Friday, August 30, 2019

Anyone Order a Category Four Hurricane for the Holiday Weekend?

At deadline, the latest forecast on Hurricane Dorian showed the storm will strengthen over the coming days and has the potential to become a Category 4 as it moves toward the southeastern United States, reported NBC. The National Hurricane Center forecast Thursday that Hurricane Dorian could reach maximum winds of 130 mph, putting it at a Category 4 on Saturday. It’s still too soon to tell exactly where the storm will make landfall along the east coast of Florida and possibly as far north as South Georgia, but the Center added: "there is an increasing likelihood of life-threatening storm surge along portions of the Florida east coast late this weekend or early next week."

Communications infrastructure companies are preparing for the storm. For example, NATE Chairman and President/CEO of MillerCo. Jimmy Miller tweeted that NATE members were, “having meetings/planning with wireless providers to move in after Hurricane Dorian to restore wireless service.”
All the major carriers are monitoring the storm and prepared to move anticipated restoration equipment and personnel to affected areas. Preparations include topping off generators at fixed and portable cell sites. Carriers are also preparing COWS, COLTS, SatCOLTS and other mobile cellular infrastructure for potential deployment to areas where coverage may be needed. Continue Reading

Thursday, August 29, 2019

T-Mobile Halts Construction and Extends Payment Terms

Reports from various Inside Towers sources have confirmed that T-Mobile, at least in several major markets, has put new builds on hold and has asked contractors to put off invoicing into 2020. Citing the delayed merger with Sprint as the major factor, one industry executive said small contractors working for the carrier will, “feel the pain.” T-Mobile was unavailable for comment.
The carrier late last week sent out emails to tower construction companies and contractors informing them that T-Mobile will solely concentrate on 5G-related PO’s and non-5G-related work will be paid at 120 days and not the normal payment terms which vary by contractor company.

“Additionally, these companies are being asked to supply materials (in many cases $15K to $20K per job), pay for cranes up front, and then they can only mark those up five percent,” said one contractor who wished to remain anonymous. Continue Reading

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

National Park Service Approves Nine-Tower Project in the Grand Tetons

High-speed internet is coming into Grand Teton National Park, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reported Friday after heated opposition from wilderness groups and some residents. The National Park Service gave the green light to a proposal on August 15, to build a network of nine cell towers and 63 miles of a new fiber-optic line between Flagg Ranch, Moose and Kelly.

The accepted plan was a joint effort by multiple telecommunication companies and new signals are expected to cover portions of the adjacent Teton Wilderness. Although construction will start this fall, the majority of the system will be built in 2020, the News reported.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Honeywell Recalls Miller MightEvac, MightyLite Self-Retracting Lifelines

Late yesterday, Honeywell issued a recall of their Miller MightEvac, MightyLite Self-Retracting Lifeline. This list of model numbers can be found here.

A statement issued by Honeywell said: “All recipients of this mandatory stop use notice must read, understand and follow all instructions. Failure to do so may result in serious injury or death. At Honeywell, our mission is to be the global leader in personal protective equipment with innovative solutions that protect and save lives. In line with our commitment to our mission statement, we are writing to inform you of potentially non-conforming brake components in certain models of Miller MightEvac and MightyLite Self-Retracting Lifelines (SRLs) ranges manufactured within a specific timeframe.”

The company said there have been no reported incidents due to this “nonconformity” and issued detailed instructions on immediate actions end-users are required to take. Continue Reading

Friday, August 23, 2019

Rural Broadband Gets Nearly $5B in Funds From the FCC

The FCC Thursday authorized over $4.9 billion in support over the next decade for maintaining, improving, and expanding affordable rural broadband. The carrier support includes tribal land, too (see separate story below).

The money will go towards 455,334 homes and businesses served by 171 carriers in 39 states and American Samoa. The funds are targeted to smaller rural carriers, traditionally known as “rate-of-return” carriers. These carriers agreed this year to accept subsidies based on the FCC’s Alternative Connect America Cost Model, or A-CAM, which provides predictability, rewards efficiency, and provides more value for each taxpayer dollar.

The homes and businesses are located in sparsely populated rural areas where the per-location price of deployment and ongoing costs of providing broadband service are high. They require support from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund to facilitate network improvements and keep rates reasonably comparable to those in urban areas. Continue Reading

Thursday, August 22, 2019

USTelecom, Partners Say Broadband Mapping Concept Works

UPDATE USTelecom delivered to the FCC results from its Broadband Data Mapping Initiative. The premise involved updating the data the Commission uses to more accurately map what localities are covered and reveal those that are not. The association says a four-month pilot proves the concept works, and can be implemented quickly and efficiently nationwide, with the agency’s help.

The industry-led project includes several companies and associations. They include: ITTA, The Voice of America’s Broadband Providers, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier, TDS, Verizon, and Windstream. Key findings from pilot testing their concept in Virginia and Missouri include:

  • The pilot program was a success. Using state-of-the-art technology and datasets, it is now possible to precisely identify and geocode every structure in a geographic area that can receive broadband.
  •  Pinpointing service availability. The pilot revealed in just the two states, 38 percent of homes and businesses counted as “served” under current reporting are not receiving service from participating providers. While not every broadband provider participated in this pilot—that still leaves the potential for a substantial misrepresentation of service availability.
  • Inaccurate census block counts. Forty-eight percent of the location counts in rural Missouri and Virginia census blocks are wrong, often significantly wrong. Continue Reading

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

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Today is Critical in States’ Effort to Block T-Mobile-Sprint Deal

UPDATE Lawyers for the 13 Attorneys General of 12 states and the District of Columbia are moving forward with their litigation to block T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint. Filed before the carrier’s deal with the Department of Justice was announced, the AGs originally asked a federal court for an expedited trial date. The trial is set to begin October 7.

Today, during a status hearing in New York, the states will ask the court to delay the trial. That will give the states time to revise their case to account for the DOJ’s proposal, reports The Hill.

The DOJ last Friday approved a merger that would require T-Mobile and Sprint to spin off significant assets to Dish, in order for the satellite television distributor to create a competing fourth major, nationwide mobile wireless network. While five state AGs eventually sided with the DOJ on the transaction, the 13 holdouts did not. Continue Reading