadcasting, said NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith as he opened NAB2017 in Las Vegas. Though the devices consumers use to access their video and audio content continue to evolve, broadcasters remain committed to serving their communities, yet also continue to innovate, he said.

“From mixed reality, to autonomous cars and the future of cinema, we are witnessing the convergence of media, entertainment and technology that is enriching all of our lives. Broadcasters have been at the core of this ever-changing landscape, bringing together all of these dynamic partners to deliver content consumers seek anytime, anywhere,” said Smith. Continue Reading

Friday, April 21, 2017

Siting Hurdles Knocked Down in Unanimous FCC Vote

Wireless providers large and small have been asking the FCC and Congress for help to clear away regulatory barriers to broadband deployment; they especially have sought help with what they say are uneven prices charged by municipalities for pole attachments and lengthy, costly delays to siting wireless infrastructure, Inside Towers reported.
 
The FCC yesterday voted 3-0 to open a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to accomplish these goals; it invites public comment on regulations for pole attachments such as how to ensure pole attachers are not charged multiple times for certain capital costs and establishing a shot clock for FCC consideration of complaints.

The retirement of legacy copper is discussed too, and the agency seeks comment on how to streamline that as providers transition to IP networks. Continue Reading

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Auction Came Up Short Due to ‘Sharpened’ Demand by Carriers

Inside Towers Interview with Vertical Bridge CEO Alex Gellman
Why did the nearly $20 billion in gross revenues from the FCC’s incentive auction come in at around half of what had been originally predicted by a myriad of analysts? Timing and the evolution of the carrier’s needs, according to one expert.
FCC officials told reporters last week the auction had been in the works for five years under four different Commission chairmen, beginning with Julius Genachowski. Continue Reading

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Clyburn: Big Broadband Gets a ‘Hall Pass’ in Tomorrow’s Vote

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn is decrying at least one change the FCC is slated to vote on tomorrow regarding tower siting and rights-of-way.
 
“The majority will take actions that benefit the largest providers to the detriment of smaller companies, and to the detriment of consumers” she told attendees at a regional broadband summit hosted by Next Century Cities in Mesa, AZ yesterday. “States and localities are okay to regulate but [large] broadband providers, I believe, are getting a hall pass.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

LPTV Coalition Urges Members to ‘Resist The Repack’

The LPTV Spectrum Rights Coalition is gearing up for a court fight to delay the repack. The group is comprised of Low-Power TV station and TV translator owners.
 
“The auction winning bidders need to hear loud and clear that LPTV will not be moving when they want to start testing in a Partial Economic Area, but when we are ready,” says Coalition Director Mike Gravino.



“We will be offering engineering services to counter any of the claims of testing in a PEA, and those companies had better have engineering proof they need us to shut down. If tower crews and equipment are not available, then too bad, we all will have to wait,” he says in a newsletter for members. Continue Reading

Monday, April 17, 2017

Repack Clock is Ticking and An Expensive Move For Broadcasters Awaits

Now that the 39-month TV station repack timeline has begun, what kinds of equipment will be eligible for reimbursement? The deadline for stations to submit their estimated repack expenses to the FCC is July 12. Those include engineering, legal, equipment, installation, and other costs the FCC deems reasonable to accomplish a required channel change. The FCC has shed a little more light on equipment approximations in its Catalog of Potential Expenses and Estimated Costs. The agency asked Widelity to reflect the current pricing for the equipment and services that repacked broadcasters may need to purchase to facilitate the moves to their new channel assignments, and the current pricing for equipment and services that MVPDs may need to purchase to continue to carry broadcasters. The report was produced August 2016. Continue Reading

Thursday, April 13, 2017

FCC Announces Auction Winners

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief
The FCC has officially announced today at 1:30 p.m. the closing of the broadcast incentive auction, calling the $19.8 billion in gross revenue for 70 MHz of spectrum one of its “highest grossing auctions ever.”    

