Friday, March 16, 2018

FCC Gets a Look at What They’re Voting On

T-Mobile and Crown Castle representatives showed FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr a thing or two yesterday as they toured selected small cell sites in Baltimore. Touring sites offering small cell solutions, such as the street pole lights Carr was introduced to, has been part of an information gathering effort on the agency’s part prior to voting on streamlining measures next week.
Carr was told although the basic pole, cabinet, metering, antennas and light infrastructure can cost around $30,000, that cost can triple when additional asphalt patching, street shutdowns, sidewalk repair, landscaping and auxiliary building requirements are added to the mix. 

A recent Inside Towers article quoted Carr saying the “small cell deployment process is broken” with plans to eliminate or greatly reduce historic and environmental reviews of the pocket sites. Continue Reading

Thursday, March 15, 2018

CCA Wants FCC to Stay AT&T/FiberTower License Transfer

UPDATE The Competitive Carriers Association opposes the transfer of millimeter-wave (“mmW”) spectrum licenses from FiberTower to AT&T Mobility Spectrum LLC. CCA asked the full Commission to stay the decision.
CCA says the agency approved the transaction based on incomplete and flawed public interest analysis, and challenged the Commission to put a hold on its consent order while it reviews the decision of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. “Millimeter wave spectrum offers tremendous opportunities for carriers as they move toward deploying next generation technologies,” said CCA President/CEO Steve Berry. “Rather than giving AT&T a head start advantage with FiberTower’s valuable mmW licenses, while providing FiberTower an incredible windfall for spectrum that has lied fallow for years, the Commission should make the terminated licenses available to any qualified applicant through auction.” 

A day after the bureau okayed the license transfer last month, AT&T closed on its $207 million acquisition of Fiber Tower, giving it 478 licenses of millimeter wave spectrum it intends to use to roll out 5G services later this year. Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Telecom Reps Tell Congress How to Fix FCC’s Broadband Maps

CCA’s Steve Berry (left) and CTIA’s Brad Gillen, holding a small cell, 
testify before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday.

Wireless industry representatives told lawmakers Tuesday better maps are needed to determine where broadband connectivity exists and where it doesn’t, especially now that Congress is considering effective ways to close the digital divide as part of the President’s infrastructure plan.

The Chairman of the Senate Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), said the current FCC maps showing broadband connectivity are “utterly worthless.” He asked why the data is “so wrong.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Streamlining or Steamrolling? NY Governor Proposes Rules for Small Cells

Last year, when Verizon Wireless submitted 12 small cell applications for a neighborhood near the University of Buffalo, Amherst enacted a moratorium on the construction of new towers and gathered a committee to analyze and revise local zoning regulations. Now those municipality-level regulations may be usurped by state-wide protocol, as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has introduced a budget proposal to adopt a uniform, statewide permitting and review process for the installation of small cell nodes, according to a report from The Buffalo News. 

Local governments and interest groups like the Association of Towns and the New York Conference of Mayors are pushing back, citing state overreach in decisions traditionally made at the local level.  
Verizon supports the governor’s proposal, which the company believes will “promote private investment in state-of-the-art telecommunications networks at no cost to taxpayers,” according to David Lamendola, Verizon’s director of state government affairs for New York. New York would join 13 other states who have already introduced similar proposals to streamline the installation of small cell technology, Lamendola told The Buffalo News. In addition to helping Verizon meet customer demand, Lamendola explained that the proposal may also bring new jobs to the state.  Continue Reading

Friday, March 9, 2018

Reject Our Tower? See You in Court, Verizon Says

Following the rejection of its special-use and wetlands permits for the construction of a new tower to bridge a critical coverage gap, Verizon Wireless has filed suit against the city of Philipstown, NY in U.S. District Court in White Plains, requesting that the court grant the denied permits and authorize work to begin on the new tower, as reported by

In Verizon Wireless et al v. Town of Philipstown, et al, the carrier alleges that neither the conservation board nor the zoning board provided sufficient evidence to warrant the denial of the permits, in breach of the federal Telecommunications Act. The suit, which names the zoning board of appeals, the town and conservation boards, and the town’s building inspector and natural resources review officer, alleges that the town engaged in discriminatory practices, levied excessive fees, unreasonably delayed the project, and violated federal and state laws, according to a report from

The conflict began in May of 2017, when Verizon applied for permits for a new 180-foot pole at 50 Vineyard Road to replace a 120-foot tower nearby; its signal is occluded by the local topography, according to As noted in Verizon’s complaint, Philipstown’s consulting engineer confirmed that the existing tower could not solve the signal gap, even if the tower were elevated to 210 feet. Verizon contends in the suit, that the proposed project met all requirements, but that town officials “were intent on catering to a small but vocal group of politically influential objectors” and unreasonably delayed mandated public hearings and attempted to impose new fees. Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

NTIA, Lawmakers, Discuss Spectrum Clearing, Sharing Incentives

A “good half” of the employees at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) spend all day on spectrum issues, according to new administrator David Redl. NTIA oversees government spectrum use. Their time is spent working on finding ways government spectrum can be used more efficiently — to find spectrum that can be shared among federal agencies and commercial licensees or given up for commercial use. That’s a prime administration goal as the wireless industry works to deploy 5G.

