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

Thursday, August 31, 2017

More Harvey-Hit Tower Sites Return to Service


As the rain was starting to lessen in areas of Southeast Texas initially impacted by Tropical Storm Harvey, carriers reported few cell tower sites out of commission on Wednesday. Of the 55 impacted counties in Texas and Louisiana, 4.2 percent of the cell sites were out of service, down from 4.7 percent on Tuesday, according to the FCC’s Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS).

For the first time since the FCC began issuing daily communications outage reports for Harvey, there were no counties with more than 50 percent of sites out of service. Aransas and Refugio were both above 50 percent on Tuesday, but dropped from 84.2 percent to 47.4 percent and from 73.1 percent to 26.9 percent, respectively. There were no cell sites reported out of service in Louisiana. That, too, is an improvement. On Tuesday, Calcasieu, St. John the Baptist, and Terrebonne parishes each reported one site out.  Continue Reading

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Coverage Stable in TX as Harvey Creeps Toward LA








Tropical Storm Harvey continued to deluge southeastern Texas with rain and surging floodwater Tuesday, as it slowly crept toward Louisiana. A major dam outside Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, overflowed, resulting in more flooding.

About 95 percent of the cell tower sites in the 55 total counties of Texas and Louisiana are working, according to the latest figures from the FCC’s Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS). The carriers provide updated information to DIRS daily. 

At mid-morning on Tuesday, 4.7 percent of the cell sites were down in the affected area, the same as Monday. The counties with more than 50 percent of cell sites out are Aransas and Refugio in Texas. Louisiana is beginning to have cell site outages. Calcasieu, St. John the Baptist, and Terrebonne are the only parishes reporting site outages, each with one site out. Continue Reading

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Wireless Carriers Offer Free Calls, Texts, Data

The nation’s major wireless carriers, Sprint, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, are offering free calls, text, data and credits for customers affected by Tropical Storm Harvey.

  • Sprint is waiving casual call and text fees for Sprint, Boost and Virgin Mobile customers in the impacted areas of Texas and Louisiana through September 1.
  • AT&T has a similar plan. Until at least September 1, the carrier will issue credits to AT&T wireless customers in impacted areas for additional data, voice and text charges, and AT&T Prepaid for additional voice and text charges.
  • Verizon is offering free service to monthly subscribers in the affected area until September 8.
  • T-Mobile is offering unlimited data to those who are not already on an unlimited data plan (T-Mobile ONE customers always have unlimited data). Metro PCS and T-Mobile customers not on T-Mobile ONE can use unlimited data from now through September 1. Continue Reading

Monday, August 28, 2017

Carriers Ready for Harvey’s Call

As Hurricane Harvey set its sight on the Texas and Louisiana coasts, carriers employed strategies to keep wireless technologies that keep people in touch and critical systems online. As the storm advanced, preparation included topping off fuel generators, testing high-capacity back-up batteries at cell sites and protecting physical facilities against flooding.


AT&T bulked up its Network Disaster Recovery program and said it has more than 700 pieces of equipment to deploy to disaster areas. Its Cell on Wheels, Cell on Light Trucks, trailers and generators available are capable of maintaining its wireless network, if permanent macro towers happen to be offline. “We’ve worked for the past few days to position equipment and crews to respond to the storm,” said Dave Nichols, president, AT&T Texas.  “We’re closely linked with Texas public officials in their storm response efforts.”   Continue Reading

Friday, August 25, 2017

U.S. Towers, Are They Still “Buys?” Analyst Says “Yes”

“Towers are no longer stupid cheap like they were at the end of 2016,” said Nick Del Deo of MoffettNathanson, “and there is less headroom to our target prices than there once was.”  It is therefore critical, according to Del Deo, that investors expand beyond the simple, and now consensus, “growth is inflecting in 2018” narrative.  Instead, investors must pay closer attention to strategic direction, capital allocation, quality of bottom-line metrics, and valuation at the three operators, to assess which equities are most compelling, Del Deo advised.    Continue Reading

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Sinclair, Tribune Answer ‘Absurd’ Allegations Combo Could Delay Repack

Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media call allegations that their combined power after their $3.9 billion merger would allow the new entity to delay the television channel repack, “absurd and unfounded.” They defend their planned deal, asserting their need to combine to survive the competitive media landscape. “Each of the petitioners is either trying to use this proceeding to stifle competition for its own economic interests, or is still living in a pre-cable, pre-internet, pre-smartphone world, untethered from the economic realities of the current media market,” said both companies in a response to Petitions to Deny filed with the FCC late Tuesday evening.