Among the largest winners are T-Mobile, Dish, Comcast, and U.S. Cellular.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called the conclusion “a milestone” and said consumers would benefit from “greater competition and innovation in the mobile broadband marketplace” and additional resources and programming from broadcasters.

In the forward auction, wireless carriers bid $19.8 billion on mobile broadband spectrum. A total of 50 winning bidders won 70 MHz of licensed spectrum. A total of 14 MHz of spectrum is available for unlicensed use and wireless microphones. Continue Reading

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Trump, Executives Discuss Infrastructure, Tax Reform

President Donald Trump met with about 20 CEOs, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, on Tuesday in a strategic and policy forum. The executives spoke with five cabinet secretaries about issues like infrastructure, tax reform and job creation. The meeting occurs as Congress is on a two-week break. The White House confirmed the meetings but did not immediately disclose all the participants.

“We’re going to reduce taxes, we’re going to eliminate wasteful regulations … we’re doing a major streamlining” of the income tax system, President Trump told reporters afterwards, according to Fox News. Continue Reading

Monday, April 10, 2017

Wireless Companies Want ‘Seamless’ Repack Says CTIA

 
Wireless companies are eager to get their hands on spectrum being cleared by television broadcasters. CTIA VP Regulatory Affairs Scott Bergmann said more than once during a hearing last week on future spectrum needs, the organization supports a smooth 39 month repacking process.

Wireless companies hope the process “is not delayed,” he said, noting that “your oversight of the 600 MHz transition” is key as “the U.S. wireless industry is poised to invest $275 billion over the next decade, add three million new jobs, and contribute half a trillion dollars to our economy.” Continue Reading

Friday, April 7, 2017

FCC Broadband Deployment Committee to Hold First Meeting April 21


The first meeting of the FCC’s new Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee is set for April 21. The Commission received 380+ applications for the group.

“I’m excited that the Committee will soon be getting to work on recommendations that will help break down barriers to broadband deployment,” Chairman Ajit Pai said. “Closing the digital divide across America is my top priority, and the work of this committee will be a crucial step toward meeting that goal.” Continue Reading

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Industry Urges Lawmakers to Focus on Spectrum, Infrastructure Siting for 5G

On average, it takes roughly 13 years to reallocate spectrum for wireless use. Congress can do several things to speed that up to help wireless providers prepare to deploy 5G. That’s according to representatives of CTIA, Ericsson and Ruckus Wireless who spoke with lawmakers during a House Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing Wednesday about how the federal government can help meet the country’s growing spectrum needs.   Continue Reading

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

What Nixed the FirstNet Bid for Rivada?

Why did the U.S. Court of Federal Claims favor AT&T for the FirstNet contract? Inside Towers reported the award was made last week for partial funding and the right for the carrier to build, deploy and operate the nation’s first nationwide wireless broadband network.

At the formal contract award ceremony AT&T Chairman/CEO Randall Stephenson called the bidding process “transparent.”  Continue Reading

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

St. Louis Ballpark Hits Home Run With Upgraded Wireless Equipment

As Opening Days occur all around the U.S., baseball fans, particularly those in St. Louis, will be experiencing better wireless coverage at the Cardinal’s season opener this year. AT&T increased wireless capacity by 60 percent at the baseball club’s Busch Stadium. OzarksFirst.com reported significant changes in the wireless coverage since Opening Day one year ago. John Sondag with AT&T Missouri says the improvements to the stadium’s network will shorten the distance data will travel, making data transfers faster as games are played. Continue Reading

Monday, April 3, 2017

Major Telco Infrastructure Issues on the FCC’s Docket for April

April is infrastructure month at the FCC. Chairman Ajit Pai plans to have four telco-related items teed up for a vote at the April 20 meeting.
 
