Friday, August 31, 2018

Three Years and Counting: Nashville Residents Still Waiting for Google Fiber

We wait. We are bored. No, don’t protest, we are bored to death, there’s no denying it.”   ― Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
UPDATE Residents across the city have been waiting for the highly anticipated Google Fiber internet service since Google announced its expansion to Nashville three and a half years ago. Parts of several neighborhoods plus 52 apartment buildings and single-family homes do have access but many residents still do not, reported the Tennessean.

“It’s still complicated,” Nashville Google Fiber Manager Martha Ivester said. “Building this fiber optic network throughout the whole city is a long process, and we never expected it wouldn’t be a long process. Obviously, we have had our challenges here.” Continue Reading

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Dish, Others Trash T-Mo-Sprint Merger

Satellite operators and rural broadband groups are some of the voices opposing the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. Most warn that going from four to three national wireless carriers means less competition and won’t help rural 5G broadband deployment. Fourteen petitions to deny the merger were filed by the FCC’s Monday’s deadline.

Dish Network is especially strident in opposing the transaction. Dish chairman and co-founder Charlie Ergen told attendees at WIA’s ConnectX, he intends to spend “at least $10 billion,” to build a national wireless network. In a more than 250-page filing, Dish tells the Commission if the deal is approved, it could hamper its ability to enter the 5G market. The company needs access to “radios, chipsets, devices, towers, crews, and backhaul. New T-Mobile will likely be spending billions of dollars on radios, chipsets and devices, making it possible for it to use its new-found market power to customize radio solutions that would be less than ideal for Dish.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Over $1.4 Billion Allocated in CAF II Auction

More than $1.4 billion was allocated to a total of 103 providers in the FCC’s Connect America Fund Phase II auction. The Commission released results of the auction yesterday. Bidding began July 24, and ended August 21.
Exactly $1.488 billion will be allocated over the next 10 years to expand rural broadband in areas not served now in 45 states. The FCC says that translates to 700,000 rural homes and businesses getting high-speed internet service for the first time.

More than half will have service available with download speeds of at least 100 mbps. Nineteen percent will have gigabit service available. And 711,389 locations—all but 0.25 percent—will have at least 25 Mbps service available, more than twice the 10 Mbps minimum standard for the Connect America Fund program. Winning bidders are required to build out fixed broadband over the next six years and voice services to locations in the census blocks for which they won support. Continue Reading

Monday, August 27, 2018

More Than 99% of Cell Sites Stood Up to Hurricane Lane

The storm that began as Hurricane Lane and ended as a tropical depression had minimal impact on communications in the Hawaiian Islands, according to reports that providers gave to the FCC. More than 99 percent of the cell towers on all eight islands remained operational as of yesterday, August 26, according to the FCC’s Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS). All five counties in the state are included: Hawaii, Honolulu, Kalawao, Kauai and Maui. Lane was downgraded to a tropical storm on Saturday and to a tropical depression on Sunday. DIRS for Lane was discontinued as of yesterday.

Overall, eight cell sites (0.6 percent) out of a total of 1,287 remained out in Hawaii as of yesterday afternoon — the same amount as Friday. In Honolulu County, four out of 748 cell sites were not working. Two cell sites were restored by Sunday in Maui County, with two out of 161 remaining out of operation. By Sunday, one cell site was restored in Hawaii County, where 264 remained operational, and two were not. Continue Reading

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Clock Continues on FCC T-Mo, Sprint Review

The FCC denied a petition from 11 associations asking the agency to stop or pause the clock on the Commission’s review of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger.

The associations — including the Rural Wireless Association, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association and the Communications Workers of America — said the carriers need to supply more information about their license holdings in each market and that the current information is hard to access. The associations also said a pause would give the public more time to assess the pending transaction, as the agency has several complicated proceedings pending.

T-Mobile wants the FCC’s merger review to proceed without delay. It asked the Commission to deny the request, saying the spectrum information provided is more than adequate. Continue Reading

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

FCC Chairman Gets a New Perspective on Towers

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai now has tower-climbing cred. He climbed all the way up a telecommunications tower near De Beque, Colorado yesterday, wearing the appropriate safety gear. The more than 130-foot self-support tower is owned by
SBA Communications. The site is off I-70, and on the travel route between Aspen and Grand Junction, according to the National Association of Tower Erectors, which helped organize the activity. Pai Tweeted the structure “felt like Everest.”
Continue Reading

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A Tower Owner Faces a Drug-Related Catastrophe and Bankruptcy

The tower industry has a problem that gets overlooked way too often, according to Kathy Gill, CEO of Tower Safety and Instruction.  Derek Case, a mid-tier tower owner of D&K Nationwide Communications located in Bristol, CT agrees and is a first-hand witness to its devastating impact: drug abuse. It has cost Case millions over the past year and has taken the life of one of his crew.
While Gill was providing safety training for D&K, she became familiar with the recent climbing fatality that impacted Case both financially and emotionally.