In his hearing debut, Redl explained to members of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, the context of NTIA’s announcement last week, that it has identified 100 MHz of spectrum (3450 to 3550 MHz) for potential wireless broadband use. It seeks incentives to government agencies to persuade them to clear spectrum.

The subcommittee is part of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees NTIA and the FCC. Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), asked Redl why in its FY2019 budget request, NTIA asked for authority to negotiate leases for private spectrum. Redl, who worked for the committee for seven years before being named NTIA Administrator, called leases a tool. “We know clearing is the gold standard. But there are some bands where clearing won’t be an option,” because the cost to move incumbents off the band exceeds the potential revenue of licensing it for a new use. Continue Reading

Monday, March 5, 2018

Congress Reaches Deal to Allow FCC to Auction More Spectrum for 5G

House Commerce Committee lawmakers in both the U.S. House and Senate reached an agreement on a measure to reauthorize the FCC that also provides a way for the agency to hold more wireless spectrum auctions. The bill (H.R. 4986) also spurs deployment of next-generation wireless services and enables more station categories to be reimbursed for moves, as a result of the TV spectrum channel repack.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD), and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL) announced on Friday that the full House will vote on the bill tomorrow. “This legislation, combining provisions that have previously passed both the House and Senate, does what no legislation has done in 28 years – it reauthorizes the FCC and includes provisions that help make sure that the Commission is transparent, efficient, and ready for the 21st century communications landscape,” stated Walden, Pallone, Thune and Nelson. They pledged to work together to ensure the bill is signed into law.

The RAY BAUM’s Act is named for former House Energy and Commerce Committee Staff Director Ray Baum, who passed away from cancer last month. The legislation to be considered Tuesday would: Continue Reading

Friday, March 2, 2018

GOP Calls WH Infrastructure Plan ‘Common-Sense’ While Dems Pan The Math

The administration’s plan to direct $200 billion in federal dollars to infrastructure projects includes broadband as a priority, but earmarks no money specifically toward expanding wireless or fixed broadband access. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, spent time discussing the administration’s reasoning during a sometimes contentious hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Thursday.

In a factsheet released by the White House last Friday, the administration states that $50 billion is dedicated to rural infrastructure and accounts for 25 percent of federal spending in the plan.These funds will be awarded directly to the states, giving them the flexibility they need to address their individual rural infrastructure needs,” says the White House. States can spend as much as 100 percent of the funding they receive on improving rural broadband access.

Chao clarified that state governors will decide how to allocate the funds. She testified that the president’s Infrastructure Initiative “includes, but is not limited to, drinking and wastewater, energy, broadband and veterans’ hospitals as well. It is designed to change how infrastructure is designed, built, financed and maintained.” The goal is to stimulate at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investment from the private sector. Continue Reading

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Towers on the Moon Isn’t Pure Lunacy

In what can certainly be considered a “giant leap for mankind,” Vodafone Germany, Nokia, and Audi are preparing to install a 4G mobile phone network on the Moon, 50 years after NASA’s Apollo 11 astronauts first landed. The equipment will be delivered by a SpaceX Falcon 6 rocket sometime in 2019, and will allow high-definition streaming back to Earth, according to Fast Company.

Vodafone Germany Chief Executive Hannes Ametsreiter praised the collaboration of the companies working on the project in a press release from the company. “This project involves a radically innovative approach to the development of mobile network infrastructure. It is also a great example of an independent, multi-skilled team achieving an objective of immense significance through their courage, pioneering spirit and inventiveness,” Ametsreiter said.  Continue Reading

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

American Tower Beats Build Projection By Fifty Percent

American Tower Corporation executives are pleased with the towerco’s financial performance in 2017. Company Chairman, President and CEO Jim Taiclet told brokers and Wall Street analysts on Tuesday’s earnings call: “We far exceeded our goals” for the 10-year plan. One metric — the company ended 2017 with 150,000 sites for towers and small cell systems; the goal was 100,000.

Officials estimate aggregate capex for mobile carriers to be in the $30 billion range in 2018. That bodes well for strong tenant lease growth this year for AMT, according to the executive. (See financial figures here.)