The Rural Broadband Association and the Competitive Carriers Association were among those filing petitions opposing the combo. Each said after combining, Sinclair would own over 200 television stations and since it also owns antenna-maker Dielectric, it would have the power and incentive to seriously delay the pace of the TV channel repack, Inside Towers reported. NTCA, CCA, plus T-Mobile, said Sinclair has tried to delay both the spectrum auction and the subsequent repack numerous times and would do so again. Continue Reading

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

“British FCC,” Ofcom, Braces for Spectrum Auction as Carriers Battle

here was a time, long ago, in a United Kingdom far away where telcos, happy because they were free at last to compete, mostly did what they were told by their stern but fair government regulator, Ofcom, without rushing off to the local magistrate to quibble over any injustice they felt intruded on their happy state of affairs, according to TelecomTV.

Those days, alas, are apparently long gone. The regulator has become the referee and protector of the public interest, blowing a tinny-sounding whistle, only to be mobbed by screaming players, i.e., the carriers.

Two years ago, the CEO of British Telecom (BT) openly threatened Ofcom with ten years in court and a veiled infrastructure build strike when it felt it had been wronged. Now Ofcom faces another, and possibly bigger issue, but this time it’s about 5G spectrum and who can hold what percentage of it. The biggest spectrum holder is BT, and the smallest, Hutchison’s 3G ( “3” ), with O2 and Vodafone somewhere in between.

The current spat kicked off when “3” wrote to Ofcom, demanding that it impose a lower cap on the proportion of total spectrum any single mobile competitor could hold. The current ceiling is 37 percent;  “3”  wanted this lowered to 30 percent. The company has been feeling aggrieved for some time since it claims it’s being fatally constrained by a lack of spectrum and can’t serve its customers properly. At present, it has just 15 percent of the total and it claims this situation is anti-competitive, TelecomTV reported. Continue Reading

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Broadband Included in President’s Infrastructure Order

President Donald Trump issued an executive order establishing accountability in the environmental review of infrastructure projects, including broadband. The order creates a framework to ensure the permitting process is “coordinated, predictable, and transparent,” according to the text.
 
The inclusion of broadband in the executive order is “a step in the right direction for favorable broadband infrastructure policies” and consistent with USTelecom advocacy on this issue, according to USTelecom VP Law & Policy Kevin Rupy. Continue Reading

Monday, August 21, 2017

AT&T Working to Make Drone Tower Inspections ‘Intelligent’


AT&T uses drones for tower inspections. Actually, vendors do that work for the carrier. Now, the carrier wants to start automating the process using artificial intelligence.

“At any point in time, we’re installing, repairing or inspecting one of our 65,000 cell towers,” says Mazin Gilbert, Vice President of Advanced Technology at AT&T Labs in a blog. The video analytics team at AT&T Labs is working with the company’s National Drone Team on the concept.

Now, a learning algorithm analyzes video footage and can detect defects. AT&T is looking at how drones can carry a live video feed to AT&T technicians, who can study that feed in real-time. “With automation in the mix, we can do the job faster, better and more efficiently,” says Gilbert, explaining in this video that automation can make the most out of the video that’s collected, relevant to the inspection. The carrier hopes regulatory changes and more research will help make automated inspections happen. Continue Reading

Friday, August 18, 2017

City Wins, AT&T Loses, in Kentucky Pole Attachment Dispute

A federal court has sided with a Kentucky municipality and against AT&T in a case concerning access to utility poles. No state or federal law prevents Louisville, KY from requiring a “one-touch make-ready” ordinance outlining new procedures for installing communications infrastructure on utility poles in the city, a U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky ruled Thursday.

Make-ready work generally consists of moving or rearranging existing wires and attachments on utility poles to make space for new attachments. One-touch make-ready policies seek to avoid delays by having all make-ready work performed at the same time by a single crew.

