Monday, December 23, 2019

Letter From the Editor In the Spirit of Christmas

Yep, that’s me, your not-so-humble editor, as Marley’s ghost in “A Christmas Carol” at a local theatre here in Philly. I had the privilege of rattling my chains and saying those classic lines to the gathered audiences during a 25-show run. (FYI, the acting thing is a hobby of mine. I tried bowling but I’m terrible at it.) And even though I trod those boards five years ago, Marley still haunts me to this day. Like him, we all “wear the chains we forged in life, link by link and yard by yard.”

Dickens reminds us, through his ghostly apparition, that even we “good people of business” like Marley and his partner, can get bound and burdened by the very thing to which we dedicate our lives. I know first-hand having daily responsibilities, events to attend and deadlines to meet, can shut you off from the world around you, harden you to those less fortunate. To a greater or lesser degree, we all have our “inner Scrooge.” But now we have a few glorious days ahead where we can lighten our own load by thinking of others, doing for others and getting into a spirit that I hope makes its ethereal presence known to us all through the rest of this year and the next.  -jf

Here are a few worthy causes if you feel like throwing off a chain or two:

  • NATE Tower Family Foundation: In 2019, the Foundation has awarded $295,000 in direct financial assistance to affected families and has donated $821,000 to eligible benefactors since the organization’s launch in September 2014.
  • Hubble Foundation

Friday, December 20, 2019

OSHA Notes Decline in Fatal Falls, Lowest Since 2013

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Report, released Wednesday, shows the rate of fatal work injuries remained unchanged in regard to the overall numbers in 2018.

Although unintentional overdoses at work increased by 12 percent and suicide at work increased by 11 percent, the report showed a 14 percent decline in work-related fatal falls from heights, the lowest total since 2013.

According to OSHA, “Enforcement efforts helped abate more than 7,000 fall-related hazards in the construction industry. OSHA will continue to use BLS data for enforcement targeting within its jurisdiction to help prevent tragedies,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt.

“Inspections for OSHA were up, and we will work with state plans so employers and workers can find compliance assistance tools in many forms or call the agency to report unsafe working conditions. Any fatality is one too many,” said Sweatt.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Auction 103 Bids Top $3 Billion

The take in the FCC’s third auction of Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service (UMFUS) licenses is topping $3 billion. After 19 rounds of bidding on Wednesday, gross proceeds were more than $3.6 billion. Round 21 bidding is slated to begin at 10 a.m. today.

Auction 103 is the agency’s third auction of UMFUS licenses. A total of 3,400 megahertz of spectrum, the most spectrum ever offered in an auction, is being offered in the Upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands. These bands will be licensed as 100-megahertz blocks covering Partial Economic Areas.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

House Votes On Broadband Mapping, Supply Chain

The House on Monday passed bipartisan compromise measures aimed at improving broadband mapping and securing the U.S. telecommunications supply chain. The latter includes funding to help rural wireless carriers rip and replace any existing gear from providers like Huawei that the administration has labeled a security risk.

The bipartisan Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act, could get a vote in the Senate as soon as this week, reports The Hill. The legislation prohibits the FCC from awarding funds to purchase telecom equipment from "any company that poses a national security risk" while requiring the government to help small communications providers rip questionable equipment out of telecom networks. The bill requires the agency to establish a $1 billion program to help small and rural communications providers remove "suspect network equipment" and replace it with products that are deemed more "secure."

The House on Monday also approved two other telecom bills to help improve the Commission's broadband maps; even the agency agrees with critics that the maps are inaccurate and is working to improve them. Because the FCC uses the maps to determine where to devote billions of dollars in broadband investment, the issue has drawn intense scrutiny from people who say they are being overlooked — particularly in rural areas. Continue Reading

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Boingo Wireless Files For Restructuring

On December 11, 2019, the Board of Directors of Boingo Wireless approved a plan to restructure the company’s business operations and will eliminate approximately 80 jobs constituting 16 percent of its workforce. In an SEC filing, Boingo expects that the workforce reduction will decrease operating costs by approximately $11 million.

“To help drive longer-term revenue and profitability, we are reorganizing the business into ‘core’ and ‘legacy’ business units,” the company said in a statement to shareholders. “Core products include Carrier Services (DAS, Offload, 5G, CBRS), Military and Multifamily. These are areas where we will continue to focus and invest. Legacy products will be managed to maximize profitability with minimal incremental investment.” Continue Reading

Friday, December 13, 2019

Tower Worker OK After Getting Launched 40 Feet in the Air By Cable

A tower worker on the job in Atmore, AL experienced the scare of a lifetime when a snapped cable launched him high in the air and left him dangling. The Bennett Communications worker was part of the crew servicing a cell tower when the incident occurred, reports the Atmore News.

Responding to the 911 call, Police Chief Chuck Brooks said, “He was actually on the ground, and the wire shot up and wrapped around his leg. He was pulled about 40 feet in the air, and the other workers got him down. Lucky for him, he was pulled up at an angle and didn’t hit the tower on the way up.” Witnesses say a worker higher up attempted to help by cutting an interfering cable, and nearly imperiled another tower worker trying to climb up.

An observer at the scene called for emergency services saying, "I called 911. I stayed on the line for a while before they finally asked me what state and city I was calling from. They kept asking questions, so I finally texted them a picture to show what was happening. It was a scary situation.” The caller further described the suspended worker as “hanging upside-down, screaming his head off.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

FCC’S Next 5G Spectrum Auction Is Underway

The FCC began its next 5G spectrum auction Tuesday. Bidding began on licenses in the upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands. The FCC is making 3,400 MHz of millimeter-wave spectrum available through Auction 103

“These airwaves will be critical in deploying 5G services and applications,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Combined, the 39 GHz and upper 37 GHz bands represent the largest amount of contiguous spectrum available in the millimeter-wave bands.

