Thursday, September 28, 2017

TV Tower Crane Gives Way Killing Three

Three people working on the WSVN television transmission tower have died after the ginpole they were on collapsed in Miami Gardens, FL late Wednesday afternoon according to WSVN, the station that housed the tower.  Miami-Dade Fire Rescue responded to the scene at 501 NW 207 Street in Miami Gardens, at around 4 p.m.

The ginpole gave way, according to witnesses, killing three crew members hired by WSVN to work on the tower, which is shared with WPLG, WSVN reported. According to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, the crew fell about 300 to 400 feet. WSVN said they had hired Tower King II out of Texas to do work on the tower. Continue Reading

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sparks Fly As Commissioners Debate Mobile Wireless Competition

For much of yesterday’s FCC meeting, Commissioners agreed on many things, but when it came to the 20th Mobile Wireless Competition Report, the gloves came off. Republican Chairman Ajit Pai and his fellow GOP Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr agreed the statistics from 2016 and early 2017 show there is effective competition in the wireless markets. The report makes interesting conclusions about tower site pricing as well.

O’Rielly said “nationwide providers are investing in infrastructure and fiercely competing for customers.” Carr agreed, adding: “Wireless prices are falling. Speeds are increasing. To get there, the FCC has to do its part, finding ways to drive down the regulatory costs of deploying fiber and small cells.” Getting this done is going to be one of his priorities, Carr said. Continue Reading

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

AT&T Creates Website to Help Locate People in Puerto Rico

AT&T continues to work around the clock to help the people of Puerto Rico recover from Hurricanes Maria and Irma. The company set up a website that will let anyone stateside (regardless of carrier) to register the cell phone number of a family member or friend who is an AT&T wireless customer in Puerto Rico. When the Puerto Rico-based customer’s cell phone connects to the AT&T network in Puerto Rico, the customer will be notified their family or friends in the U.S. have been trying to reach them.
The family member or friend who registered will also be notified through email when additional service in Puerto Rico has been restored. AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan said critical help began arriving over the weekend and more is on the way. He went with one of the relief flights into San Juan to help assess damage and develop recovery plans. More flights and ships carrying communications equipment and supplies are arriving in the coming days. The equipment includes generators, fuel and satellite devices for first responders as well as food, bottled water and personnel.  Continue Reading

Monday, September 25, 2017

Lowering Broadband Speed Threshold Proposal Draws Hundreds of Opinions

More than 1,600 public comments have poured into the FCC in response to the agency’s inquiry about broadband deployment. Inside Towers examined some of the comments concerning one controversial FCC proposal that calls for lowering the threshold speed for mobile broadband from the current 25 Megabits-per-second (Mbps) download speed and three Mbps upload speed, down to 10 Mbps download speed and one Mbps upload speed, to more closely match the current speeds subscribers are paying for.

That benchmark was “arbitrarily selected” based on a hypothetical family’s theoretical bandwidth requirements for simultaneous use of multiple devices engaged in bandwidth-intensive activities, according to USTelecom. “It would be disruptive for the Commission to change or eliminate the current benchmark without evidence that broadband at those speeds does not meet the need of consumers as they typically use broadband services today,” USTelecom told the Commission, urging no change to the standard.  

ITTA – The Voice of America’s Broadband Providers, agrees, saying the FCC should maintain the current speed thresholds for fixed broadband. Changing it would be confusing and if replaced often, it would no longer provide the reference point that is the essence of a “benchmark.” Continue Reading

Friday, September 22, 2017

FCC Urged to Reject 3.5 GHz Proposals

A battle is being waged over whether the FCC should foster access to spectrum for a variety of network solutions, or primarily for the current, large mobile carriers in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service. The FCC in 2016 opened up the CBRS band for both licensed and unlicensed sharing with U.S. Navy radar operations at 3.5 GHz and satellite earth stations. The FCC wants to make licensed spectrum affordable to deliver high quality broadband internet, cellular offload and capacity densification, and similar connectivity services, like the Internet of Things. Priority Access Licenses (PALs) cover small areas and are re-auctioned after relatively short (three or six-year) terms.