AT&T subsidiary BellSouth Telecommunications fought Louisville’s right to allow new users to rearrange existing pole attachments. AT&T asked the court to declare the ordinance unlawful, while the city said it has the authority to manage its public rights-of-way. AT&T told the court it invested “millions of dollars” to build and maintain a communications network in Louisville. AT&T owns most of the poles it uses in Louisville and contracts with Louisville Gas & Electric for others. Continue Reading

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Exactly Who Gets Priority Access to FirstNet?

Public safety personnel who take calls from the public, dispatchers and others will have priority access to FirstNet, the nationwide public safety communications network. While AT&T officials have said they plan to give first responders from states that have opted into FirstNet “presumptive access” on their LTE networks by the end of the year, officials explained more about what that entails at the APCO 2017 show this week in Denver.

When FirstNet awarded AT&T the 25-year contract to build, maintain and operate the network, officials said that fire, EMS and law-enforcement personnel would be considered primary public-safety users. Continue Reading

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

CCA Implores FCC to Block Verizon/Straight Path Deal

The Competitive Carriers Association objects to the proposed transfer of millimeter wave spectrum from Straight Path Communications to Verizon as part of a proposed all-stock transaction the parties value at just over $3 billion. The telcos seek permission to transfer the control of Local Multipoint Distribution Service, 39 GHz, 3650-3700 MHz, and common carrier fixed point to point microwave licenses from Straight Path to Verizon. The FCC’s preliminary review indicates once the deal closes, Verizon would have 100 MHz to 1650 MHz of spectrum in total, in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz millimeter wave bands across the U.S.



“If approved, the transaction would consolidate enormous amounts of mmW spectrum into the hands of Verizon and would exceed the FCC’s spectrum screen in key local markets,” said CCA in a Petition to Deny, filed with the agency. CCA wants the Commission to block the application and instead make Straight Path’s licenses available to all carriers through competitive bidding. Verizon has told the FCC its post-transaction look at “marketplace developments and competitive circumstances reveals no risk to competition.” Continue Reading

Monday, August 14, 2017

LTE Going Lunar

The moon is getting a cell tower. Part Time Scientists, a German company planning to send a lander and rovers to the moon in late 2018, will use LTE technology to communicate with Earth. According to Space.com, the team’s spacecraft, Alina, will land at the site of Apollo 17, NASA’s final Apollo mission. As rovers travel the moon’s surface, they will relay information back to Alina, which will serve as a cell tower during the mission. Using LTE communications will be particularly useful in future lunar missions, especially if the European Space Agency continues with its plans to build a lunar village. Continue Reading

Friday, August 11, 2017

Telcos, Cable Fight Over Proposed 3.5 Ghz Changes

The Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA) tells the FCC by its count, most of the more than 800 comments filed on proposed changes to the 3.5 GHz band oppose converting the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) into a 5G-only band. The DSA characterizes itself as a group of what it says are “multinationals, small-and medium-sized enterprises, and academic, research, and other organizations” committed to expanding broadband.

The DSA argues telcos large and small, have made investments under the current rules, investments that “may be stranded, and future innovation stifled,” if drastic changes are made. “The Commission should resist arguments to change the current PAL structure to one that would be favorable to only one class of entity – the large nationwide wireless carriers, at the expense of all other entities,” says DSA. It notes Ericsson, Intel, Nokia, Qualcomm, Ruckus Wireless, and others “are well on their way to creating a rich ecosystem of 3.5 GHz LTE devices, with the first 3.5 GHz LTE handset expected to reach the market later this year.”

CTIA and T-Mobile say their proposals would benefit 5G, Inside Towers reported. They seek to lengthen license terms to 10 years and increase license areas by using traditional Partial Economic Areas rather than census tracts. In order to spur investment, T-Mobile also proposes the Commission convert all 150 MHz of spectrum in each CBRS market open to priority access licensing. CBRS is now limited to 70 MHz of PAL per market. Continue Reading

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Prison Outreach: From ‘Vet’ to ‘Con’ to Tower Dawg

Veteran inmates at Manzanita Prison, Anthony Paz, Kathy Gill
Kathy Gill was nervous, but then she always gets nervous when she goes to prison.  This was her fourth time.  A woman who had built a company, trained hundreds of men and women to work past their fears and climbed a countless number of towers in all conditions, was wishing she was someplace where she was more comfortable, like dangling from a harness 150 feet in the air.

