Friday, March 30, 2018

Geo-Targeting Capabilities Part of First Large Regional WEA Test

Source: COG & Fairfax County, VA
Emergency managers in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area are preparing to test the Wireless Emergency Alert System (WEA) next week. A total of 20 jurisdictions — in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia — will simultaneously issue a test message to the public through the WEA system on April 5. It’s the first live WEA test in such a large region and the first to use geo-targeting capabilities. The outcome of this test could lead to similar tests in other regions of the country.
A smaller, more limited WEA test was conducted in the District on Inauguration Day, on the National Mall. But this new test, initiated by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, is much larger, according to Sulayman Brown, who’s coordinating the months-long planning effort. Brown is the Assistant Coordinator of Operations and Outreach Division in the Office of Emergency Management of Fairfax County, VA. He told Inside Towers, “We have a significant population in the National Capital region and we have a large amount of visitors. We thought this would be a good opportunity to test the system,” and learn from that. Officials hope to validate the effectiveness of WEA in notifying the public in the event of an emergency and also raise the public’s awareness of WEA.  

Indeed, officials believe more than five million people in the region could potentially receive the test message, including residents and visitors. Some people who may be traveling between jurisdictions during the test may receive multiple messages on their cell phone or other mobile device. Continue Reading

Thursday, March 29, 2018

OSHA Levies Maximum Fines in Miami Tower Fatalities: $12,934

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ruled that Tower King II of Cedar Hill, Texas was at fault in the equipment collapse that caused the death of three men while working on a Miami Gardens TV tower on September 27, 2017, according to the Miami Herald.

The fine, totaling $12,934, is the maximum allowed by law: $4,311.33 per life lost. The crew consisted of Brachton Barber, 23 of Longwood, FL; Benito Rodriguez, 35, of Tampa; and Marcus Goffena, 31, of Sidney, OH.  They were in the process of replacing an antenna for WSVN-TV (Channel 7) when the gin pole collapsed, the ‘cause of death’ as determined by OSHA.

A U.S. Department of Labor news release stated that the Texas-based tower contractor, “failed to ensure the capacity of the rigging attachments were adequate to support the forces imposed from hoisting loads.”

OSHA office director Condell Eastmond told WPLG-TV, “This tragedy underscores the importance of having a qualified individual conduct an analysis before performing construction work on communication towers.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

AT&T Launches Evolved FirstNet Packet Core Network

AT&T unveiled the core network for FirstNet yesterday. The timing coincides with the one-year anniversary of being awarded the contract from Congress for the public-private partnership to build and maintain the nationwide mobile broadband first responder network. “We’re proud of the quick progress we’ve made in this short timeframe, consistently delivering on or ahead of schedule,” said AT&T SVP FirstNet Chris Sambar in the announcement.

The carrier has already given first responders early access to the FirstNet capabilities, Inside Towers reported. The launch of what AT&T is calling its evolved packet core is built on separate network hardware than the carrier’s other business and consumer network. The core, only available to FirstNet subscribers, processes and carries vital data for the public safety network. It was built to the standard provided by the First Responder Network Authority. AT&T says it put “hundreds of millions of dollars” into building the core network since early last year. 

To keep all data traffic on the core network separate and secure, it will be monitored 24/7/365 by network security experts working in a dedicated Security Operations Center. “Their sole focus is to watch over the security of the network, analyzing all traffic that crosses the network core to identify and help mitigate possible threats,” says AT&T. A custom portal enables the First Responder Network Authority to check in on the network. Continue Reading

Monday, March 26, 2018

Omnibus Includes New Broadband Deployment Funds

The Senate early Friday morning passed and sent to the president, a $1.3 trillion omnibus appropriations bill, H.R. 1625, to keep the government funded through September 30. The measure contains $600 million in federal funding for rural broadband deployment. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law Friday afternoon, averting another government shutdown.

The money is to be distributed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS). “Small telcos have a proven track record in overcoming challenges in rural areas to provide robust, sustainable broadband, and their many efforts in conjunction with long-standing, highly-effective U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) backing are the embodiment of precisely the kinds of public-private partnerships that our nation should be leveraging to tackle such challenges in the future,” said NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield. The new effort will be coordinated with existing broadband-focused initiatives within RUS and at the FCC. Continue Reading

Friday, March 23, 2018

FCC Says “Nope” to NEPA and “See Ya” to SHPO

The FCC vote yesterday to exempt most small cell infrastructure siting from National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review was contentious. The vote was 3-2 and security removed two protesters from the Commission meeting room during the discussion.