“ Infrastructure Month will present several chances for the FCC to promote deployment and benefit consumers across America. Infrastructure might not be as flashy as a flux capacitor, but it’ll be a 1.21 gigawatt jolt for the digital economy,” said Pai in a blog post. Continue Reading

Friday, March 31, 2017

FirstNet Partners with AT&T to Build Wireless Network for First Responders

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

In a formal ceremony at the U.S. Department of Commerce on Thursday, the FirstNet contract was awarded to AT&T for the nation’s first nationwide wireless broadband network, Inside Towers reported. Several fire/police/EMS officials who spoke said the interactive network will help all first responders connect to their colleagues anywhere; when built, the network will replace gear like legacy land-mobile radios.

“It will change an untenable status quo by providing first responders the tools they need to keep us safe,” said U.S. House Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), who co-led the FirstNet legislation in Congress with former Senate colleague Jay Rockefeller (D-N.Y.). FirstNet is part of an effort “to build a more secure society” after 9/11, said Walden, who added: “The Administration is now prepared to deliver” on the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Report.
Continue Reading

Thursday, March 30, 2017

FirstNet Contract Awarded to AT&T

Today the Department of Commerce and First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) announced the selection of AT&T to build the first nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated to America’s first responders.

In a formal signing ceremony, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross made the announcement. He and others who spoke, including House Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chair Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called this an “historic day” and said the approximately $40+B total award over the lifetime of the contract for the public-safety broadband network is a “milestone.” Continue Reading

Friday, March 24, 2017

FCC Says It Appears Network Reconfiguration Caused 911 Outages

Ever since the AT&T-Mobility 911 outage that affected customers in several states the night of March 8, the FCC has been trying to figure out what happened. Preliminary information indicates the outage lasted five hours in the primary affected areas (the southeast, central, and parts of the northeast) but its effects spread throughout the regions, according to Public Safety & Homeland Security Acting Bureau Chief Lisa Fowlkes.
 
“It appears AT&T re-configured its network,” and then the routing for 911 calls failed, said Fowlkes, as she updated commissioners during Thursday’s FCC meeting. “They went to a backup call center for manual processing.” The volume was too much which meant calls were blocked. Affected customers heard fast ringing or nothing, public safety officials told the FCC in the affected areas. On an average day, the provider carries some 44,000 VoLTE calls nationwide. During the outage some 12,000 of those calls couldn’t get through to 911, according to the FCC. Continue Reading

Thursday, March 23, 2017

‘Dig Once’ and Rights-of-Way Critical to Broadband Deployment

Concepts like “Dig Once,” are gaining traction on Capitol Hill as lawmakers grapple with ways to remove barriers for the deployment of broadband infrastructure. In a hearing this week covered by Inside Towers, the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology discussed draft legislation first proposed by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Greg Walden (R-OR) in 2015 that would require installing a conduit during construction of a federally-funded highway or road in an area that needs more broadband.

Failure to implement Dig Once means more construction, more disruption, and much higher costs for private providers — who may simply decide not to deploy in an area where the economics don’t work, say several think tanks led by Tech Freedom in a letter to the subcommittee. “A study by the GAO showed that ‘Dig Once’ policies can reduce the cost of deploying fiber under highways in urban areas by 25–33 percent and by roughly 16 percent in rural areas. These cost reductions add up to enormous savings in the context of multi-million-dollar builds.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tower Industry Execs Tell Lawmakers to End the ‘Regulatory Nightmare’

From left: Steve Berry, Thomas Murray and LeRoy Carlson Jr. Photos by Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers
Access to broadband, both rural and urban, is a bi-partisan issue, lawmakers agreed Tuesday in a House Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing on removing barriers to infrastructure deployment. Subcommittee Chair Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), said: “We are all tired of hearing stories about parents driving their children to the local McDonald’s for internet access in order to finish homework assignments. We owe them better, period. Continue Reading

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Rivada Weighing Appeal After Court Loss in FirstNet Bid


 
Rivada Mercury is considering whether to appeal a judge’s decision denying the company’s claim that its bid to be a provider for the FirstNet contract was improperly excluded. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington heard oral arguments in this case, which are not public, earlier in the month and a decision was expected soon, Inside Towers reported. Continue Reading

Monday, March 20, 2017

CCA Says There’s Ample Record to Justify Repeal of 2016 Privacy Order

The Competitive Carriers Association says there’s plenty reason to justify repealing the FCC’s 2016 Privacy Order which it calls “burdensome and anti-competitive.” CCA suggests the FCC align its rules with those of the Federal Trade Commission.
 