AMT is launching the next 10-year plan to “deliver operational efficiency to expand” profit margins, he said. The company’s core profit-maker remains its “extensive mobile tower footprint.” Taiclet said AMT would continue to build and acquire additional tower assets that meet its investment criteria. 
Continue Reading

Monday, February 26, 2018

FCC Broadband Map Makeover Underwhelms Some

In what officials described as an initial step at last Thursday’s FCC meeting, they unveiled an updated national broadband map to track internet speeds across the country. It’s envisioned as a key resource for consumers, policymakers and researchers. However there was disagreement among the Commissioners over whether the new map will really do that, since it only includes fixed broadband deployment, not mobile, and leaves out price.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai described it as a “very meaningful first step as to where access is and isn’t.” Users can search down to the zip code level to find out what companies offer broadband service and at what speed. They can also filter results by speed or region provider, for example, and a color-coded map gives an overview.  Continue Reading

Friday, February 23, 2018

Congressman Blackburn Backs Aggressive Buildout Agenda

Having just received the inaugural Legislative and Regulatory Champion of the Year Award at NATE UNITE 2018 on Wednesday, Congressman (her preferred designation of her title) Marsha Blackburn, Chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Communications & Technology, addressed the issues facing the telecom infrastructure industry and Washington’s efforts to see them expedited.
“Broadband has long been a priority of mine, and here’s why,” Blackburn said. “It represents more than just the fiber in the ground or the towers in the air. Broadband brings with it the promise of better education, better healthcare, sustainable economic development, and an increased quality of life. It connects people in times of crisis, and it ensures our first responders have the tools they need when responding to emergencies.”

Blackburn listed three guiding principles “it would behoove us to follow”:
Continue Reading

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Cipov, Miller and Blackburn Honored at NATE UNITE 2018 Awards Luncheon

(left to right) Pat Cipov, Congressman Marsha Blackburn, Pat Miller

NATE today honored Pat Cipov, President of Cipov Enterprises, Inc. in Sumter, South Carolina, Pat Miller, Director of EasTex Tower, LLC in Colorado Springs, Colorado and Congressman* Marsha Blackburn, U.S. Representative for the 7th District of Tennessee yesterday during the Awards Luncheon sponsored by SBA Communications at NATE UNITE 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. Continue Reading

Monday, February 19, 2018

Lincoln’s Towering Genius

“Towering genius disdains a beaten path.  It seeks regions hitherto unexplored”  Abraham Lincoln, Lyceum address 1838
OK, so he wasn’t really talking about towers per se….or at all.  

The person he could be referring to could easily be himself 24 years later and one month before he signed the Emancipation Proclamation.  He spoke before Congress in 1862 saying: “The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion.  As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.”

What fascinates us about great men like Lincoln and Washington is their steadfastness in the face of diversity and chaos.  And we’re not talking annoying setbacks or minor squabbles but seemingly insurmountable hurdles that, if not overcome, would change the course of America’s history.  They not only faced opposition from great armies dedicated to their personal destruction but from friends, confidantes and colleagues…even their own government… who doubted them at critical moments.  Continue Reading

Friday, February 16, 2018

Oregon’s FirstNet Buildout by AT&T Gives Priority to Rural Areas

As the first stage of the five-year First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) buildout gets underway in Oregon, state officials, AT&T and FirstNet say rural deployment will not be an afterthought, reported Radio Resource Media Group.

“Rural is something that won’t be waiting until last,” said Carrie Johnson, director of public-safety advocacy and tribal affairs specialist for AT&T’s FirstNet program. “It is a key priority during every stage of the buildout and beyond those first five years as well.”

With each stage of the buildout, there is a requirement for rural coverage to ensure that AT&T doesn’t wait until the fifth year to begin deploying that coverage, said David Soloos, the single point of contact (SPOC) for Oregon. Continue Reading

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

5G Demos Compete During Olympic Winter Games

The 2018 Olympic Winter Games offer a chance for sports enthusiasts across the globe to watch the best athletes in the world showcase their talents in Pyeongchang, South Korea. This year, wireless companies are competing as well, using the Olympic Games to debut plans for the first public test of 5G wireless technology, according to a blog from Nikhil Adnani, CTO at thinkRF. The South Korean government identified Information and Communications Technology as one of its chief goals for the Winter Games, and demonstrations from several companies will show the public what it can expect from 5G technology, Ultra-HD broadcasting, Internet of Things, and virtual and augmented reality systems.

South Korean company KT Corp is the official sponsor of the Olympic Winter Games and will be prominent in 5G demonstrations, but competitors SK Telecom and LG U+ will be presenting as well. According to Adnani, the companies have been secretive about specific plans for their demonstrations, but the 5G experience at the Games is expected to allow data transmission at 20 times faster than 4G, with Ultra-HD broadcasts that offer four times the screen resolution of current broadcasts. Continue Reading

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Administration Infrastructure Plan Calls for Faster Permitting

The White House on Monday released a 55-page document for President Donald Trump’s proposal to overhaul the nation’s infrastructure. The plan calls for Congress to write legislation for a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package that focuses on public-private partnerships, including funding from state and local governments, reports The Hill.

The plan is centered around four main goals: generating money, streamlining the permitting process, investing in rural infrastructure projects and advancing workforce training. White House officials said cutting down the environmental permitting process down to two years or less would help infrastructure deployment.