The changes are for small cells not located on Tribal lands. They clarify and improve the process for Tribal participation in the historic preservation process for large wireless facilities where NHPA and NEPA review is still required. The order removes the requirement that applicants file Environmental Assessments solely due to the location of a proposed facility in a floodplain, as long as certain conditions are met. It establishes a timeframe for the FCC to act on environmental assessments.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, and Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr said the changes will save the wireless industry time and money and help the U.S. lead in 5G. O’Rielly said they would eliminate “unnecessary delays and outrageous” siting fees. Some Tribes are using tower and antenna siting “as a cash cow” while others receive payments, but then don’t respond to the providers that are submitting applications, he said. Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

FCC’s O’Rielly Calls Out States for Diverting 911 Funds

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has no patience with states that divert their 911 fees for other uses. He slammed the practice Tuesday during a speech before the Rhode Island E911 Summit in Providence. His colleagues Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Chairman Ajit Pai have criticized the practice as well.

O’Rielly called it “appalling” that some states use the fees consumers pay on their phone bills that are supposed to be for 911, for “tangential or unrelated” purposes. He asked what conditions in Rhode Island make fee diversion a viable option for policymakers. “With a state budget of $9.3 billion, why is it necessary to divert a rather small amount – between $8 to $10 million – dedicated for public safety call centers and the 911 system to other spending priorities?”  Continue Reading

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Maryland’s Cities vs. States Battle a Microcosm For U.S.

Lobbying efforts by wireless companies to ease regulations on the installation of 5G equipment is causing friction between local and state leaders. According to The Washington Post, wireless carriers expect to install 300,000 small cell sites across the country, and so far this year, 18 states have proposed zoning law preemptions; since 2016, 13 states have adopted such legislation. Though wireless industry leaders have explained that the demand for better internet service necessitates removing barriers to cell sites’ installation, some local leaders, like Montgomery County Council President Hans Riemer, see the state proposals as “a giveaway to the industry.” Riemer told The Washington Post, “We want to see the future of wireless infrastructure happen, but we want a say in how that happens.”

Many residents also feel pulled in two directions, hungry for faster downloads and streaming, but hesitant about the potential impacts of small cell sites. North Potomac, MD resident Andy Spivak explained this dilemma to The Washington Post, “There’s no way we’re going to stop this technology from being deployed — it’s just the way of the world. But can they try to make them aesthetically pleasing or hide them so I don’t have to drive around my neighborhood and see ugly cell towers?” CTIA advised that health experts have found “no known health risk” from cell equipment, but health concerns are frequently at the forefront of residents’ minds when considering 5G small cell deployment.  Continue Reading

Monday, March 19, 2018

Munis Say They’re Not to Blame for Slow Small Cell Deployment

Wilton Manors, FL Mayor Gary Resnick testifies before Congress last week.

It’s not our fault if carriers can’t deploy next-generation wireless infrastructure, the mayors of 36 cities and municipal government leaders are telling the FCC.

They feel some Commissioners are casting local governments “as scapegoats” and as a barrier to small cell deployment and the use of public rights-of-way, they said in a letter to all five Commissioners. The letter from Next Century Cities comes just days before the agency is set to vote on easing some regulations for infrastructure siting.

They say the FCC should be focused on “encouraging” investment in better networks rather than on limiting local authority. The local officials also push back against allegations that city governments are slowing wireline and wireless investment and refute the claims by some carriers, that local governments charge excessive siting or pole attachment fees. Continue Reading

Friday, March 16, 2018

FCC Gets a Look at What They’re Voting On

T-Mobile and Crown Castle representatives showed FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr a thing or two yesterday as they toured selected small cell sites in Baltimore. Touring sites offering small cell solutions, such as the street pole lights Carr was introduced to, has been part of an information gathering effort on the agency’s part prior to voting on streamlining measures next week.
Carr was told although the basic pole, cabinet, metering, antennas and light infrastructure can cost around $30,000, that cost can triple when additional asphalt patching, street shutdowns, sidewalk repair, landscaping and auxiliary building requirements are added to the mix. 