At least she wasn’t alone at Manzanita Prison in Tucson; she had an ex-con with her to ‘show her the ropes’ as she had done for so many of her tower tech trainees.  They were waiting for DOC and DES approval to go inside an extremely secure grey-fenced compound where there are no plants and lots of dirt.  “Lots and lots of dirt,” Kathy noted. Continue Reading

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Court Backs FCC in BDS Suit, Cutting Deployment Costs

 
A federal appeals court Monday sided with the FCC, so many of the Commission’s actions to deregulate Business Data Services will take effect. The FCC in April voted to relax what it said were unneeded regulations where competition exists and preserve those where competition is still lacking. By adopting the new framework, the agency hopes to further boost BDS competition and investment, and take steps to decrease the cost of broadband infrastructure deployment, Inside Towers reported.

Sprint, Windstream and others like trade group INCOMPAS and the Ad Hoc Telecom Users Committee, an organization of major firms that buy telecom services, asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to block the changes. On Monday, the court denied the request. Continue Reading

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sprint-T-Mo Dance Back On?

 
Sprint’s talks with T-Mobile about a potential merger are back on and being held at the same time as discussions with cable companies, those with knowledge of the talks tell Bloomberg. Sprint’s exclusive negotiating period with Comcast and Charter expired, enabling the carrier to resume other discussions.

Speaking to investors about the situation on Monday, Masayoshi Son declined comment on specific deals and was vague about a timeframe, according to BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk. Continue Reading

Monday, August 7, 2017

FCC Overhauls Renewals for Wireless Radio Services


FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael O’Rielly. Photos by Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers
The FCC doesn’t want its patchwork of license renewal obligations for Wireless Radio Services to hinder broadband deployment. That’s why the agency has taken steps to streamline them and establish a consistent standard. The Commission approved a Report and Order and adopted uniform service continuity rules at its monthly meeting last week.

“According to the Commission’s licensing records, more than 675,000 renewal applications are expected to be filed by geographic and site-based licensees over the next decade. At a time when both the Commission’s budget and staff appear to be shrinking, it behooves us to have a streamlined and efficient process in place to review forthcoming applications,” said Commissioner Mignon Clyburn during the vote. Continue Reading

Friday, August 4, 2017

Carr, Rosenworcel Get Full Senate Nod


The U.S. Senate confirmed two nominees to the FCC on Thursday — Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Brendan Carr. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai congratulated them, saying, “As I know from working with each of them for years, they have distinguished records of public service and will be valuable assets to the FCC in the years to come. Their experience at the FCC makes them particularly well-suited to hit the ground running.” The move brings the agency back up to a full complement, yet Pai himself has not yet been reconfirmed to another term, Politico reported.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Carr was confirmed for one term or two, as the GOP preferred. Democrats opposed confirming him for two consecutive terms at once, Inside Towers reported. Continue Reading

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Sprint Focused on Network Densification, Small Cell Deployment


Sprint posted a quarterly profit for the first time in three years — $206 million in net income, compared with a $302 million loss for the same period a year ago; it’s in the middle of a five-year turnaround plan and cut costs by $370 million (to roughly $7 billion) in the second quarter and expects an additional $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion in year-over-year reductions in fiscal 2017.

Much of the cost-cutting has been accomplished by lowering subscriber acquisition costs. Sprint President/CEO Marcelo Claure told analysts on Tuesday, at one time the carrier streamlined its subscriber plans; “Now there’s only one way to buy a device and one rate plan.” 

Net operating revenue was $8.16 billion, up from $8.01 billion in Q2. Sprint projects 2017 guidance as $3.5 billion to $4 billion for cash capex. The company is focusing on network densification, including “expenses like towers” to enhance network capacity and coverage. “When you need new towers or monopoles, it takes time,” said Claure. Continue Reading

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Sprint Focused on Network Densification, Small Cell Deployment


Sprint posted a quarterly profit for the first time in three years — $206 million in net income, compared with a $302 million loss for the same period a year ago; it’s in the middle of a five-year turnaround plan and cut costs by $370 million (to roughly $7 billion) in the second quarter and expects an additional $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion in year-over-year reductions in fiscal 2017.