The federal government would contribute $200 billion to the package, a figure Democrats have already said is too small. The money is included in the Trump administration’s fiscal 2019 budget proposal, also released on Monday. The $4.4 trillion proposal, titled “Efficient, Effective, Accountable: An American Budget,” sets forth the president’s priorities as Congress prepares to consider spending bills for the next fiscal year. Continue Reading

Monday, February 12, 2018

Congress Passes Rural Broadband Infrastructure Funding

The bipartisan temporary budget deal lawmakers wrangled over until the early hours of Friday morning includes $20 billion in infrastructure spending, including rural broadband. That breaks down to $10 billion for FY18 and $10 billion for FY19 – to invest in infrastructure, including programs related to rural broadband, rural water and wastewater, clean and safe drinking water, energy, innovative capital projects, and surface transportation.

“This is an important step forward to help bridge the digital divide and connect the hardest to reach areas,” said USTelecom President/CEO Jonathan Spalter. Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) said the agreement “marks an important step forward” on several priorities the committee has championed for many months.

Passage was rocky in both houses of Congress. Late Thursday evening, the White House instructed federal agencies to prepare for a possible partial federal government shutdown. The Senate cleared the measure after 1 a.m. Friday morning. The House voted on the measure at around 5:30 a.m. and the President signed it into law before 9 a.m. The government partially shutdown for about five hours overnight, but reopened Friday morning. Continue Reading

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Mexico is Short On Towers and Long On Demand

Don’t you wish you paid a little more attention in Spanish class?  You just might want to brush the dust off of that particular text book because the burgeoning telecommunications market in Mexico needs over 50,000 towers constructed to keep up with demand for service. According to a report from Mexico News Daily, the country currently has approximately 27,000 towers but needs at least 80,000 to effectively support its mobile broadband network. “There are few countries in Latin America, and perhaps in the world, as complicated as Mexico in terms of telecommunications infrastructure, and while this industry is often described as a gold mine, in reality it is very far from that,” analysts from TowerXchange said. Continue Reading

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

CBRS Licensees Want FCC to Leave Rules Intact

By Leslie Stimson, Washington Bureau Chief, Inside Towers
UPDATE The City and the Port of Los Angeles agree with New York City when it comes to the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) rules for the 3.5 GHz band. They want the Commission to leave them substantially the same.
The current licensing framework for the 3550-3700 MHz band, in place since 2015, “is generating substantial interest and investment, while the Commission’s proposed changes are unwarranted,” the City tells the FCC in filed comments. “In particular, the 3.5 GHz band’s smaller license areas and shorter license terms, among other characteristics, must be preserved.”
In 2016, reacting to a proposal by CTIA and T-Mobile, the agency sought comment on their proposals to lengthen license terms to 10 years and increase license areas by using traditional Partial Economic areas rather than the current census tracts. In order to spur investment and greater certainty for the band, T-Mobile also proposed 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. Reply comments to 17-258, “Promoting Investment in the 3550-3700 MHz Band” were due January 29. Continue Reading

Monday, February 5, 2018

FCC In-Fighting Thwarts Tribal Tower Siting

The subject of increasing rural broadband deployment on Tribal Lands was the subject of unusually public bickering late Friday between FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and Chairman Ajit Pai.
Clyburn issued a statement asking why almost a year has gone by and the item is not out, since Pai “repeatedly claims that closing the digital divide is among his top priorities.” She continued: “As my colleagues in the Majority are fond of saying, companies need certainty. I agree. With a substantial percentage of those living in rural areas of Tribal lands lacking high-speed broadband, the time is now for an up or down vote that will ensure that these communities do not lose the connectivity they desperately want and need.”

Pai, meanwhile, blasted back with a response, noting he circulated an item to colleagues in February 2017. The order would increase federal funding for broadband infrastructure on Tribal lands, explaining such siting is difficult, with higher operational expenses than on non-Tribal land.  Continue Reading

Friday, February 2, 2018

Carriers Deploy More Towers, Antennas to Handle ‘Super’ Demand

One of Verizon’s small cells outside U.S. Bank stadium 
and Verizon handrail antennas inside enhance wireless data capacity for the event

Wireless carriers are prepared for record mobile data use in and around U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis this weekend for the Super Bowl. Nearly 70,000 fans will be in the stadium and another one million visitors are expected to use their smartphones and other mobile devices in the area.

Upgrades consisting of macro towers, small cell and Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) are part of the mix, according to a blog post on Medium by Kristen Beckman, Community Manager of the Wireless Infrastructure Association. Verizon has been preparing for two years; it deployed 24 macro cell tower sites and 230+ small cells. The new infrastructure combined, boosted Verizon’s network capacity in the Twin Cities metro by 500 percent, according to the carrier. 