However, CTIA and T-Mobile recently petitioned the Commission to redefine PALs to be like traditional cellular licenses – covering multi-county areas and renewing automatically, arguing that small-area and competitive licenses don’t provide business certainty or an investment incentive, Inside Towers reported. Companies such as General Electric, rural co-ops and local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) – argue this would make the licenses unaffordable to all but the large national mobile carriers. Companies like these, that want to deploy services on the CBRS band, made the case for the FCC leaving the rules largely intact during a panel discussion at the New America think tank in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. Continue Reading

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Texas, Idaho Choose FirstNet

Idaho and Texas have become the 20
th and 21st states to opt-in to the FirstNet nationwide mobile broadband communications network for first responders, after Maryland joined earlier this week.
Texas is the largest state to make the decision. “As we saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, our first responders are often the last and only hope for safety in rapidly-changing and life-threatening situations, but this partnership with FirstNet and AT&T,  allows Texas’ fire, police, EMS and other public safety personnel to be better equipped when responding in these emergencies,” announced Governor Greg Abbott.

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar agreed, calling the support the state received from AT&T and FirstNet during the response to Harvey “incredible, and with this partnership, it will only get better.”  
Continue Reading

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

FCC’s O’Rielly: Rate of Return for Rural Broadband is “Sound”

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly told rural broadband providers Tuesday the agency’s “rate of return” framework is “sound” and not too complicated. Released last spring, the Rate of Return Order was intended to achieve a long-term fiscally-responsible system to provide certainty for carriers to invest in broadband and expand their service to rural America.

He spoke at the fall conference of the WTA, Advocates for Rural Broadband, formerly called the Western Telecommunications Alliance. O’Rielly said the reforms established requirements to extend broadband to unserved consumers, to better target funding to where it is needed most while being cognizant of prior investments, and to prevent funding areas where actual competition exists. They also improved transparency and accountability regarding how the funding is used. It’s voluntary for carriers. More than 200 rate-of-return carriers in 43 states elected and have been authorized to receive model support.  Continue Reading

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Verizon Tells FCC ‘One-Touch Make-Ready’ Will Speed Pole Attachment

Verizon is lobbying the FCC in support of lessening barriers to fiber deployment and speeding review of small cell applications. In meetings with the Wireless and Wireline Bureaus, among others, Verizon discussed the need to deploy small cells and fiber quickly, to support network densification. The carrier secured a supply of fiber through its multi-year deals with fiber manufacturers like Corning. “But to make it a reality – and thus to support the investment and jobs that come with fiber expansion,” executives explained the company needs to hang small cells and string fiber to provide the necessary backhaul.    
“In some locations, local electric companies take nine months or more to complete the pole-attachment process, and we have often seen delays of twelve months or longer to get new fiber on a pole,” states Verizon Managing Associate General Counsel Katharine Saunders, in a filing describing the meetings. “We’ve found that the sequential nature of make-ready work means that one party’s delay in completing its make-ready work often delays other parties’ ability to begin their make-ready work.” Continue Reading

Monday, September 18, 2017

FCC Adopts Criteria to Evaluate States’ FirstNet Opt-Out Plans

The FCC finalized the technical criteria the Commission will use to evaluate plans from those states that elect to opt-out of the network that will be deployed by the First Responder Network Authority. In June, the agency adopted procedures for administering the state opt-out process, Inside Towers reported, and then sought public input on its technical criteria.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the decision is another step towards the creation of a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network. First responders “put their lives on the line each and every day to keep us safe. We owe it to them to give them the tools they need to do their jobs.” Continue Reading

Friday, September 15, 2017

Lawmakers Tell Pai to Act Against Lifeline Scammers Now

Sens Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO).Photos by Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers
In a hearing that turned contentious at times, members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday examined waste and mismanagement in the FCC’s Lifeline program, which helps subsidize broadband and phone services for low-income users. 

Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson, (R-WI) said given the problems the Government Accountability Office found in its investigation, hard questions need to be asked. “Should we end the program? Maybe we should start thinking about banking the money.” Continue Reading

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Pai, Clyburn to Inspect Florida Irma Damage on Monday

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn plan to travel to Florida on Monday to see first-hand, the damage caused by Hurricane Irma. They’ll meet with those engaged in recovery operations, and receive updates about the ongoing efforts to restore communications services.

“Hurricane Irma has had a serious impact on communications networks in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Pai. “The FCC is committed to supporting recovery efforts, and I am grateful for the work that first responders, emergency personnel, and state and local partners are doing to restore service in affected areas. I’m pleased that Commissioner Clyburn is joining me to get a firsthand look at the damage caused by Irma and meet with those engaged in recovery efforts.”
Continue Reading

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pai: Wireless Connectivity Was Literally A Lifeline For Many

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai praised the efforts of the wireless communications industry in the wake of back-to-back hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Speaking to attendees of the Mobile World Congress Americas 2017 on Tuesday, Pai said the FCC, along with other federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as state and local agencies, monitor communications. He thanked all the agencies’ “incredible staffers on the ground.”

