Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Utility Pole Attachment Fees Draw FCC Action

 The FCC determined that an electric utility in Maryland made Verizon pay unreasonable charges for attaching to their utility poles. The agency spelled out the maximum rate the utility company could charge the telecom.

Verizon Maryland filed a complaint with the Commission last fall, alleging the Potomac Edison Company was overcharging the telecom for utility pole access. Both companies have a Joint Use Agreement (JUA) that contains the rates, terms, and conditions for each party’s use of the other’s utility poles. Verizon complained the rates it was charged by Potomac Edison are “significantly higher” than the rates that Potomac Edison charges competitive local exchange carriers (LECs) and cable providers to attach to the same poles. Though the financial figures in the FCC’s decision were redacted, it shows Verizon pays more than its competitors.

Verizon contends that Potomac Edison used its “four-to-one pole ownership advantage” to charge Verizon rates that are more than the New Telecom Rate. It asked the agency to find the rates its being charged are “unjust and unreasonable,” require the utility to charge the telecom the New Telecom Rate prospectively and order Potomac Edison to give the telecom a refund of overages. Continue Reading

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Pai Plans to Leave FCC

 By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Monday said he plans to leave the FCC on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021. Stepping down when a new president is installed is an agency tradition. In a statement, he called being the first Asian-American to chair the agency “a particular privilege. As I often say: only in America.”

The Chairman listed accomplishments with his colleagues from his time at the helm of the Commission: “Together, we’ve delivered for the American people over the past four years: closing the digital divide; promoting innovation and competition, from 5G on the ground to broadband from space; protecting consumers; and advancing public safety. And this FCC has not shied away from making tough choices. As a result, our nation’s communications networks are now faster, stronger, and more widely deployed than ever before.” Continue Reading

Friday, November 20, 2020

Big 3 TowerCo 3Q20 Scorecard

 By many measures, the U.S. Big 3 tower companies – American Tower (NYSE: AMT), Crown Castle (NYSE: CCI) and SBA Communications (NASDAQ: SBAC) – are performing well after nine months into 2020 despite the pandemic. More importantly, with their carrier customers’ 5G deployments underway and a couple of major deal signings, the long-term prospects for these towercos look bright.   

AMT is a leading independent tower company worldwide. At the end of 3Q20, AMT had 179,391 towers between the U.S. and 19 other countries across Latin America, Africa, Europe, and India, its largest market with 73,499 towers. AMT ranks third overall behind Chinese state-owned China Tower that has 2,015,000 towers, and Indus Towers of India with 201,121 sites.

As the largest U.S. towerco, AMT has 40,602 towers in the U.S. or 23 percent of its total portfolio, that generates 56 percent of its overall site leasing or property revenues.

Through nine months, its U.S. property revenues were $3.3 billion, up 7 percent from $3.1 billion year-to-year. International property revenues grew 4 percent to $2.6 billion on 77 percent of the tower base. Continue Reading

Thursday, November 19, 2020

FCC Votes to Open Auto Safety Spectrum to WiFi, Despite DOT Concerns

 By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief In the second-to-last FCC meeting of the year, all five FCC Commissioners agreed to the plan to reallocate the 5.9 GHz auto safety band to enable WiFi use. That’s despite opposition from the Department of Transportation, which calls the planned changes dangerous. The new band plan designates the lower 45 megahertz (5.850-5.895 GHz) for unlicensed uses and the upper 30 megahertz (5.895-5.925 GHz) for enhanced automobile safety using Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) technology.
It’s because of that opposition that Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) wrote to Pai Tuesday and asked him to delay the vote. FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks called the continuing disagreement between federal agencies on spectrum issues “disappointing,” though he voted for the changes.

Chairman Ajit Pai kept the agenda smaller than usual and restricted votes to bipartisan issues. House Democratic leaders recently asked Pai and the heads of 49 other federal agencies to restrict their decisions to consensus items for the remainder of the current administration’s term, Inside Towers reported. Continue Reading

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

DISH Signs Long-Term, Undisclosed Agreement With Crown

 With yesterday’s joint announcement of a long-term lease agreement by DISH and Crown Castle (CCI), analysts are viewing it as a plus not just for the participants, but the tower industry in general. DISH will lease space on up to 20,000 towers from CCI nationwide and, in turn, receive fiber transport services with the option to utilize Crown Castle for pre-construction services. No specific financial terms were given but in September, T-Mobile signed a 15-year deal with American Tower for an estimated $17 billion. 

“We view this deal as positive for CCI and for the tower sector more broadly,” said Spencer Kurn at New Street Research. “CCI accounts for 30 percent of the US tower market, which could suggest that DISH intends to install equipment on 65,000 sites if DISH’s network build is evenly distributed across the tower companies. We suspect this announcement implies that DISH will prioritize CCI towers wherever they have a choice, which could mean that CCI captures a greater share of DISH’s cell sites,” Kurn said. “Still, it seems that DISH plans to build to more than the 50,000 that we had assumed for their initial phase, so all of the towers are likely better off than we initially expected.” Continue Reading

Monday, November 16, 2020

West Virginia Lawmakers Still Want Frontier to Deliver Broadband

 In April, Frontier Communications filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but the state of West Virginia has yet to approve Frontier’s plan, reported the Weirton Daily Times. Now, Democratic lawmakers are pressuring the West Virginia Public Service Commission to hold Frontier to their original agreement of expanding broadband in the state. 

The problem with this request is that the same West Virginia Legislature tied the commission's hands when it cames to regulating internet services in the state. In 2015, a law passed unanimously by the Legislature — Senate Bill 576 — prevents the commission from forcing Frontier to improve broadband services. 

In his letter to the Commission, Sen. Randy Swartzmiller wrote, “I want Frontier to be successful, I want to see them continue to provide good-paying jobs with benefits to their employees as well as provide the dependable services that their customers expect and deserve in the 21st century.” Continue Reading

Friday, November 13, 2020

Public Safety Groups Oppose CTIA’s Request for More Time on Vertical E911

 Seven public-safety organizations banded together to oppose CTIA’s request for more time for carriers to comply with timelines laid out in the FCC’s latest update for E911 location accuracy requirements. The update concerns vertical location data transmitted to first responders during emergency calls.
CTIA told the agency that COVID has upended the anticipated timelines. “Recently adopted and evolving government restrictions and building access limitations have delayed testing necessary to determine whether any technology can be validated for compliance with the sixth R&O’s requirements,” said CTIA in its Petition for Reconsideration. Continue Reading