In downtown Minneapolis, which is hosting the free football festival Super Bowl Live, Verizon doubled its network capacity on Nicollet Mall by placing small cells in bus shelters, a new solution for the carrier. “Verizon also installed security cameras on street lights with its small cells in the downtown area in partnership with the city of Minneapolis and bolstered capacity at the Mall of America and Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport with neutral-host DAS equipment,” writes Beckman. Inside the stadium, Verizon added 48 percent more antennas to its DAS, using drinkrail, handrail and under-the-seat antennas, as well as Matsing Ball antennas, installed 330 feet above the field. Continue Reading

Thursday, February 1, 2018

FiberTower Gives Up Hundreds of 5G Licenses in FCC Settlement

FiberTower, which is being acquired by AT&T, agreed to give up hundreds of high-band millimeter wave licenses to settle litigation with the FCC. AT&T could have used the spectrum for 5G development.  
As part of the agreement, FiberTower will give up all of its 94 licenses in the 24 GHz band and 595 licenses in the 39 GHz band. Additionally, AT&T agreed to pay the U.S. Treasury $27 million to end the dispute.

At issue, was the Wireless Bureau’s claim that FiberTower, “had not shown that it had provided substantial service for the 689 licenses,” according to the order released by the Broadband Division of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. The bureau refused FiberTower’s request to review an earlier decision, saying the company “had not shown that its failure to meet the construction deadline” were due to circumstances beyond its control.  

The licenses that FiberTower agreed to give up will help the Commission “re-band” the 39 GHz band, “which is necessary prior to auction of vacant and available licenses” in that band, said the FCC. The agency added that the $27 million payment helps address potential concerns “about undue enrichment of FiberTower with respect to licenses acquired at auction for which it has not yet demonstrated its compliance with Commission performance requirements.” The money also puts FiberTower “in substantially the same position” as most of the other license holders in the band. Continue Reading

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Flurry of Broadband Bills Only Raises the Noise Level in Congress

Money, time and even the hearing details themselves were squabbled over yesterday in a House Communications Subcommittee hearing. Up for discussion, were 25 bills to facilitate broadband deployment, especially to rural areas. Democrats like Pennsylvania’s Mike Doyle said it was too much. “We’re simply not giving these bills the time and expertise,” they deserve, he said. Doyle suggested it would be more prudent to hold a series of hearings and also add representatives of relevant government agencies.

Democrats were also concerned none of the bills specifically appropriate funding to broadband deployment. California Dem Anna Eshoo said, “There is nothing here that will address what we need. I implore the majority to get real. We have to have money.”

Oregon Republican Greg Walden, who also chairs the larger House Commerce Committee, said it was important to get the bills out so the public can see them. “We want NTIA and other organizations to help us figure out what areas are not served. The big investment here is coming from the private sector.” However he added: “There is public money that’s being spent. Our job is to make sure it’s spent wisely.” Walden summed up, “We could have a hearing every week for 25 weeks and then move forward or we can do one hearing now.”  Continue Reading

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Reported Federal 5G Plan Panned

The wireless industry and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Monday panned the possibility of the U.S. government building its own 5G network. Axios reported a senior official on the National Security Council floated the idea of the federal government building one, secure, centralized 5G network to guard against China, “the dominant malicious actor in the Information Domain,” states the document.

The concept is the government would reportedly rent access to wireless carriers. If so, it would be an unprecedented nationalization of a historically private infrastructure.

Pai said he opposes “any” such proposal, saying, “the main lesson to draw from the wireless sector’s development over the past three decades—including American leadership in 4G—is that the market, not government, is best positioned to drive innovation and investment.” He called an effort by the government to build its own 5G network “costly” and “counter-productive.” The other four Commissioners opposed the concept. Commissioner Brendan Carr called the idea a “non-starter” while Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said: “I’ve seen lead balloons tried in D.C. before but this is like a balloon made out of a Ford Pinto.”   Continue Reading

Monday, January 29, 2018

Farmers, Ranchers Face Broadband Gap Too

Farmers need broadband connectivity to more precisely water crops and use drones to monitor fields. Just like automakers are developing autonomous vehicles, so too, are manufacturers of tractors and other farm equipment, to help farmers work more efficiently. Studies estimate that precision agriculture technologies could reduce operation costs by up to 25 dollars per acre and increase farm yields by up to 70 percent by 2050.

That’s why Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Steve Daines (R-MT) and John Tester (D-MT) and Representatives Latta (R-OH) and Loebsack (D-IA) introduced companion bills last week titled the “Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018.” S. 2343 and H.R. 4881 direct the FCC to create a task force within a year to determine why there’s a broadband gap on cropland and ranchland and develop policy recommendations to address the disparity. The FCC would work with the USDA and other federal agencies on the project.  Continue Reading

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Tension Over Permit Fees Colors BDAC Discussions

How to reduce excessive permitting fees for siting broadband infrastructure continued to be a large topic for debate on the FCC Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) for a second day on Wednesday. Tensions are evident between municipal members and those who represent wireless companies. Those who work for companies deploying broadband want what they consider excessive siting fees reduced, but those representing local governments say language in various model codes being worked on do not specify how to compensate if those fees are lowered.

