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