Friday, May 29, 2020

OSHA Cites Tower Company After 2019 Fatal Fall at Worksite in Mississippi

OSHA has cited Calico Rock, Arkansas-based Pegasus Tower Co. (not affiliated with Tazewell, VA-based Apex Towers, formed by merging another Pegasus Tower Company six years ago) for exposing employees to falls after a 2019 fatality at a Starkville, MS, worksite. The tower building company faces $140,720 in penalties.

In November of 2019, 43-year-old John Wayne Womack of Mountain View, Arkansas, died as the result of a fall from a communications tower while attempting to connect two sections during the construction. OSHA cited the company for failing to ensure employees used fall protection, and designating, identifying and training employees to provide rescue in the event of an emergency.

The OSHA citing read:

Type of Violation: Serious OSH ACT of 1970 Section (5)(a)(1):

“The employer did not furnish employment and a place of employment which were free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees in that employees were exposed to a suspension trauma: (a) Jobsite - On or about November 16, 2019 the employer failed to designate, identify, and train employees responsible for providing rescue in the event an employee falls and is left suspended, exposing the employee to suspension trauma. Among other methods, a feasible and acceptable means of abatement would be to develop and implement a site-specific rescue plan.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

FCC Plans June Vote on WIA, CTIA Tower Site Requests

UPDATE Expect action on the WIA and CTIA cell tower site petitions at the FCC’s June 9 meeting. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a Connect (X): All Access interview with WIA President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein Tuesday the Commission wants to fix “uncertainty” in section 6409(a) of the Spectrum Act in order to speed up the review process state and local governments use to allow wireless infrastructure siting.

“Now it’s up to the FCC to breathe more life into that petition,” said the Chairman, speaking specifically about the WIA request. Siting wireless infrastructure “could be a bottleneck if we don’t reform our rules,” he explained, noting that industry needs “a more consistent, more certain set of rules.”
Also during Connect (X) on Tuesday, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr further explained: “These actions are meant to separate difficult project approvals from the easier ones. One of the keys with this 5G Upgrade Order is that we're addressing existing tower sites. It is about ensuring that swapping out or upgrading existing antennas (say 3G or 4G ones) to 5G antennas can be done quickly as Congress envisioned.” (See story below for details of the order and reaction.) Continue Reading

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Memphis Tower Fire Under Investigation

Memphis police and the fire department have determined that a fire set Monday night at a cell tower near the University of Memphis on Southern Avenue was set deliberately, according to WMC-TV. Authorities have still not determined the arsonist’s motives but have urged anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 528-CASH or the state arson hotline at 1-800-762-3017. Tipsters could qualify for a cash reward.

The fire department said the blaze caused $100,000 in damage but service to cellular customers did not seem to be affected. No one was reported hurt. Continue Reading

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Melody Investment Buys Over 500 Towers for $220M From Uniti

Melody Investment Advisors, an asset manager focused on communications infrastructure, yesterday announced the acquisition of 90 percent of Uniti Towers, the wireless tower business of real estate investment trust Uniti Group Inc. (NASDAQ: UNIT). The purchase totals approximately $220 million in cash and includes over 500 towers based in the U.S. Melody Investment Advisors will fund the purchase from Melody Communications Infrastructure Fund II.

Through an investment in an affiliate of Melody, Uniti will retain a 10 percent investment interest in the tower business and will receive an incremental earnout from Melody for each additional pipeline tower completed in 2020. In addition, as part of the transaction, Melody and Uniti will enter into a strategic relationship to collaborate on integrated solutions for wireless carriers requiring towers, fiber and small cell infrastructure. The transaction is subject to various closing conditions and is expected to close by the end of second quarter 2020. Continue Reading

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Bi-partisan Effort Underway for Funding RAN Networks

More than 35 House lawmakers are pushing chamber leadership to fund the development and deployment of wireless 5G radio access networks (RANs) as part of upcoming coronavirus relief legislation. That’s according to Spectrum Caucus heads Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Brett Guthrie (R-KY), along with Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA).