“I could sense his pain,” Gill said. “And it didn’t just affect him but his family, his employees, even his vendors.”

Gill said D&K followed all the rules and had a good reputation for work performance. They trained their employees on required industry standards, provided all the worker PPE and performed 12-panel drug testing she said.  The company was projected to do $5-to-$6 million that year, with a full plate of cell tower construction and maintenance work ahead of them. Case cites his crew member’s tragic death for lost business D&K ended up suffering.  Now he faces possible bankruptcy. He has downsized to six employees with the cuts affecting former workers who have been forced to move themselves and their families to find new jobs. Case paid for the funeral and family expenses for his fallen employee. Continue Reading

Friday, August 17, 2018

FAA Lighting Letter Leaves Contractors In the Dark

A recent letter from the FAA Office of Airport Safety and Standards has created an unsettling atmosphere in the tower lighting community.  “This is a big deal,” one lighting executive told Inside Towers, wishing to remain off the record.  Industry execs are concerned about the ramifications of the FAA invalidating the certification of lighting systems with non-OEM components.

Inside Towers obtained a copy of the letter dated June 27, 2018 that came from the FAA’s Khalil Kodsi, P.E., PMP, Manager, Airport Engineering Division. 

“Only entire systems and devices with production parts are certified under the current FAA certification program and Advisory Circular (AC) 150/535-53C. The certification is invalidated for a product modified with non-OEM replacement parts or non-production components.”

“The purpose of this letter is to rescind the previous letter dated Nov. 22, 2005. The Nov. 22, 2005 letter established an interim procedure to certify entire devices with non-Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) components installed. The decision to rescind this industry letter is due to the myriad of logistical issues as well as the follow-up quality assurance provisions related to the certification of equipment with non-OEM replacement parts installed.”  Continue Reading

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Court Counters Tribes’ Pleas for Tighter Control

UPDATE A federal appeals court yesterday denied a motion to stay an FCC order to ease wireless infrastructure siting by exempting most small cells on non-Tribal lands from environmental and historic review.  

The Seminole Tribe of Florida most recently asked the D.C. Circuit for a stay, pending the court’s review of the Tribe’s Petition for Review. The Seminoles joined with 15 other tribes, plus the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the United States in fighting the FCC, saying the agency did not properly consult with Tribes before adopting the order in March and its decision violated federal law. The Seminoles said in their July 18 motion the decision: “effectively eliminates the Tribe’s ability to collect fees for its review of macro cell towers and gives industry applicants the discretion to contract important review and mitigation work to non-tribal entities unqualified to protect the Tribe’s historic and cultural properties.”

The order was due to go into effect July 2. Sprint and CTIA recently joined the FCC in the case, Inside Towers reported last week. The Commission consistently said it consulted with the Tribes before making the change and did not violate federal law. Continue Reading

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

New OTMR Rules Still Come Up Short for Tower Industry

The FCC confined its new One-Touch, Make-Ready rules to simple pole attachment work. Utilities and attachers told the Commission this will apply to most of the upcoming pole work. The agency also updated its other pole attachment rules in the Report and Order. (See more about what the new OTMR rules entail further down.)  

Like the BDAC, it defines complex make-ready as: “transfers and work within the communications space that would be reasonably likely to cause a service outage(s) or facility damage, including work such as splicing of any communication attachment or relocation of existing wireless attachments.” Complex work is not part of OTMR “at this time,” says the agency in the order.   Continue Reading

Monday, August 13, 2018

Some Small Contractors Turn to Utilities for Faster Payment

UPDATE As we hear from more readers experiencing late payment terms affecting smaller contractors asked to do tower and network work, a new theme is emerging — diversification. As a way to buffer their cash flow against late payment from some in the telecom industry, certain readers tells us they’re taking work from other types of industries to keep their businesses afloat.

One contractor in the southeast told Inside Towers in an interview: “For three years, I have experienced the dreaded year-end non-payment issue with the same carrier. We have to make contingency plans with our financial institution, assuming we may not receive any payments during the latter half of the fourth quarter. It all gets paid in mid-January.”