Sam Liccardo, mayor of San Jose, at one point over the two-day meeting called them “unfunded mandates.” He said he’s willing to support a regulated rate, but one that recognizes the actual burden on cities. “It’s more than the cost of installing something on a pole.”

The BDAC acknowledges in draft form that public-private partnerships may provide solutions to bridge those divides. Charles McKee, VP Government Affairs for Sprint, said the draft language “may not do everything everyone wants it to do, but fairly frames up both sides. When we look at our network … there is no redlining. We have a limited capital budget. We can only do so much.” A cost increase, such as a high fee to deploy wireless infrastructure for small cells for example, he and other carriers explained, lowers how much cell service they can provide. “This recommendation simply asks the FCC to give us a reasonable definition of a rate.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Verizon Envisions Steady Capex Despite Tax Reform

Don’t expect Verizon to dramatically increase its capital expenditures this year based on the benefits from the tax reform legislation.
Verizon previously signaled its 2018 capex would likely be consistent with the past several years. It’s pegged at about $17 billion. Company Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam told analysts on the Q4 2017 earnings call Tuesday, “Verizon has long supported corporate tax reform. We’re very pleased to see this legislation passed.” Tax-reform legislation will have a positive impact on cash flow from operations in 2018, of approximately $3.5 billion to $4 billion.
“We’re only 30 days into the tax reform process. We’re really trying to understand the implications and what we can accelerate. 5G is influencing where we put our capital dollars. I expect to see things pick up.”  
Verizon is using available funding to beef-up its network and look to the future with its 5G trials. The company has said it intends to commercially launch 5G in three to five cities this year, beginning with Sacramento. “Verizon has the spectrum bandwidth needed to provide true services of 5G and the engineering knowledge to provide a full suite of 5G services,” said McAdam. Continue Reading

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

NATE Says Twilight Exclusion Helps Workforce Crunch

UPDATE The National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) strongly supports the FCC’s plan to exclude so-called Twilight Towers from routine historic preservation review. The FCC proposed such a change in December, Inside Towers reported, to make more towers available for wireless deployment like broadband, including FirstNet and 5G.
In comments filed with the FCC late last week, NATE said: “For too long, the regulatory status of twilight towers has placed the industry in limbo and an affirmative vote by FCC Commissioners to exclude co-locations on these structures from routine historic preservation review is common sense policy.” Some 4,000 towers built between 2001 to 2005 couldn’t accept co-location because either they were built without historic preservation review or don’t have documentation that such a review occurred.

New towers will be built, but siting and planning, combined with permitting processes, are time-consuming, according to the association. Permitting more co-location will speed tower work as well as address workforce shortages. Continue Reading

Monday, January 22, 2018

T-Mobile Carries the Ball for Big Game Coverage Needs

T-Mobile has expanded coverage and increased network speeds in the Twin Cities in preparation for customers’ needs during Super Bowl LII, when over one million people are expected to pack the U.S. Bank Stadium and surrounding area. This network enhancement has been two years in the making, with the end result increasing LTE capacity up to 35x in the Twin Cities area, according to the carrier.
T-Mobile took a multi-pronged approach to the network augmentation, installing over 120 new small cells in the stadium and surrounding areas, using distributed antenna systems, and adding backhaul. The enhancement also includes doubling the LTE spectrum and the roll-out of carrier aggregation, speed-boosting C-RAN technology, 4X4 Multiple Input Multiple Output, and 256 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation, it announced. Continue Reading

Friday, January 19, 2018

Senators Ask Trump to Include Broadband Money in Infrastructure Plan

The Trump administration is finalizing its long-awaited infrastructure plan; he may preview it in his January 30 State of the Union address but details would come later, according to sources familiar with the proposal, Reuters reported.

A group of U.S. Senators are urging the President to include funding for broadband deployment in the package. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and John Boozman (R-AR) spelled out the importance of high-speed internet access for rural areas in a letter to the White House this week.

“The administration’s infrastructure proposal should include stand-alone funding that is dedicated to advancing broadband deployment in addition to provisions that reduce regulatory barriers,” say the senators in the letter. They’re all members of the Senate Broadband Caucus. “Boosting current investments in broadband deployment will provide new economic opportunities in communities that are struggling to compete.” Continue Reading

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Congress Wants Hawaii Alerting Probe Update

UPDATE The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s telecom panel plans to hold a hearing with the FCC on public safety following the false emergency alert sent in Hawaii over the weekend, warning of an incoming missile. The false message was sent to cell phones as a Wireless Emergency Alert and over TV, cable and radio over the Emergency Alert System. The committee said the event will take place “sometime in the coming weeks,” according to lawmakers. Continue Reading

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Replacement Poles Can Now Skirt Historic Review

Pole attachments for small cell wireless infrastructure just got easier. The FCC’s rule change to exempt some poles from historic preservation review took effect yesterday, January 16. Federal Register publication triggered the effective date.