Much of the cost-cutting has been accomplished by lowering subscriber acquisition costs. Sprint President/CEO Marcelo Claure told analysts on Tuesday, at one time the carrier streamlined its subscriber plans; “Now there’s only one way to buy a device and one rate plan.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

August’s Total Solar Eclipse Looms as Capacity Killer

On Monday, August 21, the United States will experience the first total solar eclipse to cross the country since 1918. This once-in-a-century event will create a virtual rolling blackout of cell services as it travels along it’s path, not due to the heavenly bodies but  because of the live streaming, photo-taking and subsequent ‘sharing’ done by the terrestrial ones. North American residents will be able to view a partial eclipse, but only certain areas in the U.S. will see the “Great American Eclipse,” making a diagonal cut from the Pacific Northwest to the Southeast seaboard.


“We’re expecting a good experience but there will be [peak] times where the network will struggle,” said Paula Doublin, assistant vice president of construction and engineering for AT&T. According to The Bulletin, emergency personnel are concerned with the convergence of a high population in some areas as well, including those in Central Oregon. They fear the towers won’t be able to handle the bandwidth and in the case of an emergency, 911 calls via cell phones won’t be possible. Their plan is to rely on “older” methods of communication – landlines and ham radio operators – to fill the gap. 
Continue Reading

Monday, July 31, 2017

AT&T, Verizon Battle Over FirstNet

Now that states have begun to opt-in to the FirstNet nationwide broadband public safety communications network, Verizon called on the FCC to spell out that states and business partners that choose to opt-out of FirstNet have the flexibility to build and operate their own Radio Access Networks. The FCC says those must be interoperable with the FirstNet system being built by AT&T.

Specifically, Verizon SVP Federal Regulatory and Legal Affairs William Johnson says the flexibility, “must include the state’s and its partners’ authority to build and operate their own network core, which includes data centers and systems used to interconnect users to each other and to other public networks, as long as it is interoperable with FirstNet’s nationwide network,” in a letter to the agency. 

He says the FCC should clarify its interoperability review of any state alternative plan will not be limited to a state RAN that interconnects directly with the network core built and operated by FirstNet and AT&T; and network interoperability can be achieved “through alternative network configurations, including core-to-core interconnection and mutual automatic roaming arrangements that satisfy the Commission’s approved interoperability criteria.”  Continue Reading

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Decade-Long, SCOTUS-Adjudicated Battle Continues Over 108-Ft. Tower

UPDATE  A T-Mobile application to build a tower near a residential community is still in the throes of turmoil that have included an audience with the U.S. Supreme Court. The Roswell City Council met on Monday night to hear experts reason why or why not a tower is necessary in the area. The issue began in 2007, when T-Mobile first filed a request. The first option – to construct a 100-foot tower at a nearby fire station – was denied because it would not fill a coverage gap, says WAGA-TV.
When the neighborhood tower was rejected by the city council in 2010, T-Mobile filed legal action in district court against the city for not following proper procedures dictated by the Telecommunications Act, requiring local governments to state the reasons for denying such requests. Roswell said its reasons were contained in the meeting minutes but the court ruled against the city. Continue Reading

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Broadband Infrastructure Plan Overshadowed







The fights on Capitol Hill over healthcare and other issues are overshadowing President Trump’s proposed $1 trillion package to fix roads, bridges and waterworks — and include broadband infrastructure, reports the New York Times, quoting administration officials, lawmakers and labor leaders. Infrastructure is in line behind tough negotiations over the budget, the debt ceiling, a tax overhaul and a new push to toughen immigration laws.
 
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters this month, consideration of a proposal could slip into next year. They’re supposedly going to submit some sort of plan in the fall, so we’ll see.”    
A.F.L.-C.I.O. President Richard Trumka is pushing for more federal funding and said it doesn’t appear the administration and the Republican party are on the same page on this issue. A White House spokeswoman told the Times, the timetable for releasing a proposal remains the same — late summer or early fall. Continue Reading

Monday, July 24, 2017

WEA Testing Could Occur in 2019


Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), which are messages transmitted on cell phones, may be included in a nationwide test in 2019, FEMA/IPAWS confirms to Inside Towers. WEA enables government officials to target emergency alerts to specific geographic areas through cell towers that broadcast the emergency alerts for reception by WEA-enabled mobile devices.

