Friday, March 31, 2017

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

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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

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

Thursday, March 30, 2017

FirstNet Contract Awarded to AT&T

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

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

FCC Says It Appears Network Reconfiguration Caused 911 Outages

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

Thursday, March 23, 2017

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

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

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Rivada Weighing Appeal After Court Loss in FirstNet Bid

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

Monday, March 20, 2017

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

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

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

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

Friday, March 10, 2017

CCA Urges FCC to Streamline Deployment With Reduced Siting Fees

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

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

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Pai ‘Gets’ Small Cell Siting Challenges

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

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

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

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

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

Monday, March 6, 2017

Rules to Ease Broadband Deployment Set for FCC Vote March 23

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

Friday, March 3, 2017

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

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

Thursday, March 2, 2017

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

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

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

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

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