Thursday, June 27, 2019

FCC OK’s Two-For-One Tower Deal That Took Nine Years

The FCC approved Eger Communications' request to replace two guyed towers with one self-supported lattice tower in Livingston, NY. The decision, which took nine years, was not without controversy, as several local historic preservation groups opposed the build.

The process began in 2010, when Eger filed an application with the town of Livingston to replace both 190-foot towers with one of the same height. The site is visible from the Olana House State Historic Site, a National Historic Landmark. The Olana Site includes the home of Frederic E. Church, an important figure in the Hudson River School of American landscape painting.

In 2013, considering pleadings from parties arguing that the new tower would have adverse impacts on historic properties, the town granted Eger’s application. The Olana Partnership and Scenic Hudson, Inc. challenged the town’s decision before the New York State Supreme Court, asserting that Livingston had not properly considered the proposed tower’s visual impact on the viewshed of the Olana Site. The NY State Court dismissed that challenge, finding the town’s decision was supported by substantial evidence. Continue Reading

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

How Do We Fill the 5G Workforce Gap?

Thousands of good jobs are going unfilled in this booming economy, as high school students are not aware of the many career choices open to them — including the wireless infrastructure industry — experts said during a workforce development panel at the Heritage Foundation on Monday.

The Wireless Infrastructure Association is the national sponsor of TIRAP. TIRAP is a joint venture of telecommunications companies, industry associations and the U.S. Department of Labor that develops DoL-credentialed apprenticeship programs available to qualified employers for career development of the telecommunications workforce. TIRAP can train employees for nine different occupations.

Twenty-four employers have signed up employees to participate in the program, said WIA VP Workforce Development Grant Seiffert. Employees take the 18-month course, which can involve, for example, telecom tower technician skills. The course teaches RF spectrum, safety, 5G technology and associated wireless infrastructure. The addition of other topics, like site acquisition, is being discussed. Continue Reading

Monday, June 24, 2019

More States Join Suit to Block T-Mobile-Sprint Deal

UPDATE Four more states have joined the effort by state attorneys general to stop T-Mobile's acquisition of Sprint, a New York official said at a court hearing on Friday. The addition of Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Nevada in an amended complaint, brings the number of states fighting against the transaction to 14.

Ten state attorneys general, led by New York and California and including the District of Columbia, filed a lawsuit on June 11 aimed at stopping the purchase by the number three U.S. wireless operator T-Mobile, of number four, Sprint. The AGs say the deal would lessen competition, raise prices for consumers, and cost thousands their jobs.

T-Mobile, Sprint and the states during a hearing on Friday, agreed to a trial date of October 7. A trial could last two to three weeks, reported The Hill. Continue Reading

Friday, June 21, 2019

Broadband Mapping Partners Target July For Proof of Concept

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief UPDATE The industry-led effort to better map where broadband is available and where it doesn’t exist, is making progress. In a webinar Thursday, USTelecom VP Policy & Advocacy Mike Saperstein said the biggest problem with the current Form 477 data the FCC is using, is it was not designed for the targeted broadband mapping that’s needed. “If one location in census block is served, the entire location is considered served. If we map where broadband is, we don’t know where broadband isn’t.”

More accurate location data means, “better estimates of cost, time to deploy and tracking of progress,” Saperstein said.

Jim Stegeman, President/CEO, CostQuest Associates, said USTelecom, The Broadband Association, and its partners launched the initiative because there is no comprehensive, public, single source of broadband location data. Better data means regulators can better target funds in current and future programs like the RUS/USDA Infrastructure program and Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, and prevent overbuilding.

“We want to remove the guesswork by mapping every American household and business that may need to be online,” explained Stegeman. Continue Reading

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Dish in Talks to Buy Boost From Sprint to Lock Up Merger With T-Mo

UPDATE Dish Network Corp. is reportedly in talks with T-Mobile and Sprint regarding the purchase of $6 billion in assets that would help the carriers gain regulatory approval for their merger, according to Bloomberg. Dish is seeking to obtain assets including wireless spectrum and Sprint’s Boost Mobile label, although sources say the talks are tenuous.