A recent Inside Towers article quoted Carr saying the “small cell deployment process is broken” with plans to eliminate or greatly reduce historic and environmental reviews of the pocket sites. Continue Reading

Thursday, March 15, 2018

CCA Wants FCC to Stay AT&T/FiberTower License Transfer

UPDATE The Competitive Carriers Association opposes the transfer of millimeter-wave (“mmW”) spectrum licenses from FiberTower to AT&T Mobility Spectrum LLC. CCA asked the full Commission to stay the decision.
CCA says the agency approved the transaction based on incomplete and flawed public interest analysis, and challenged the Commission to put a hold on its consent order while it reviews the decision of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. “Millimeter wave spectrum offers tremendous opportunities for carriers as they move toward deploying next generation technologies,” said CCA President/CEO Steve Berry. “Rather than giving AT&T a head start advantage with FiberTower’s valuable mmW licenses, while providing FiberTower an incredible windfall for spectrum that has lied fallow for years, the Commission should make the terminated licenses available to any qualified applicant through auction.” 

A day after the bureau okayed the license transfer last month, AT&T closed on its $207 million acquisition of Fiber Tower, giving it 478 licenses of millimeter wave spectrum it intends to use to roll out 5G services later this year. Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Telecom Reps Tell Congress How to Fix FCC’s Broadband Maps

CCA’s Steve Berry (left) and CTIA’s Brad Gillen, holding a small cell, 
testify before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday.

Wireless industry representatives told lawmakers Tuesday better maps are needed to determine where broadband connectivity exists and where it doesn’t, especially now that Congress is considering effective ways to close the digital divide as part of the President’s infrastructure plan.

The Chairman of the Senate Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), said the current FCC maps showing broadband connectivity are “utterly worthless.” He asked why the data is “so wrong.” Continue Reading

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Streamlining or Steamrolling? NY Governor Proposes Rules for Small Cells

Last year, when Verizon Wireless submitted 12 small cell applications for a neighborhood near the University of Buffalo, Amherst enacted a moratorium on the construction of new towers and gathered a committee to analyze and revise local zoning regulations. Now those municipality-level regulations may be usurped by state-wide protocol, as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has introduced a budget proposal to adopt a uniform, statewide permitting and review process for the installation of small cell nodes, according to a report from The Buffalo News. 

Local governments and interest groups like the Association of Towns and the New York Conference of Mayors are pushing back, citing state overreach in decisions traditionally made at the local level.  
Verizon supports the governor’s proposal, which the company believes will “promote private investment in state-of-the-art telecommunications networks at no cost to taxpayers,” according to David Lamendola, Verizon’s director of state government affairs for New York. New York would join 13 other states who have already introduced similar proposals to streamline the installation of small cell technology, Lamendola told The Buffalo News. In addition to helping Verizon meet customer demand, Lamendola explained that the proposal may also bring new jobs to the state.  Continue Reading

Friday, March 9, 2018

Reject Our Tower? See You in Court, Verizon Says

Following the rejection of its special-use and wetlands permits for the construction of a new tower to bridge a critical coverage gap, Verizon Wireless has filed suit against the city of Philipstown, NY in U.S. District Court in White Plains, requesting that the court grant the denied permits and authorize work to begin on the new tower, as reported by

In Verizon Wireless et al v. Town of Philipstown, et al, the carrier alleges that neither the conservation board nor the zoning board provided sufficient evidence to warrant the denial of the permits, in breach of the federal Telecommunications Act. The suit, which names the zoning board of appeals, the town and conservation boards, and the town’s building inspector and natural resources review officer, alleges that the town engaged in discriminatory practices, levied excessive fees, unreasonably delayed the project, and violated federal and state laws, according to a report from

The conflict began in May of 2017, when Verizon applied for permits for a new 180-foot pole at 50 Vineyard Road to replace a 120-foot tower nearby; its signal is occluded by the local topography, according to As noted in Verizon’s complaint, Philipstown’s consulting engineer confirmed that the existing tower could not solve the signal gap, even if the tower were elevated to 210 feet. Verizon contends in the suit, that the proposed project met all requirements, but that town officials “were intent on catering to a small but vocal group of politically influential objectors” and unreasonably delayed mandated public hearings and attempted to impose new fees. Continue Reading

