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

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Pai: ‘Dumb Pipes’ Won’t Make Cities ‘Smart’ for 5G

The FCC is questioning how state and local governments can impact the speed and cost of broadband infrastructure deployment in order to reform those processes. As FCC Chairman Ajit Pai explained to attendees of a broadband seminar in Stockholm on Monday, one proposal would deem an application is granted if not acted on within a certain time frame by a state or local government.

The FCC is looking at its own rules too, to see what can be done to minimize costs and delays. “The bottom line is this: Rules that were designed for 100-foot towers might not make sense for small cells that you can hold in your hands,” said Pai. “And we don’t want governments to channel the grim reaper in Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 all-time classic The Seventh Seal, decreeing ‘Nothing escapes me. No one escapes me.’” Continue Reading

Monday, June 26, 2017

Trump Supports Getting Muni’s to Speed Small Cell Infrastructure Siting

President Donald Trump spoke with several executives from wireless, drone and venture capitalist firms as part of the latest White House Tech Week. Inside Towers reported FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was in meetings related to 5G and IoT. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure demonstrated 5G and described some of the delays in getting small cell infrastructure sited. After that, Trump suggested that his Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn “write a very strong letter of recommendation” to U.S. cities advocating easing permits for mobile cell installations, reported Politico. Continue Reading

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