“It will be a long time before we’ll be able to calculate the total amount of damage inflicted by Harvey and Irma. But we already know one thing: it would have been a lot worse if it weren’t for wireless communications,” said Pai. Continue Reading

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Severe Storms Highlight Senate Legislation to Aid Carriers

As Hurricane Irma leaves the battered Southeastern coast, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is taking the opportunity to stress the importance of a bill currently up for debate in the U.S. Senate. According to the New York Daily News, H.R. 588 will require cell phones to work on all carriers’ networks in the event of natural disasters. Originally presented by Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) in January, the Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act already passed the House of Representatives. Although it places more requirements on carriers, the bill will also provide telecommunications companies with emergency access to repairs reserved for utilities, says Continue Reading

Monday, September 11, 2017

Repack, FirstNet All Part of Tower Climber’s ‘Perfect Storm’

Tower companies are facing a climber crunch, a factor to consider as television stations face the upcoming channel repack. The television tall tower work, combined with densification of carrier networks, tower work for FirstNet and upcoming FAA tower marking mandates are all happening at the same time, according to National Association of Tower Erectors Chairman Jim Tracy.

“This is creating the perfect storm for tower companies,” he told lawmakers at the House Commerce Communications Subcommittee on Thursday. During a hearing on the repack, Tracy said NATE has contacted OSHA, the FAA, the FCC and other federal agencies to discuss safety and bring more climbers into the industry. “At present, there are not enough qualified workers to do all this work,” and the demands will be exacerbated by the repack, he testified. Continue Reading

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Irma Eyes Florida

On Monday, Governor Scott issued Executive Order 17-235 declaring a state of emergency in all 67 counties within the State of Florida. Yesterday Governor Scott requested that President Donald Trump declare a pre-landfall emergency for the State of Florida in preparation for Hurricane Irma to provide important preparation resources and assistance from the federal government. The State Emergency Operations Center has been activated to level one, which is a full-scale, 24-hours-a-day activation.

Emergency Support Functions by State Emergency Response Team

  • The state has contacted telecommunications partners to activate protective action plans and procedures for Central Offices, tower sites, mobile response units and any other critical infrastructure.
  • Telecommunications Partners are monitoring fuel levels for generators and back-up power supply.
  • The state is drafting 24-hour staffing schedules and all Telecommunications remain on standby to respond if required.
  • At this point, no out of ordinary reports of any major outages.
Continue Reading

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

CTIA, T-Mobile Urge FCC to Keep WEA ‘Blue Alert’ Simple

CTIA-the Wireless Association and T-Mobile have weighed in on the FCC’s proposal to add a Blue Alert code to Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and the broadcast Emergency Alert System (EAS). Blue Alerts, meant to signal a police officer is in danger, can be transmitted to cell phones and wireless devices, broadcast stations, overhead highway message signs, and other secondary alerting mechanisms – in the same way Amber Alerts are issued.

The FCC proposes calling the new event code “BLU” and classifying it as either an Imminent Threat Alert or a Public Safety Message, depending on the circumstances. CTIA and T-Mobile tell the agency in filed comments, Blue Alerts could be incorporated into the existing WEA as an imminent threat without any new standards or system modifications. “This approach would allow the integration of a dedicated ‘BLU’ code within an existing alert class, without the delay that would result from new testing requirements and network/handset modifications,” says CTIA. “Notably, integration as an Imminent Threat alert would allow a seamless delivery of Blue Alerts to all WEA-capable mobile devices, including legacy devices.” Continue Reading

Friday, September 1, 2017

Local Telecoms Working 24/7 on Harvey Restoration Efforts

Several USTelecom members have operations in and around the areas that have been impacted by Harvey, and their employees are working 24/7 in emergency operations centers to keep networks up and running, as well as restore service in areas around Houston that have been flooded. While Inside Towers has been keeping readers up-to-date with the restoration efforts of the larger carriers, USTelecom shines a light on what some of its other members are doing in a blog post.

Consolidated Communications activated its Emergency Operations Center, equipping its fleet with extra fuel, ensuring backup generators are working and placing extra emergency supplies in key areas, so employees can focus on keeping the network operational.   

Orlando-based Smart City Telecom, which provides internet services in convention centers, amusement parks and hotels, flew staff to Texas to help relieve local employees and keep its WiFi and voice networks operational for storm victims who’ve taken refuge at the George R. Brown Convention Center and NRG Stadium in Houston. Continue Reading