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

NTIA, Lawmakers, Discuss Spectrum Clearing, Sharing Incentives

A “good half” of the employees at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) spend all day on spectrum issues, according to new administrator David Redl. NTIA oversees government spectrum use. Their time is spent working on finding ways government spectrum can be used more efficiently — to find spectrum that can be shared among federal agencies and commercial licensees or given up for commercial use. That’s a prime administration goal as the wireless industry works to deploy 5G.

In his hearing debut, Redl explained to members of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, the context of NTIA’s announcement last week, that it has identified 100 MHz of spectrum (3450 to 3550 MHz) for potential wireless broadband use. It seeks incentives to government agencies to persuade them to clear spectrum.

The subcommittee is part of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees NTIA and the FCC. Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), asked Redl why in its FY2019 budget request, NTIA asked for authority to negotiate leases for private spectrum. Redl, who worked for the committee for seven years before being named NTIA Administrator, called leases a tool. “We know clearing is the gold standard. But there are some bands where clearing won’t be an option,” because the cost to move incumbents off the band exceeds the potential revenue of licensing it for a new use. Continue Reading

Monday, March 5, 2018

Congress Reaches Deal to Allow FCC to Auction More Spectrum for 5G

House Commerce Committee lawmakers in both the U.S. House and Senate reached an agreement on a measure to reauthorize the FCC that also provides a way for the agency to hold more wireless spectrum auctions. The bill (H.R. 4986) also spurs deployment of next-generation wireless services and enables more station categories to be reimbursed for moves, as a result of the TV spectrum channel repack.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD), and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL) announced on Friday that the full House will vote on the bill tomorrow. “This legislation, combining provisions that have previously passed both the House and Senate, does what no legislation has done in 28 years – it reauthorizes the FCC and includes provisions that help make sure that the Commission is transparent, efficient, and ready for the 21st century communications landscape,” stated Walden, Pallone, Thune and Nelson. They pledged to work together to ensure the bill is signed into law.

The RAY BAUM’s Act is named for former House Energy and Commerce Committee Staff Director Ray Baum, who passed away from cancer last month. The legislation to be considered Tuesday would: Continue Reading

Friday, March 2, 2018

GOP Calls WH Infrastructure Plan ‘Common-Sense’ While Dems Pan The Math

The administration’s plan to direct $200 billion in federal dollars to infrastructure projects includes broadband as a priority, but earmarks no money specifically toward expanding wireless or fixed broadband access. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, spent time discussing the administration’s reasoning during a sometimes contentious hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Thursday.

In a factsheet released by the White House last Friday, the administration states that $50 billion is dedicated to rural infrastructure and accounts for 25 percent of federal spending in the plan.These funds will be awarded directly to the states, giving them the flexibility they need to address their individual rural infrastructure needs,” says the White House. States can spend as much as 100 percent of the funding they receive on improving rural broadband access.

Chao clarified that state governors will decide how to allocate the funds. She testified that the president’s Infrastructure Initiative “includes, but is not limited to, drinking and wastewater, energy, broadband and veterans’ hospitals as well. It is designed to change how infrastructure is designed, built, financed and maintained.” The goal is to stimulate at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investment from the private sector. Continue Reading

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Towers on the Moon Isn’t Pure Lunacy

In what can certainly be considered a “giant leap for mankind,” Vodafone Germany, Nokia, and Audi are preparing to install a 4G mobile phone network on the Moon, 50 years after NASA’s Apollo 11 astronauts first landed. The equipment will be delivered by a SpaceX Falcon 6 rocket sometime in 2019, and will allow high-definition streaming back to Earth, according to Fast Company.

Vodafone Germany Chief Executive Hannes Ametsreiter praised the collaboration of the companies working on the project in a press release from the company. “This project involves a radically innovative approach to the development of mobile network infrastructure. It is also a great example of an independent, multi-skilled team achieving an objective of immense significance through their courage, pioneering spirit and inventiveness,” Ametsreiter said.  Continue Reading