In reply comments just filed with the Commission, the association says: “Reconsidering the 2016 Privacy Order will ensure consumers can expect uniform privacy practices, and will prevent edge providers from securing an undue competitive advantage over broadband providers in the internet ecosystem. Further, reconsideration is particularly needed for CCA members since the 2016 Privacy Order is uniquely burdensome for small BIAS [Broadband Internet Service Providers] providers.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

TV Repack Shot-Clock Starts in April With Tower Crews in High Demand

The FCC’s shot-clock begins ticking for television broadcasters in mid-April. That’s for the 90 days to file construction permits and 39-months total time allotted for the channel repack. During construction, a station may file for a CP extension due to delays caused by weather, the unavailability of a tower crew or tower lease disputes, according to an FCC auction webinar presentation. Continue Reading

Friday, March 10, 2017

CCA Urges FCC to Streamline Deployment With Reduced Siting Fees

The Competitive Carriers Association is pressing the FCC to take several steps to clear the way for next-generation broadband deployment. Those include reducing siting delays; tying siting fees to actual review and maintenance costs and educating state and local governments about the benefits of next-gen wireless service.

“Competitive carriers play a critical role in ensuring consumers, especially those in rural areas, have access to high-speed mobile broadband services, and depend on sound infrastructure policy to achieve this important goal,” said CCA President/CEO Steven Berry in comments filed with the FCC on a Mobilitie petition to streamline small cell deployment. Continue Reading

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Pai ‘Gets’ Small Cell Siting Challenges

Broadband deployment and the transition to 5G were dominating topics at Wednesday’s FCC oversight hearing by the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee. Net Neutrality was as well and to some extent, new Chairman Ajit Pai’s efforts at process reform.
 
Closing the digital divide and upgrading the Mobility Fund and Connect America Fund, which help companies bring telecommunications to rural and poor areas, are among his top priorities, Pai said during the more than two and a half hour hearing. Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

AT&T to “Resource” Jobs, Bring Overseas Work Back to the United States

Frequently in the news are stories about American corporations outsourcing jobs to foreign nations, but perhaps less often we hear of jobs being “resourced” back to the United States. AT&T recently announced it promised to hire 3,000 American workers to do jobs previously done overseas as part of an agreement it made with the union representing its workers, reports the New American.

The agreement is a four-year deal that includes expanded benefits, wage increases and paid parental leave, which will impact some 20,000 AT&T workers. Continue Reading

Monday, March 6, 2017

Rules to Ease Broadband Deployment Set for FCC Vote March 23

The FCC is considering several wireless items and one incentive auction decision at its next open meeting set for March 23. One item, titled “Cellular Service Reform” would facilitate mobile broadband deployment, including LTE, promote greater spectrum efficiency, and reduce regulatory burdens and costs. Carriers have been telling lawmakers and the FCC much of these reforms would help ease the path to 5G deployment. Continue Reading

Friday, March 3, 2017

Repack Questions: Is 39 Months Enough Time? Is $1.75B Enough?

The wireless industry wants to get its hands on the spectrum being vacated by television broadcasters as soon as possible and believes the FCC-allotted 39 months for the TV channel repack following the end of the incentive auction is feasible. Broadcasters don’t think 39 months is enough time and they certainly don’t think the $1.75 billion Congress has allotted for reimbursement costs will be enough. That’s what representatives of both industries told lawmakers Thursday during a hearing on spectrum needs of the Communications Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee. Continue Reading

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Lawmakers Want Broadband Funding as Part of $3T Infrastructure Package

“Millions of Americans still do not have access to the internet, most of them in rural communities,” says U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chair Sen. John Thune, (R-SD). In many parts of the country, states have stepped in to pay to “continue to bridge the digital divide,” he said during Wednesday’s nearly three-hour hearing on infrastructure. Ideas generated yesterday could potentially become part of the administration’s $3 trillion infrastructure package.
 