WEA launched in April 2012, and the FCC updated its WEA rules in September 2016, helping to ensure messages only reach people they’re intended for and establishing a WEA testing program. Updates included increasing the message length from 90 to 360 characters, embedding phone numbers and URLs in the text message and requiring participating carriers to support transmission of Spanish-language text messages. All three improvements are supposed to be implemented by carriers and their handset makers beginning this November.The FCC also approved a new class of alerts, Public Safety Messages, to convey essential, recommended actions that can save lives or property. Continue Reading

Friday, July 21, 2017

Towers Central to FirstNet Buildout


AT&T’s Chris Sambar and FirstNet’s Mike Poth. Photos by Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers.
Towers, existing and new, are integral to AT&T’s network buildout for the FirstNet nationwide mobile broadband public safety network for first responders. That’s what officials for FirstNet and AT&T emphasized to lawmakers during a progress hearing Thursday of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet.

AT&T SVP Chris Sambar assured lawmakers the carrier has a team devoted exclusively to the FirstNet buildout, is working to use its existing infrastructure where it can and is building new infrastructure where needed, to extend coverage to rural areas. “We’re embarking on an aggressive build-out in rural areas, areas where there is no Radio Access Network.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Foot-Dragging, Stifling Fees Impede Tower Siting

Wireless carriers and towercos tell the FCC that municipalities are dragging their feet and charging excessive fees to site infrastructure. Localities argue they have processes in place to protect the public. Some 70 comments were filed in the past 30 days on the FCC’s proposals to ease regulatory barriers to siting wireless infrastructure. Replies to Docket 17-79 were due Monday night. Here are Inside Towers’ takeaways from the infrastructure point of view; see the municipalities arguments in a separate story.

The Competitive Carriers Association emphasized the need for the FCC to shorten shot clocks, adopt a “deem granted” remedy, and reform historic and environmental review reform to enhance broadband deployment. Mobilitie said “There is no question that needed deployment is being materially slowed and impeded by regulatory barriers.” In a petition filed in November 2016, the company asked the Commission to “dismantle excessive fees that many localities are imposing on wireless providers for access to local rights-of-way (ROWs),” noting “many localities are imposing extremely high fees – as much as $10,000 or more per site in up-front licensing and application charges, and equally excessive annual ‘rents.’" Continue Reading

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

T-Mobile to Pay for Some LPTV Repack Moves


UPDATE T-Mobile already offered to help non-commercial television translators pay to move to a different channel during the spectrum repack. Now, the carrier has offered to do the same for low-power television translators that must move twice to accommodate T-Mobile’s aggressive broadband deployment schedule in the 600 MHz band.

T-Mobile told the FCC on Monday it will compensate LPTV’s for the additional move “and help ensure that their service to the public is not disrupted.” The LPTV Spectrum Coalition lobbied for assistance for its members and called the T-Mobile action, “doing LPTV a solid!” Continue Reading

Monday, July 17, 2017

Initial Repack Cost Estimate is $2.1B

The FCC has estimated the cost of moving channels will cost television broadcasters an aggregate of $2.1 billion. That figure exceeds the $1.75 billion Congress set aside for reimbursement. Broadcast owners and their engineers predicted the fund would not be sufficient. Indeed, reacting to the figures on Friday, NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith noted the more than $365 million shortfall, and said “Congress’s passage of the voluntary broadcast TV incentive auction legislation was premised on a promise that no TV station would be punished for not participating in the auction.” He added “NAB will work closely with Congress to address this issue, and to additionally ensure that no TV viewer or radio listener loses access to the entertainment and lifeline local broadcast programming they rely on today.”

The FCC’s aggregate estimate is based on cost estimates that television owners and multichannel video programming distributors eligible for reimbursement turned into the Commission by July 12. The number, $2,115,328,744.33 as of 7 a.m. Friday, will likely grow since the FCC says it expects to receive additional approximations from MVPDs and a small number of stations who received extra time. Continue Reading

Friday, July 14, 2017

Lots of Prep Work Needed to Ready Towers for Repack

 
Inside Towers has been reporting there are several things broadcast owners and their engineers should do early in order to prepare for the television channel repack. Now the need for tower prep is urgent as companies are booking their crews for repack-related work as well as other types of jobs.