The divestitures by the telecoms would be a way for the carriers to comply with the Justice Department, which wants them to sell enough assets to ensure the U.S. maintains at least four viable national wireless players, Inside Towers reported. Representative for Dish and the Justice Department declined to comment to Bloomberg, nor did T-Mobile and Sprint.

Dish, Charter Communications and Altice USA are on a shortlist of bidders for T-Mobile and Sprint assets favored by the DOJ, Inside Towers reported. Though the FCC hasn’t formally approved the T-Mobile-Sprint transaction, two out of the three majority Republicans on the Commission, Chairman Ajit Pai and Commission Brendan Carr, have said they favor the deal, while Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has said he’s “inclined” to back the transaction.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Electric Co-ops Association Says Pole Rates Are No Barrier to Entry

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) representing over 900 electric cooperatives last week issued a white paper entitled: “Pole Attachment Policies and Issues, Broadband Deployment in Rural America Not Impeded by Pole Attachment Rates.” The NRECA, whose members control a 2.6 million mile distribution network, concluded in the report that charges by commercial operators of prohibitive and exorbitant rental rates on utility poles are “unfounded.”

“Electric cooperatives understand that communications service providers may need access to existing poles and rights-of-way to provide service,” said Brian O’Hara, Regulatory Director of NRECA, “and some have provided such access at cost-based rates to the considerable benefit of communications companies.”
The NRECA said in its paper that by leveraging the cooperatives’ existing distribution systems, communications companies avoid significant construction and maintenance costs, “generally paying modest cost-based annual fees to access these systems.” Despite this “tremendous benefit,” the NRECA stated, some for-profit communications companies contend that pole attachment rental rates charged by rural electric cooperatives prevent them from providing broadband services to rural communities. Continue Reading

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Huawei CEO Says U.S. Sanctions Will Cost Company “Billions” in Revenue

Huawei Technologies founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei predicts U.S. sanctions could cut the telecom’s revenue by about U.S.$30 billion over the next two years. That’s the first time he’s quantified the hit from the Trump administration restrictions.

Sales at China’s largest technology company will likely remain stagnant at about U.S.$100 billion in 2019 and 2020, according to the executive, Bloomberg reported. The Trump administration curbs will cut into a two-year lead Huawei built up over competitors like Nokia and Ericsson, Zhengfei said Monday during a panel discussion at company headquarters in Shenzhen.

“We didn’t expect the U.S. would hit our supply chain in such a wide way,” Ren said. “We didn’t expect the damage to be this serious.” Continue Reading

Monday, June 17, 2019

Court Moves Quickly on AGs’ Suit to Block T-Mobile-Sprint Deal

UPDATE The judge reviewing the complaint by nine state attorneys general plus the District of Columbia AG seeking to block the T-Mobile acquisition of Sprint plans to hold a pre-trial hearing this week.

Nine states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit Tuesday, aimed at stopping the transaction, which they say is anti-competitive, Inside Towers reported. They asked the judge for an expedited hearing, which he set for this Friday, June 21, according to Reuters.

The FCC agreed in principle to approve the deal while the Justice Department is believed to be near a final decision. T-Mobile and Sprint offered to sell Sprint’s Boost Mobile brand to reduce the combined entity’s market share in the prepaid business.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Tower Infrastructure Bill Gets Attention in Congress

A bill to establish a Telecommunications Workforce Development Advisory Council to the FCC was introduced to the floor of the House of Representatives. U.S. Representatives Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Yvette Clarke (D-NY) co-sponsor the ‘‘Telecommunications Opportunities for Workers Engaging in Real Infrastructure Deployment Act of 2019’’ or the ‘‘TOWER Infrastructure Deployment Act.’’
The advisory council would develop and make recommendations to the FCC with respect to:
  1. The needs of the workforce in the communications industry to promote the deployment of communications facility installations;
  2. Ways to encourage participation in industry-led workforce development programs; and
  3. Ways to improve workforce development in the communications industry.
If the measure passes, the Advisory Council would be composed of members appointed that shall include at least one member representing, respectively — the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a state agency, a local agency, a Tribal agency, the communications industry; and a minority institution. The FCC Chairman would appoint members to serve on the council not more than 90 days after enactment. Continue Reading