“We need to explore new ways to reduce the cost of broadband deployment,” (which would include towers and antennas), said Thune, referring to his Mobile Now Act which he and Ranking Member Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) recently introduced. Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Pai: Broadband Infrastructure Needs to be ‘Smart, Not Dumb Pipes’

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is committed to making it easier for companies to deploy broadband infrastructure and a “light touch” regulatory approach from the Commission in general. Speaking to attendees at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Tuesday, Pai recognizes that building, maintaining and upgrading broadband networks for 5G will be expensive.
The 5G future will require much infrastructure to densify networks. Continue Reading

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

SBA Reports Steady and Expected 4Q Results for 2016


SBA Communications (Nasdaq:SBAC) reported 4Q 2016 earnings yesterday that both the company and analysts found to be “solid.”
 
Highlights of SBA’s fourth quarter include:

  • Repurchased 3.4 million shares
  • Net income of $5.3 million or $0.04 per share
  • AFFO per share growth of 14 percent over the year earlier period
  • Grew the portfolio to over 26,000 communication sites
Continue Reading

Thursday, February 23, 2017

First LTE-U Devices Okayed for 5G Operation

The FCC has authorized the first LTE-U (for unlicensed) devices in the 5 GHz band. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called Wednesday’s action “a significant advance in wireless innovation and a big win” for wireless customers. The action comes after saying broadband deployment is a Commission priority earlier in the day (see story below). Continue Reading

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Speculation Swirls As SoftBank Suggests Carrier Merger

The active spectrum auction will make analysts wait even longer to find out the plans SoftBank has in store for its U.S. carrier, Sprint. SoftBank Group Corp leaders have suggested it will give control of Sprint to T-Mobile’s parent company, Deutsche Telekom to finalize a merger between the two carriers. While sources have told Reuters this is true, the two companies have not started negotiations to avoid violation of anti-collusion rules set by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. Continue Reading

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

On “Nearly Unprecedented” M&A Run, AT&T Flirts with T-Mobile Acquisition

AT&T recently acquired television provider DirecTV for $49 billion, offered $85 billion for Time Warner and is floating the idea of buying out competitor T-Mobile—which would come at an estimated $70 billion price tag, reports 24/7 Wall Street.

AT&T attempted to buy T-Mobile in 2011, but the potentially $39 billion deal fell through. Buyout talks have been reignited due to Softbank, Sprint’s majority shareholders’ interest in a potential transaction with Deutsche Telekom, which is controlled by T-Mobile. Continue Reading

Monday, February 20, 2017

American Tower v. Univ. of Iowa and Connectivity, in Court Over DAS Buildout

In December 2013, American Tower Corp. (AMT) entered into an agreement with the University of Iowa to install and operate two DAS networks for the Hawkeye’s football and basketball venues—Kinnick Stadium and Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The relationship between the two parties quickly soured from that point on.

In August 2015, the University of Iowa notified it was “immediately terminating the agreement” with AMT due to the company’s failure to complete the project in a timely manner, according to The Gazette. Continue Reading

Friday, February 17, 2017

Satellite Broadband Poised For Takeoff As Orbiters Get Smaller

Satellites built by broadband hardware and service provider, ViaSat, are getting smaller, and more capable, said chief executive officer Mark Dankberg. According to Space News, he told investors, “They only require utility cabinets instead of dedicated buildings for their local hardware, they support more spectrum, and are much less expensive to maintain and operate. They are also designed for high reliability and tolerance to terrestrial network outages and weather effects.” ViaSat currently operates a three satellite system, but the company recently applied with the FCC to operate twenty-four satellites in medium-Earth orbit – around 8,200 kilometers above Earth. Dankberg  wants each satellite to be capable of a terabit of throughput.  He acknowledged One-Web, the well funded start up projecting to put 648 satellites in low Earth orbit and “blanket the globe with broadband.”  As Dankberg sees it, “the market is big enough.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Ohio Municipalities Fight Back Against State and Carriers with Zoning Rules

In December, the Ohio State Legislature passed SB 331, which received heavy support from the wireless community but significant pushback from local municipalities who believed the bill restricted their authority to regulate small cell deployment.