Vertical Technology Services Chief Operations Officer Paul Fitts says his company is now booking repack work for 2019. He told attendees of the Society of Broadcast Engineers Chapter 37 meeting in Washington, D.C. earlier this week, the industry has identified about 14 companies considered qualified, experienced and equipped to conduct the tall broadcast tower work. His is one of those 14; that small number alone could impact the pace of the work, as well as weather, manpower, fabrication errors, emergency work and injuries, he said. Continue Reading

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Telecom Carriers Fight Over Coveted Leasing Space on NYC Street Lamps

 
Street lamps in New York City – upwards of 250,000 of them – are valuable real estate for telecom companies, their carrier partners and their infrastructure, especially small cells. Several of these companies have franchise deals with the city, coveting prime space on the poles, and wait all year to bid for them. After back and forth communication with the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, these companies have grown frustrated and alarmed by the city’s lack of urgency, according to Crain’s New York Business.

With unlimited data plans and increased streaming, carriers need to expand wireless capacity. The companies are trying to bring better service to customers – and obtain more clients in the process – by adding the small cells near customers and increasing spectrum capacity. With only 4,000 poles reserved via bidding to date, there is ample opportunity for more leasing space. Typically poles reside at intersections and industry experts estimate that monthly charges for light-pole use might go as high as $400 during this next round. Continue Reading

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Microsoft Goes on TV White Spaces Offensive in Name of Rural Broadband

 
Microsoft proposes to expand broadband access to rural communities using a combination of TV white spaces (the unlicensed frequencies between television channels) fixed wireless and satellite. “This coverage can reduce the initial capital and operating costs by roughly 80 percent compared to the cost of using fiber cables alone and by approximately 50 percent compared to the cost of current fixed wireless technology,” the company says in a white paper released Tuesday. Using a mix of technologies, the cost to close the broadband gap would be between $8 and $12 billion, Microsoft estimates.

Microsoft supports the Commission’s proposal to preserve one UHF “white space” channel in each market now that TV broadcasters are transitioning into the channel repack post-auction, and urged the FCC to do this immediately, Inside Towers reported. NAB opposes this, saying not all the television stations that need to move to a new channel can be accommodated in the repack now and using white spaces would worsen that situation. Continue Reading

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

State and Municipalities Clash Over SB 649

Despite endorsements from business and economic councils, Long Beach, Redondo Beach and Palos Verdes Estates are the latest cities expressing opposition to California’s Senate Bill 649. The bill aims to make it easier for wireless carriers to install small cell towers in the public right-of-way, but the cities and counties opposing the law are afraid new towers will be placed in areas detrimental to public safety and aesthetics. The Orange County Business Council supports the measure, reports the Press-Telegram.
 
A Senior Analyst at City and County of San Francisco, Omar Masry, testified against the bill, calling it “a dumpster fire.”  He said the legislation gives the option to telecom companies to build out in anyone’s front yard and, because carriers won’t share their sites, poles could pop up every several hundred feet. Continue Reading

Monday, July 10, 2017

FCC Simplifies Reporting Rules for Universal Service Recipients

The FCC is eliminating several rules that it considers duplicative or no longer needed in order to simplify reporting requirements for telecommunications carriers that receive high-cost Universal Service Fund support. The agency says its actions will reduce regulatory burdens on carriers while also protecting the program from waste, fraud and abuse.

The move comes after the Government Accountability Office said in a recent report that while it commends the FCC’s actions in 2016 to reform the related Lifeline program to help low-income families afford telephone service, more action is necessary to “address significant risks.” Continue Reading

Friday, July 7, 2017

Disagreement on How to Trim Trump’s $80B Rural Broadband Price Tag

Experts say President Donald Trump’s plan to bring broadband service to rural areas won’t be easy and will be costly — about $80 billion. However the White House initially proposed spending $25 billion over 10 years on rural infrastructure.
 
Policy experts disagree on the best methodology to use and how much of the tab the federal government should pay for, reports Bloomberg. “Our suspicion is the president’s plan won’t be sufficient,’’ said Johnathan Hladik, policy director for the Center for Rural Affairs, a Nebraska-based non-profit that advocates for small farms. “We’re happy he’s saying it. You also have to do it, and that’s where it gets tough.’’
 
