Friday, April 3, 2020

Dems Want Broadband in Next Virus Stimulus Bill

Days after passage of a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package, Key House Democrats are planning efforts for the next round of emergency aid, including major investments in infrastructure.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), joined by several key committee chairs, said this week the Democrats' fourth phase of coronavirus stimulus would be largely focused on helping the front-line medical workers, homebound parents and patients afflicted by the deadly virus. Democrats are also eyeing new funding for broadband, water, schools and other infrastructure systems that have proven insufficient, they said, in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

"There are infrastructure needs that our country has that directly relate to how we are proceeding with the coronavirus," Pelosi said on a call with reporters, reported The Hill. "And we would like to see in what comes next, something that has always been nonpartisan, bipartisan, and that is an infrastructure piece that takes us into the future." Continue Reading

Thursday, April 2, 2020

New T-Mobile Brims With Optimism as Legere Steps Down as CEO

The telecom world and cellular consumers finally got closure yesterday as the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint became official. The newly formed company, New T-Mobile, said the deal will drive an investment of $40 billion into its network over the next three years and unleash at least $43 billion in value for shareholders. The company said there were no immediate plans for the Sprint brand while Sprint’s investor relations web page directed all inquiries to T-Mobile’s page. It was also announced that Mike Sievert will replace John Legere as CEO, effective immediately.

“It’s a relief to end the uncertainty and move on with business. Everyone is excited to seize this opportunity to build up our nation’s wireless networks,” said WIA President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein. “It’s more important now than ever to ensure that our nation’s next-generation wireless networks are deployed quickly to serve communities, providing means for telehealth and distance learning, and restoring economic growth and jobs for America.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Forget the Date, Long-Awaited Sprint/T-Mo Merger Expected Today

At deadline yesterday, Inside Towers was seeing multiple reports on the multi-year saga also known as the Sprint/T-Mobile merger coming to a conclusion sometime today.  According to unnamed informants at Bloomberg, a group of 16 banks were formally notified Monday that they will need to make the funds available today, to complete the deal. The banks are to provide $23 billion of loans to T-Mobile US Inc. The COVID-19 outbreak, according to Bloomberg, disrupted plans to sell the debt to third-party investors.

New Street Research reported yesterday the companies are withdrawing their wireline transfer of control application which is seen as a precursor to finalizing things today, rather than waiting for a California PUC vote on April 16. The merger, should it happen, comes less than two months after a U.S. District Court approved the deal and, in the process, silenced 14 state attorneys general who opposed the transaction.

Monday, March 30, 2020

FCC Grants WISPs Access to 5.9 GHz to Give Rural Networks Crisis Support

The FCC granted dozens of rural, fixed wireless broadband providers access to the 5.9 GHz band Friday to support telework, remote learning and telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Special Temporary Authority (STA) will enable 33 companies to use the lower 45 megahertz of spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band for 60 days.

The wireless internet service providers (WISPs) serve 330 counties in 29 states. The states involved include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. 

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), helped the companies apply for the STAs. WISPA told the FCC the companies rely primarily on unlicensed spectrum for last-mile connections to end users, including the 5 GHz UNII bands. “Many of the WISPs’ customers have no other alternative to terrestrial broadband services,” WISPA told the agency. Continue Reading

Friday, March 27, 2020

Money For Telehealth, Not School Kids

The economic stimulus package passed by the Senate earlier this week is expected to pass the House today. While it provides a $200 million boost for FCC telehealth programs and funding for USDA broadband efforts, it left out money to keep students and others connected during the pandemic, reports Politico.

"I cannot understand how the U.S. Senate can approve a $2 trillion emergency package and not find even $1 billion to ensure that every school child in America can connect to the internet on a functioning device at a time when virtually all students in the country are required to learn from home for their own safety," said Common Sense founder Jim Steyer. He supported at least $2 billion going to support the FCC's E-Rate program. "This decision will leave kids behind and unfairly impact those most in need." Continue Reading

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Virus Impacts CBRS Auction Timing

The FCC is delaying its auction of wireless licenses in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) for 5G because of the coronavirus. The agency is also postponing, indefinitely, an auction of FM construction permits. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, these changes were deemed necessary in order to protect the health and safety of Commission staff and to allow parties additional time to prepare to participate in Auctions 105 and 106, the Commission said Wednesday. 

Auction 105 involves Priority Access Licenses in the 3550-3650 MHz band. The short-form application (FCC Form 175) filing window will now open on April 23, at 12 p.m. ET and close on May 7, at 6 p.m. ET. Upfront payments will be due June 19. Bidding will begin on July 23, nearly a month after the original June 25 start date. Continue Reading

Monday, March 23, 2020

NATE Asks Homeland Security for Special Status During Crisis

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief One way the tower construction industry is helping those telecom workers who can still perform their duties during the coronavirus pandemic is easing access to tower and other communications facility sites. The National Association of Tower Erectors says its members are essential service providers and work on critical communications.

NATE asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to send its members letters clarifying this special status. The intent of the letters is to aid engineers and technicians getting to infrastructure (example: towers, generators) to keep the communications infrastructure operational during a crisis, NATE Executive Director Todd Schlekeway told Inside Towers. Many of the association’s telecom and broadcast contractor member companies have received the letters, he confirmed. Continue Reading