Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Huawei Tech Ban Extended

UPDATE The Department of Commerce Monday extended its Temporary General License, which gives carriers and consumers a limited time use of goods from Huawei and affiliate companies, to essentially wean them off of Huawei networking equipment. The license, which offers “narrow exceptions,” was set to expire 90 days from yesterday. This is the second 90-day extension for Huawei gear.

“As we continue to urge consumers to transition away from Huawei’s products, we recognize that more time is necessary to prevent any disruption,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “Simultaneously, we are constantly working to ensure that any exports to Huawei and its affiliates do not violate the terms of the Entity Listing or Temporary General License.” Continue Reading

Monday, August 19, 2019

Analyst Advises Caution on Heels of Strong Towerco Quarters

Having recently spoken to several private tower companies, RF engineering firms and other companies in the wireless services space, Jennifer Fritzsche, Senior Analyst, Wells Fargo Securities, had a “slow your roll” moment.

“On the heels of very strong macro activity in 2Q,” Fritzsche said, “there was some voices of caution which highlighted some things to watch for in late 2019/early 2020. While we favor the resiliency of tower business, with the peer group’s EBITDA and AFFO multiples appreciating 6.5 turns and 6.8 turns, respectively, we struggle with valuation for the group at these levels,” she said. Continue Reading

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Pai Calls for Approving T-Mo-Sprint Deal; Critics Want More Public Input

The FCC is on the path to formally approving the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. Chairman Ajit Pai had said he was inclined to okay the deal, and Wednesday he shared a draft order with his colleagues to approve it, subject to conditions. He asked them to vote in favor of the transaction as well.

Pai called the FCC’s review of the proposed $26B transaction “one of the most exhaustive merger reviews in Commission history.” The evidence, he said, shows the deal will bring 5G wireless service faster to more Americans, including rural areas. The draft order contains enforceable conditions, requiring coverage of at least 99 percent of Americans within six years.

Many critics have said the deal means less competition among wireless carriers, which will drive up consumer prices. In fact, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said after receiving the draft order approving, “the largest wireless merger in history,” she believes “we need more competition, not less. I am not convinced that removing a competitor will lead to a better outcome for consumers.” She called on the agency to open up the transaction to more public comment before the Commission votes on the transaction, noting: “too much here has been done behind closed doors.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Verizon Sues City of Rochester Over Small Cell Siting

Verizon sued the city of Rochester, NY, alleging the city’s Telecommunications Code violates FCC rules. At issue are fees for siting small cells, pole attachments and rights-of-way compensation, according to WHAM-TV. The company asserts Rochester’s fees for underground and aerial installations are unreasonable and “discriminatory.”

The case began after the carrier tried to upgrade its network for 5G. Verizon says it submitted plans to the city, including changes to comply with the code. However, the carrier asserts the code enacted by the city did not include Verizon’s suggestions, which the carrier alleges would make the code compliant with the FCC’s rule.

In April, Verizon says it learned “an unavoidable and actual controversy exists” with the city, according to the account. In July, the carrier alleges, Rochester told Verizon it needs to sign a master license agreement, complete permit applications and pay all fees that stacked up after the code became effective, reported WHAM. Continue Reading

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

FCC Okays $121M for Rural Broadband

The FCC on Monday authorized over $121 million in funding over the next decade to expand broadband in 16 states. Providers will begin receiving the money later this month. Separately, the agency approved similar funding for upstate New York (see story below.) 

The money is the fourth wave of support from last year’s Connect America Fund Phase II auction that allocated $1.488 billion in support to expand broadband to more than 700,000 unserved rural homes and small businesses. Monday’s action brings the total authorized funding to over $924 million. Additional rounds will be authorized in the coming months.

“This round of funding is yet another step toward closing the digital divide, providing access to digital opportunity to over 36,000 more unserved rural homes and businesses,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Providers must build out to 40 percent of the assigned homes and businesses in the areas they won in a state within three years. Buildout must increase by 20 percent in each subsequent year, until complete buildout is reached at the end of the sixth year. Continue Reading

Thursday, August 8, 2019

NAB Pans Coalition’s C-Band Proposal as “Out of Touch”

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) says a proposal to re-allocate more than 200 MHz of C-Band spectrum (3.7 to 4.2 GHz) put forth by America’s Communications Association, Charter Communications and the Competitive Carriers Association will delay freeing up spectrum for wireless use and “give oxygen to ill-conceived, self-interested schemes that are out of touch with reality.”

The coalition, which calls itself, ACA Connects, says its 5G Plus plan makes available more critical 5G spectrum (at least 370 MHz) faster than other current proposals and protects and “future-proofs the delivery of pay television programming by transitioning it to fiber delivery.” It also uses auction proceeds to pay for fiber deployment and use to make satellite incumbents whole, contributes billions of dollars to the U.S. Treasury, and increases broadband deployment by building fiber, including in rural areas.

An ACA lobbyist told an advisor to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai this week more material will be submitted to the agency detailing how the fiber network would be designed, established, launched, maintained, and paid for, particularly the part of the network that connects programmers to data centers. Continue Reading

Friday, August 2, 2019

FCC Proposes Launching $20B+ for Rural Broadband Amid Data Concerns

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief
Sparks didn’t fly among the FCC Commissioners Thursday as vigorously as they often do over an item to set the launch of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund in motion. Yet there was still room to disagree over how fast the agency is working to distribute funds to broadband providers.

Chairman Ajit Pai announced the fund this spring alongside President Donald Trump. It will direct up to $20.4 billion over ten years to help providers build out broadband in unserved rural areas. The money is repurposed from existing subsidy dollars.

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly lauded the effort, which he said, “takes necessary and appropriate steps to ensure unserved areas are prioritized.” He asked for extra financial incentives for providers to serve the hardest areas and is pleased those made it into the final Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Continue Reading