Only 55 percent of rural Americans have access to download speeds faster than 25 Mbps, compared to 94 percent in urban areas, according to a 2016 Congressional Research Service report. Advocates say high-speed internet is necessary for everyday life and business. Inside Towers has reported several members of Congress who represent rural areas have constituents who must do their school work or some of their business in fast food parking lots to get WiFi. Continue Reading

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Lawsuit May Deflate Google’s Project Loon

UPDATE  Inside Towers reported on Google’s Loon Balloon project a few months ago; the project aims to provide high-speed internet connectivity to rural areas by flying giant balloons in the air at an altitude of 12.5 miles, covering an area of 50-miles in diameter. Essentially, this program could provide internet access to half the world’s population that lacks connectivity. But now, Project Loon is facing a lawsuit.
 
Phoenix, Arizona-based Space Data sued Alphabet’s “moonshot” X division last summer over Project Loon. Space Data alleged patent infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets, and breach of contract related to a failed acquisition bid in 2008, reported WIRED. And then last month, they upped the ante, convincing the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel most of Project Loon’s foundational patents. Continue Reading

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Fifteen Tower Thefts Amount to $82,000 in Gaston County

Over the last few months, fifteen cell towers across Gaston County, NC have been the targets of theft, specifically 100 stolen industrial batteries that amount to $82,000. These batteries are important to ensure that the towers work properly, a critical fail-safe when severe weather causes power outages.

The Gaston Gazette reported that Joshua Scott Evans, 36, is allegedly responsible for the tower break-ins, occurring from February through May of this year. According to Police Capt. Curtis Rosselle, Evans was apprehended when trying to sell the batteries to a scrap yard, valued for their non-ferrous metals.

Evans faces 31 felony counts and his wife, Goldie Nicole Evans, faces one count of possessing stolen property in relation to the case. Both were booked into the Gaston County Jail on Wednesday and are being held on bond, $275,000 and $25,000 respectively. Continue Reading

Friday, June 30, 2017

Congress Considers In-Flight Cell Call Ban

Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced a bill this week to ban passengers from using their cell phones for voice calls on commercial flights. Texting would be allowed under the Commercial Flight Courtesy Act, should it pass.
 
“Passengers chatting on their mobile devices in the small confines of an airplane could make flying even less comfortable,” said Sen. Markey in the announcement. “Passengers should not have to suffer through the conversations of others, and flight crews should not be disrupted while performing their important safety and security duties.”

“Stop and think about what we hear now in airport lobbies from those who wander around shouting personal details into their phones: babbling about next week’s schedule, orders to an assistant, or arguments with spouses,” said Sen. Alexander. “Now imagine nearly two million passengers, hurtling through space yapping their innermost thoughts while you travel restrained by your seatbelt and unable to escape. Keeping phone conversations off commercial flights may not be enshrined in the Constitution, but surely it is enshrined in common sense.” Continue Reading

Thursday, June 29, 2017

NCAI Seek Expense Relief for Tribal Land Carriers

The National Congress of American Indians is urging the FCC to vote on a draft order giving carriers serving Tribal lands more flexibility in recovering operating expenses for deploying broadband; the order has sat for more than four months, according to NCAI President Brian Cladoosby.
 
The delay is jeopardizing the financial viability of a number of carriers seeking to serve Tribal lands, the least-served in the country, writes Cladoosby in a letter filed this week. “We need to take this initial step to remove the harm that is being caused by the operating expense limitation rule.”  

Specifically, the group seeks to exempt carriers primarily serving Tribal lands from the operating expense limitation rule. “A number of carriers submitted evidence of higher operating expenses associated with deploying broadband on Tribal lands,” he tells the agency. “Not a single commenter” filed to oppose the change, he adds. Continue Reading

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

U.S Lags Way Behind in Broadband Deployment

Thirty four million Americans lack access to broadband and the country is ranked 16th in the world for broadband access, said U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), without citing a source, according to Broadbandbreakfast.com. Speaking at a hearing last week on improving broadband deployment in rural areas to a House Small Business Subcommittee, Schneider and others discussed how Congress can improve broadband deployment.

Mike Romano, lobbyist for NTCA, the Rural Broadband Association, said providers don’t usually see a ROI for providing broadband in outlying areas. That’s why the FCC’s Universal Service Fund, a public-private partnership, is so important. But the USF has at times, been inefficient with a flat budget since 2011, he said, according to Broadbandbreakfast.com. Continue Reading