Specifically, the telecom provider is exempt from the review when a pole is replaced with a substantially identical pole, the original pole is not historic and the replacement does not disturb new ground. The replacement must be consistent with other size, location, and appearance restrictions. The changes also take into account when a wooden pole is replaced with metal.

“Replacement poles placed in essentially the same previously disturbed locations as the original structures will be sturdier than the preexisting poles, but will not necessarily be substantially taller or occupy appreciably more space on or in the ground than the original poles. In those circumstances, there is no likelihood that such pole replacements could affect historic properties,” states the FCC in the rule change document. Still, under the previous rules, only replacements for poles meeting the definition of a ‘‘tower’’ were excluded from Section 106 assessment while other types of pole replacements continued to require review. Continue Reading

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Hawaii Can Now Quickly Retract False WEA, EAS Alerts

UPDATE Hawaii now has a way to notify the public that an alert was sent in error. There was no protocol in place to take back an alert at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HEMA) on Saturday, reported The Washington Post.
That’s when a state employee mistakenly chose the real, live “missile alert” alert option from a drop-down menu for what was supposed to be an internal test. An actual cell phone text was sent as a Wireless Emergency Alert and transmitted over TV, radio and cable over the Emergency Alert System. The message told the public a missile threat to the state was imminent and to seek shelter, causing panic.
The message told the public a missile threat to the state was imminent and to seek shelter, causing panic.  

It took 38 minutes from the initial alert to a subsequent alert telling the public the earlier warning was a mistake. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Sunday stated it appeared Hawaii didn’t have “reasonable safeguards” in place to prevent the transmission of a fake alert, Inside Towers reported. He said that was “unacceptable,” and federal, state and local officials throughout the country must work together to fix that and be able to issue a correction immediately.   Continue Reading

Monday, January 15, 2018

False Alert in Hawaii Goes Uncorrected for Forty Minutes

A false alarm from U.S. Pacific Command claiming a ballistic missile was headed to Hawaii prompted an immediate response from the FCC Saturday.  Commissioner Brendan Carr said the FCC would fully investigate why the initial message was sent and was left uncorrected for nearly forty minutes creating a panic among residents of Hawaii.

“The FCC has begun a full investigation into the FALSE missile alert in Hawaii,” Carr said. A similar tweeted message came from FCC chief of staff Matthew Berry.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai tweeted: “The @FCC is launching a full investigation into the false emergency alert that was sent to residents of Hawaii.” Yesterday, he issued the following statement:
“The false emergency alert sent yesterday in Hawaii was absolutely unacceptable.  It caused a wave of panic across the state—worsened by the 38-minute delay before a correction alert was issued.  Moreover, false alerts undermine public confidence in the alerting system and thus reduce their effectiveness during real emergencies.” Continue Reading

Friday, January 12, 2018

WEA, Broadband Funding Dominate FCC’s January Docket

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai continues his aggressive voting schedule into the New Year. No less than seven items have been teed up for the January 30 monthly meeting; that compares to a general number of five items per meeting for his predecessor Tom Wheeler.

Last year, the FCC adopted rules for “Connect America Fund Phase II” and authorized investment of up to $2 billion over the next decade to bring fixed broadband service to rural America. At the meeting, Commissioners will vote to finalize bidding procedures for a reverse auction to fund the effort. Also, several parties challenged the order and those must be handled before the auction can proceed. Commissioners will vote on ways to do that.

The agency will also vote to mandate carriers employ geo-targeting for Wireless Emergency Alerts, Inside Towers reported. Carriers say they need time to comply while emergency personnel involved in the California wildfires say waiting too long is risky. Continue Reading

Thursday, January 11, 2018

And, Yea, They Shall Turn Their Wind Turbines Into Cell Towers

A wind turbine at Falmouth’s wastewater treatment plant may become a cell tower, according to the Cape Cod Times.  The structure, one of two wind towers on the property, was ordered to be shut down by a superior court judge over nuisance complaints and zoning violations from area residents.
If the giant blades were removed and only the pole remained, it would no longer be classified as a wind turbine, Frank Duffy, the town’s attorney told the Times. By turning it into a cell tower, Duffy said, it could be reclassified under the provisions of the town’s cell tower bylaw.  Duffy said this would not only provide better cell service for West Falmouth but it could help aid the town’s public safety communications system.
A local resident added during Monday’s meeting that leasing space to cell providers could provide the town with some additional revenue. Continue Reading

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Crown to Tackle 25,000 Small Cell Build Backlog

Citi 2018 Global TMT West Conference

Crown Castle’s priorities for 2018 include being able to meet increasing demand for both macro and small cells; the company has to build approximately 25,000 small cells, according to company CFO Dan Schlanger.