Now, municipalities in the state are aiming to implement zoning laws and restrictions that exercise their local authority while simultaneously complying with the 2016 state law, reports Crain’s Cleveland Business.

For example, Strongsville, a suburb located southeast of Cleveland, plans to put in place regulations designed to regulate small cell deployment for health and safety reasons, something Strongsville law director Neal M. Jamison believes the state law allows.  Continue Reading

Monday, February 13, 2017

Clock Phase Auction Bidding Ends, Winning Bidders Focus on Frequency Blocks

Bidding ended in the “clock phase” of the forward auction on Friday. This means the broadcast incentive auction now proceeds to the assignment phase, in which winning forward auction wireless bidders can bid for specific frequency blocks.
 
The auction proceeds as of the end of the clock phase were $19,632,506,746, according to the FCC. Companies bid on 70 MHz of broadcast spectrum that will be re-purposed for wireless use. The clearing target was 84 MHz, which includes guard bands.


The auction began under former Chairman Tom Wheeler and will end under new Chairman Ajit Pai, who called the event a milestone. “The participation of these broadcasters and wireless carriers will enable the Commission to release 84 megahertz of spectrum into the broadband marketplace,” said Pai. “These low-band airwaves will improve wireless coverage across the country and will play a particularly important role in deploying mobile broadband services in rural areas.” Continue Reading

Friday, February 10, 2017

Indiana Governor Cancels Pence’s Wireless Deal to Fund Construction Projects

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced the Indiana Finance Authority has “terminated” a 25-year, $260 million agreement with Ohio-based Agile Networks to lease space on state-owned communication towers, reports the Indianapolis Business Journal.
 
This comes after the deal, which was reported in December by Inside Towers, received significant pushback from groups like the Indiana Cable Telecommunications Association and the Indiana Broadband and Technology Association who opposed the expansiveness of the transaction, which would have included the state’s fiber infrastructure and public rights-of-way. 

Holcomb told the Indianapolis Business Journal that he “lean[s] into rebidding this, but want[s] to make sure we get a deal, and a deal just never materialized.” Continue Reading

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Small Cell Siting Right-of-Way Relief Advocates Petition the FCC

Nearly 130 comments have rolled into the FCC so far about Mobilitie’s request for a ruling on small cell siting, according to an examination of the records by Inside Towers. Mobilitie specifically sought relief from “excessive charges” for access to public rights-of-way. The agency widened its request for public input beyond the petition and invited comments more broadly about how to ease small cell siting, noting that “It is our responsibility to ensure that this deployment of network facilities does not become subject to delay caused by unnecessarily time-consuming and costly siting review processes that may be in conflict with the Communications Act.”

Municipalities are being deluged with requests; for example, Montgomery County, Maryland has approximately 200 pending applications, and tells the FCC it “has had more applications filed in the past four months than in the past 18 years.” The Commission is developing a record to help it decide whether and to what extent local land-use authorities’ review of siting applications is hindering, or is likely to hinder, the deployment of wireless infrastructure.  Continue Reading

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Municipalities Fight Bill “Granting Privileges to a Single Industry”

In the Virginia capital of Richmond, municipalities are lobbying lawmakers to vote down a bill to govern local approval of cell towers. The bill is part of fierce debate as the General Assembly is in session.