The agency is setting up the upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz auction to be the FCC’s second-ever incentive auction. This one will be different from the broadcast incentive auction but it’ll have the same goal: clearing or repacking existing licensees to make spectrum as useful as possible.

Earlier this year, the Commission concluded its first high-band 5G auctions of the 28 GHz and 24 GHz bands. Next year, it plans to hold two mid-band spectrum auctions—the 3.5 GHz auction on June 25, 2020, and an auction in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band in the latter part of next year.

Friday, December 6, 2019

House Heaps Criticism on Pai for Rural 5G Plans

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief House Commerce Committee members had pointed questions for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Thursday during an oversight hearing. Pai’s news Wednesday of the agency’s plans to create a $9 billion 5G rural fund generated a lot of questions about where that money would come from. Ranking member Greg Walden (R-OR) admonished the Chairman to give lawmakers, “a little more notice and communication” on future announcements.

Several lawmakers also questioned the agency’s decision not to prosecute carriers (such as Verizon, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular) for apparently giving false broadband coverage data to the FCC. Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA) said the Commission’s “bungled” process means rural residents will wait even longer to get broadband.

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) said: “Many people buy their phones based on those [coverage] maps. Why in the world would they not be held accountable?”

Pai replied, “The maps we had were simply inaccurate. That’s why we chose to close down the process.” Earlier this week, agency officials told reporters the staff felt the carriers didn’t deliberately provide bad 4G data. Continue Reading

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Pai to Create Rural $9B 5G Fund

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief FCC Chairman Ajit Pai intends to establish a 5G Fund for rural America. It would make up to $9 billion in Universal Service Fund support available to carriers to deploy advanced 5G mobile wireless services in rural areas. The money would be allocated through a reverse auction and target hard-to-serve areas with sparse populations and/or rugged terrain. At least $1 billion would be set aside specifically for precision agriculture deployments.

In order for rural areas to see the same benefits from 5G as urban areas, “the Universal Service Fund must be forward-looking and support the networks of tomorrow,” said Pai in announcing the fund Wednesday. Pai has seen that farms and ranches have unique wireless connectivity needs, which is why he intends to move forward as quickly as possible to establish the fund.

Agency staffers told reporters Wednesday the proposal would likely be ready in the New Year. Exactly where the money should be targeted is one of the questions the FCC will ask in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Continue Reading

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

“Broadband Identity Crisis” Hampers Telecom Hiring, Says FCC Advisory Group

The wireless industry needs to better promote itself and its job opportunities. That’s one of the conclusions so far from the Broadband Infrastructure Deployment Job Skills and Training Opportunities Working Group, a subset of the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Group. During a meeting on Tuesday at the FCC, working group Vice-Chair Rikin Thakker, said forecasts predict 120 million workers in the country will need to be re-skilled in the next 10 years. Thakker is vice president of telecommunications and spectrum for the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council. He also teaches several courses in the Master’s in Telecommunications program at the University of Maryland.

The group found in discussions with educators, government agencies, students and wireless and wireline employers, the telecom industry needs to overcome bad perceptions. A big one is the industry is considered by some to have, “unattractive compensation, salary and benefits for a tough job,” said Thakker. “There’s also a lack of awareness of opportunity in this field,” he said.

Demand is so great for skilled wireless infrastructure workers right now that some are willing to job hop for one dollar more an hour in pay, said Leticia Latino, CEO of Neptuno/SmartTecPort and chair of the working group. Continue Reading
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Huawei Reportedly Prepared to Sue FCC Over Ban

The FCC in November voted to prohibit carriers that receive Universal Service Fund money from purchasing network equipment from Huawei. Now, the Chinese telecom is reportedly ready to challenge the action in court, according to the Wall Street Journal.

WSJ sources said Huawei is preparing a lawsuit to challenge the decision and is prepared to file documents this week in federal appeals court. The company has also increased its lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., according to the account.

The Commission identified Huawei and ZTE as risks to this country’s national security. U.S. security agencies say the companies are obligated to use their gear to spy for the Chinese government, a charge they’ve repeatedly denied. The agency also asked for public input on establishing a fund to reimburse small carriers that now need to rip out and replace that equipment, Inside Towers reported.

Huawei said at the time, the agency’s action was based on “selective information, innuendo, and mistaken assumptions.” The company cautioned what it characterized as “unwarranted actions” would have “profound negative effects” on connectivity in the U.S., especially for rural areas.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Senate Panel to Tackle 5G Spectrum This Week

Representatives for CTIA, the Wireless Infrastructure Association, Cisco, and New America's Open Technology Institute will testify at a December 5 Senate Commerce telecom subcommittee hearing on the implementation of MOBILE NOW, the spectrum law that Chairman John Thune (R-SD) ushered through last Congress. The hearing will examine the implementation of several mandates required by the Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless Act (MOBILE NOW). 

Representing WIA will be President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein and testifying for CTIA will be Scott Bergmann, Senior Vice President, Regulatory Affairs. Sioux Falls, SD Mayor Paul TenHaken is also slated to speak.

The measure bundled several proposals aimed at speeding 5G deployment, including opening up more wireless spectrum for commercial use and accelerating government sign-off for infrastructure. The panel says witnesses are expected to discuss the law's mandates as well as its "spectrum provisions and the streamlining of broadband infrastructure on federal lands."