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Pai Answers to Congress Over Broadband Map Issue

The state of the FCC’s broadband maps took center stage as the Senate Commerce Committee members grilled FCC Commissioners in an oversight hearing Wednesday.

Committee Chair Roger Wicker (R-MS) said, “It’s clear to me the FCC should not move forward” on funding more broadband projects “until it gets the maps right.” Wicker said he intends to introduce a bill aimed at getting more granular data about where wired and wireless broadband is available.  
Big news was shared by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who announced he intends to circulate a Report and Order among his colleagues in time for a vote at the agency’s August meeting, “that would result in more granular and more accurate broadband maps.” 

Pai said that means, “requiring broadband providers to report where they actually offer service, below the census block level” at which current data stands. The item would also look to incorporate public feedback into the Commission’s mapping efforts, Pai added. He did not go into specifics, which is normal for an item yet to be voted on. Continue Reading

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

State Attorneys General Move to Block T-Mobile-Sprint Deal

New York Attorney General Letitia James and nine other state AGs filed a lawsuit to stop the proposed T-Mobile acquisition of Sprint. The complaint was filed Tuesday in New York federal court in coordination with California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, Virginia, and Wisconsin. In the 45-page document, the AGs allege the combination of two out of four of the largest wireless carriers is anti-competitive.

“When it comes to corporate power, bigger isn’t always better,” James said. She called the deal, “the sort of consumer-harming, job-killing megamerger our antitrust laws were designed to prevent.”

The deal has won FCC approval. But the Department of Justice staff is said to be against it. Officially, the DOJ has not made a decision, according to Reuters, which noted Sprint Chief Executive Marcelo Claure and his counterpart at T-Mobile, John Legere, met with the DOJ on Monday. The companies have offered to sell prepaid brand Boost Mobile, to reduce the combined company’s market share in the prepaid wireless business, Inside Towers reported. Continue Reading

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

White House Asks Congress to Delay Huawei Ban

The White House Office of Management and Budget has asked Congress for more time to phase in a ban on federal contracts with companies that do business with Huawei.
Huawei has repeatedly denied it is controlled by the Chinese government, military or intelligence services. It has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government over the restrictions in the defense policy bill, Reuters reported.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), placed a broad ban on the use of federal money to purchase products from Huawei, citing national security concerns. It included a ban on direct federal purchases of Huawei equipment, which will take effect this year.

But now, the White House says the government needed two more years to work out rules for another part of the law, which requires third-party suppliers and contractors to restrict their purchases and use of Huawei equipment. “This is about ensuring that companies who do business with the U.S. government or receive federal grants and loans have time to extricate themselves from doing business with Huawei and other Chinese tech companies listed in the NDAA,” Jacob Wood, a spokesman for the White House OMB, said in a statement.  Continue Reading

Monday, June 10, 2019

911 Revamp in California

Digital 911 technology to the rescue! Better electronics help first responders locate callers and arrive at the scene faster in California, reports  Although emergency services are well established, the support systems they use are not always up to date. Next-Gen 911 services will provide an upgrade in electronic delivery for emergency services.

“For the residents, Next-Gen 911 will allow better location accuracy and call-routing to the proper 911 dispatch center and reduced response times,” said Robert Bustichi,  systems management supervisor for San Mateo County Public Safety Communications. “First responders gain the benefit of having additional functionality in the field including pre-plans, routing and enhanced mapping.” By 2020, the county's 25 year old CAD [computer aided dispatch] system should be completely replaced. Continue Reading