RANs are virtual alternatives to physical 5G equipment. The technology could make the U.S. more competitive against Chinese telecom giant Huawei, these lawmakers say.

House Energy and Commerce staffers previously hinted at the next coronavirus bill that would allocate $1 billion for RAN research and development, notes Politico. The letter marks the biggest and most explicit ask to secure money along these lines. The White House and FCC discussed the merits of the technology earlier this year.

This month, an industry coalition was formed to promote it, with members ranging from AT&T to Facebook, reported Inside Towers. The Open RAN Coalition is speaking to at least one FCC Commissioner about its goals. “I salute its commitment to no mandates & vendor neutrality!” tweeted FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly after speaking with coalition leaders.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

New RAN Group Forms to Open Wireless Infrastructure Supply Chain

More than 30 tech companies yesterday announced the formation of the Open RAN Policy Coalition, a group that will advocate for the development of interoperable components for cell towers.

Members are working to change the way cell tower radio access networks (RANs) work, so that multiple vendors’ open tower radios, hardware, and software can be used interchangeably, rather than requiring proprietary products from one vendor. The group will work to influence governments worldwide.

However, members believe the U.S. government, “has an important role to play in facilitating and fostering an open, diverse and secure supply chain for advanced wireless technologies, including 5G, such as by funding research and development, and testing open and interoperable networks and solutions, and incentivizing supply chain diversity.” Members say such a process could help new companies enter the RAN market by lowering existing barriers to entry.

The security of the American telecom supply chain was an issue before the COVID-19 pandemic affected industries and economies. U.S. Administration security agencies allege that Chinese manufacturers Huawei and ZTE cooperate with the Chinese government to use their telecommunications gear and software to spy on the U.S. government and citizens. The two companies deny the allegations. Continue Reading

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Broadcasters Urge FCC to Factor in Pandemic Costs for C-Band Move

Broadcasters and cablecos want the FCC to take the COVID-19 pandemic into consideration as the agency develops a cost catalog to reimburse them for moving from the lower to the upper portion of the C-band. The FCC intends to auction the spectrum their satellite and earth station operators occupy now for future wireless use.

Earlier this year, the Commission adopted rules to make 280 MHz of mid-band spectrum available for flexible use, plus a 20 MHz guard band. New 3.7 GHz Service licensees will reimburse what the FCC calls “reasonable” relocation costs of incumbent licensees. Public comments are due to the Commission by May 12 [to docket 18-122] on the draft reimbursement cost catalog.

Representatives of Charter, Cox, Comcast, NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS, The Walt Disney Company and ESPN, as well as the NAB and NCTA – The Internet and Television Association, recently discussed specifics with representatives of the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, the Office of Economics and Analytics and the International Bureau. Licensees highlighted the importance of quickly establishing a lump sum payment amount, according to a filing. They urged the FCC to consider costs for professional services; hardware and software; and potential cost impacts from supply chain disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Continue Reading

Friday, May 1, 2020

House Dems Unveil Broader Affordable Broadband Package

Top House Democrats Thursday expanded their more than $80 billion plan to connect all Americans to affordable broadband. Top Dems, including Frank Pallone, Jr. of NJ, Chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee, and Congressman James Clyburn of SC, House Majority Whip and Chairman of the House Democratic Rural Broadband Task Force, said they welcome recent reports that Republicans support the inclusion of broadband investment in the next coronavirus response packages.

The House Democratic Plan to Connect All Americans to Affordable Broadband Internet invests $80 billion over five years to deploy secure and resilient broadband infrastructure to connect unserved and underserved rural, suburban, and urban areas. If passed, $5 billion over five years would be invested for low-interest financing of broadband deployment through a new program, so providers could apply for secured loans, lines of credit, or loan guarantees to finance broadband infrastructure build outs.

It also includes Dig Once, which promotes the installation of broadband conduit during the construction of any road receiving federal funding. The Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth would be established within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to streamline the application processes for broadband funding programs. Continue Reading