The Virginia Municipal League, which represents the interests of cities, counties and towns, is fighting the legislation, saying it would eliminate local authority and give wireless companies access to local property that no other non-public entity has, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “This bill grants special privileges to a single industry at the expense of the local taxpayers,” according to talking points the Virginia Municipal League has been sharing with lawmakers. “Forced use of public property and right-of-way without adequate compensation forces taxpayers to subsidize a single industry.” Continue Reading

Monday, February 6, 2017

Tower Industry Becomes Part of the Burgeoning ‘Drone Economy’

It’s a bird…It’s a plane….It’s a drone conducting a site inspection along a cell tower! The furious pace of technological innovation has yielded a device that several different industries, including the tower industry, are using–the unmanned aerial vehicle, or, as it is more commonly known, the drone.

Legacy Towers CEO Jim Tracy, for example, uses drone technology to conduct inspections on cell towers, as do several other tower inspection and maintenance companies across the country, reports Seattle Business.


“The first one you get, it’s kind of cool,” Tracy told Seattle Business, while discussing the device that has become a favorite pastime for technology buffs, as well as an effective tool for companies across all industries. “But at the end of the day, it’s just another tool.” Continue Reading

Thursday, February 2, 2017

AT&T Launches AirGig and Buys FiberTower to Support It

AT&T is launching its small cell deployment plan in San Francisco, a plan that will provide the blueprint for the carrier’s future deployment in other U.S. cities (see video). The carrier will use C-RAN architecture throughout the city and use existing light posts and other urban infrastructure, reports Telegeography.

“Storing the brains of hundreds of towers and small cells in one place lets engineers add capacity and improve efficiency for hundreds of cell sites quickly and simultaneously,” the company said in a press release.

As part of this plan, AT&T also announced it reached an agreement to acquire San Francisco-based FiberTower Corporation, as well as the company’s mmWave spectrum rights. FiberTower owns valuable spectrum in the 24GHz and 39GHz range, which will help AT&T execute its 5G deployment plan across the city. Continue Reading

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Carriers Prep for a Ten Terabyte-or-More Super Bowl

In 2014, the NFL’s Chief Information Officer Michelle McKenna-Doyle declared NRG Stadium in Houston a “black hole” for wireless coverage. Thankfully for Super Bowl attendees next weekend, the stadium has since shed that moniker due to several improvements made by wireless providers and the addition of WiFi in the 72,220-seat stadium, reports the Houston Chronicle.

“It’s a significant, significant difference in the last two years,” Texans VP Information Technology Jeff Schmitz told the Chronicle. “If you were with certain providers, it was not even worth bringing your phone in the stadium. Now, every phone has the ability to connect.” Continue Reading

Monday, January 30, 2017

Cell Towers Integral in Florida County’s ‘Great Tornado Drill’

martphones aren’t only useful for sharing selfies or texting your bestie. They are also a tool that can prove vital in emergency situations, as Escambia County, Florida is making known during the state’s 16th annual Severe Weather Awareness Week.

Earlier this week, Escambia County Public Safety conducted the “Great Tornado Drill” to prepare citizens for severe weather, reports WEAR-TV. The plan encouraged participants to develop a plan for emergency situations and also emphasized the importance of mobile devices during severe weather. Continue Reading

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Pai Retains Many Staffers at FCC But Adds Eight New Bureau Chiefs

New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has made his staff selections. Tower owners and suppliers may be interested to know there’s some holdovers from his commissioner staff as well as new faces from elsewhere in the FCC. Matthew Berry remains Pai’s chief of staff after serving in that role the previous four years.
 
Nicholas Degani has been Pai’s wireline legal advisor and now becomes senior counsel. Jay Schwarz moves from the Office of Strategic Planning to take the role of acting wireline advisor after a previous stint as an economist for the Wireline Competition Bureau. Alison Nemeth moves over to the chairman’s office from the Media Bureau and will advise Pai on media issues.

Rachel Bender leaves the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau to join Pai’s office and counsel him on wireless and international issues. Zenji Nakazawa comes from the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau to advise Pai on public safety and consumer protection. Lori Alexiou remains Pai’s confidential assistant. Continue Reading