Meeting carrier demand for more data means more infrastructure investments, he told attendees of the Citi 2018 Global TMT West Conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday. The company plans to increase new tower leasing this year, he said, adding that macro towers are a great business “that needs to be augmented by the densification effort.”

“Consumers are using their phones do to more,” especially “hungry data applications like video. You need macro towers; you also need small cells,” Schlanger said. Continue Reading

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Trump Inks Orders to Speed Rural Broadband Infrastructure Deployment

President Donald Trump signed two president orders on Monday to streamline and expedite rural broadband deployment. In a speech before the American Farm Bureau annual convention in Nashville, the president said a task force aimed at improving rural life “heard from farmers that broadband internet is an issue.” The orders, he said, “will provide broader, faster, better internet coverage.”

The orders, Trump said, will support broadband tower facilities in rural America. “Those towers are going to go up and you’re going to have great, great broadband,” he said to the assembled crowd.
He was referring to the findings of the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity, which counts cabinet members and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai among members. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Monday presented the findings in a 44 page report. In addition to expediting approval and review timelines for broadband infrastructure buildout, it recommends the government assess existing federal grants and subsidy programs devoted to or used for deploying e-connectivity. 
Continue Reading

Monday, January 8, 2018

Small Carriers Need More Time for WEA Geo-Targeting

Small wireless carriers will need extra time to deploy geo-targeting of Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), the Competitive Carriers Association tells the FCC. 
CCA agrees with large carrier association CTIA that integration of new WEA geo-targeting capabilities into networks and devices will take at least 36 months from the effective date of new rules. Smaller wireless carriers will need an additional 12 to 24 months because they don’t “have the same access to the latest devices on the same timeline as the largest carriers, if at all,” CCA EVP/General Counsel Rebecca Murphy Thompson recently told the agency’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.

As the agency develops rules for updating WEA, CCA agrees with the FCC that refining the delivery location of the alerts will improve the quality of information that consumers receive during disasters and emergencies, limit network congestion, and reduce the potential for over-alerting. But CCA is concerned “there appears to be inconsistent evidence about the technical capability of all carriers to achieve the FCC’s enhanced WEA goals. It would defy logic for the Commission to adopt rules that are technically infeasible,” Thompson writes in a summary of the discussion viewed by Inside Towers. Continue Reading

Friday, January 5, 2018

MD Think Tank Exposes Muni Broadband ‘Hypocrisy’ Over Net Neutrality

Maryland conservative think tank Free State Foundation called out mayors this week who oppose the FCC’s recent vote to roll-back Net Neutrality rules, yet appear to restrict internet use on municipal broadband networks with service terms that prohibit certain types of content.

Free State Foundation Board member Enrique Armijo, a law professor at Elon University and also a fellow at Yale’s law school, wrote in a policy paper about the “hypocrisy” of many local and state governments that claim what the FCC recently voted on is unlawful. “The mayors of more than 50 cities, many of which own or operate their own municipal broadband networks or are exploring ways to do so, want the FCC to preserve the restrictions on private ISPs” set out in the previous 2015 order. Abandoning that order, the mayors argue, would “permit blocking, throttling and other interference with access to the internet,” states Armijo.  Continue Reading

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Court Lets FCC Off the Alpine PCS $21 Million Hook

The FCC is free of a $21 million lawsuit from a bankrupt wireless company. A federal appeals court on January 2, agreed with the agency and a prior federal claims court that Alpine PCS took its case to the wrong court.

The case began in 1996, when the FCC awarded Alpine PCS two, 10-year Personal Communications Services licenses. The wireless firm bid about $8.9 million for one license and about $17.3 million for the other. Alpine was to pay for the spectrum in installments from December 1996, through September 2006.

In 1996, the Commission regulations stated if a payment was more than 90 days late and a grace period expired or the agency denied a request for a restructured payment schedule, the FCC would automatically cancel the licenses and the licensee would be subject to debt collection. In 1998, two three-month grace periods became the norm. But if the licensee did not pay the installment, plus late fees, after the second grace period, the licensee would be declared in default, have its licenses “automatically cancel[ed],” and be subject to debt collection, states the federal appeals court in its opinion. Continue Reading

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

All States Join FirstNet at Deadline

UPDATE All 50 states chose to join the FirstNet mobile broadband communications network for first responders by the deadline day, December 28. California, Florida, New York and Mississippi announced their decision on that day. New Hampshire reversed course and said it would sign-up as well. Under the FirstNet system, if a governor did not make a decision by the deadline, the state would be treated the same as an “opt-in” state, with AT&T deploying and maintaining the Radio Access Network for the state.
Previously, New Hampshire was the only state to seek an alternative RAN with Rivada and say it intended to opt-out of FirstNet. But at deadline, Governor Chris Sununu decided it was too risky to go it alone. The Union Leader reported that by making the decision on the 28th, New Hampshire retains AT&T’s pledge to build 48 new tower sites.  Continue Reading