He has begun taking different types of work because, “Somebody dragging out $300,000 over 90 to 120 days can be death. You lose vendors and employees” that way, he said. Continue Reading

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

FirstNet Unveils Emergency Drop Kit to “Hotshot Crews”

APCO Interview

AT&T has been deploying Band 14 public safety spectrum as part of its FirstNet build. Band 14 has been added to more than 2,500 tower sites, with an additional 10,000 sites to be added by year-end, Ryan Fields-Spack Director, Public Safety Strategies, FirstNet tells Inside Towers from the show floor of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials show in Las Vegas.
One of the items on display as a proof of concept is an Emergency Drop Kit, a collaboration of FirstNet, AT&T and Sonim. The kit is designed to be carried by first responders into disaster areas that trucks can’t immediately drive into, like where a “hotshot crew” is fighting wildfires, says Fields-Spack. Incident commanders will be able to drop in the kits for rapid connectivity to FirstNet. FirstNet is in booth 836 at this week’s APCO 2018 Conference & Expo, which runs through today.
Continue Reading

Friday, August 3, 2018

FCC Makes One-Touch Make-Ready a Reality

FCC Commissioners Michael O’Rielly, Brendan Carr and Jessica Rosenworcel

The FCC passed a one-touch make-ready (OTMR) policy for utility pole attachments yesterday, saying the update will speed the safe and affordable deployment of broadband wireless infrastructure. The change will allow one attacher, usually the last, to perform all the work for the new attachment; it provides for a remedy if an original attacher is unhappy with the outcome.

Pole overlashing of existing wires is allowed, without first seeking the utility’s approval, so all pole space can be efficiently used. It ensures telecoms pay rates comparable to cable and other industries for pole use. The Report and Order makes clear the FCC will preempt, on a case-by-case basis, existing local laws, to allow providers access to poles for restoration work after a disaster.  

A declaratory ruling emphasizes the Telecommunications Act bans state and local moratoria that prevents wireless infrastructure deployment. Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said during the vote that while many localities “get kudos” for making the broadband deployment process more efficient, some state and local governments delay projects and use pole attachment rates as “shakedown bounties.” He said: “State and local governments have been on notice for decades. Congress wants them to stop making decisions based on aesthetics.”

(For industry reaction, see story below: “Industry Applauds FCC ‘Keeping Foot on The Gas’ for OTMR”)  Continue Reading

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Contractor Fears Going Under Due to Late Payment Issue

UPDATE Inside Towers received an anonymous letter in response to our recent story (“The Check is Not in the Mail”) concerning allegations that larger companies have extended payments to tower contractors to the breaking point, offering as much as 120-day “take it or leave it” terms. Smaller contractors assert they’re being used as a bank and those terms can be crippling.

The writer said he is a Verizon contractor and afraid to reveal his name for fear of losing future work. “Many of us small contractors are about to close our doors due to the intimidation and practices on payments from these major carriers,” he writes. The individual alleged Verizon is asking contractors to build this year, but not invoice them, nor whatever company hired them for the carrier work, until 2019. He also asserted through its “Minor Materials Program,” the carrier is now expecting contractors to source, pay for, insure and warehouse materials that it used to provide.

A Verizon spokesman said he couldn’t comment on the details specifically. Verizon Director of Corporate Communications Bob Varettoni told Inside Towers in an interview that in general, the company’s long-standing payment term is 90 days and 30 days for construction projects. However, he said: “Verizon is committed to doing the right thing and following sound business practices in dealing with our suppliers.” To illustrate his point, Varettoni offered to help the anonymous letter writer. Continue Reading

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

USDA Seeks Input on Rural Broadband Funding Pilot

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is asking for suggestions about how to implement the e-Connectivity Pilot Program, which would involve public-private partnerships to deploy broadband in rural areas. The framework outlined by Congress allows $600 million in new federal funds to be deployed in rural areas with a population of 20,000 or less. Entities eligible for funding include incumbent and competitive rural telephone and broadband service providers, rural electric cooperatives, private firms (but not sole proprietors or partnerships), nonprofits and governmental bodies.

Rural areas that don’t have internet service speeds of at least 10 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload available to their households will be eligible to apply for the money. The USDA seeks input on the best options to verify broadband speeds and potential project benefits for rural industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, e-commerce, transportation, health care and education, using readily available public data. The USDA is specifically interested in how to make the most effective use of these new funds through utility partnerships. Continue Reading