Monday, June 29, 2020

FCC Revises Eligible Area List for RDOF Auction

The FCC updated its list of eligible areas for the upcoming Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I Auction slated to begin in October. The list shows 5,392,530 unserved locations are considered eligible for bidding in the $16 billion auction.

The new record updates the previous list from March that was followed by a challenge process.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called the time-frame to prepare for the fall auction “ambitious” and said the agency is on track to begin the auction October 29. The new list gives companies the information they need to prepare as the Commission moves toward opening the window on July 1 for bidders to file their applications. More challenge information is available here. Continue Reading

Friday, June 26, 2020

Cities Fight FCC Over 5G Upgrade Order

UPDATE Several local governments from California and Oregon are challenging the FCC’s 5G upgrade order. The FCC approved the plan 3-2 earlier this month to streamline infrastructure modifications for existing towers. The vote was combative. Democratic Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks criticized the Commission for not giving localities more time to comment, considering local government budgets are stretched by the pandemic and protests. Indeed, the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties, asked the agency to delay the vote.

The Republican majority said the order will speed work such as antenna swaps for 5G, Inside Towers reported. Co-location “is less intensive and requires less regulatory review than new tower construction,” FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said. Before the vote, Carr acknowledged to Inside Towers not every locality supported the change, but said overall, “We think it’s a right-balanced approach.” 

Now, some of the California and Oregon localities have told the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals the FCC’s actions “unlawfully preempt local and state government authority” without responding to local government input, according to Politico.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Maps, Ligado Loom Large Over FCC Hearing

Money before maps and the future of spectrum decisions were two big topics covered during yesterday’s Senate FCC oversight hearing. Both Senators and witnesses sat apart for safety and many lawmakers were not in the hearing room, but attending virtually from their offices.

The upcoming auction of Rural Digital Opportunity Fund money for broadband deployment makes fixing the FCC’s location data essential, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) said during the nearly three and a half hour hearing. The agency’s recent controversial decision to allow Ligado to use a portion of L-band for broadband delivery was discussed as well.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel clashed in their viewpoints of the map corrections. Continue Reading

Friday, June 19, 2020

Men Found Dead at Tower Site in Jacksonville Were Possibly Subcontractors

Jacksonville (FL) Police say two men found dead Thursday inside the shelter at the base of a tower on Firestone Road were “possible subcontractors” who were shot multiple times. Police found the bodies early Thursday at the AT&T tower site located just north of More Avenue and west of Interstate 295.

“The two individuals are possible subcontractors that were doing work inside the building of the cell phone tower,” Sgt. Steve Rudlaff said. ”It’s definitely going to be foul play. Both individuals have been shot. It does not appear that it was combat against each other. We don’t know if this was a possible robbery or what.” Continue Reading

Thursday, June 18, 2020

T-Mobile Layoffs Begin, AT&T Plans Job Cuts Too

T-Mobile let go hundreds of Sprint workers this week and AT&T plans layoffs as well, according to published reports. T-Mobile VP James Kirby on Monday told hundreds of Sprint employees their services were no longer needed. He declined to answer questions, citing the “personal” nature of employee feedback, and ended the conference call, reported TechCrunch.

TechCrunch obtained leaked audio of the call, which was said to be one of several held by T-Mobile leadership throughout the day to lay off staff across the organization. The layoffs come just two months after its acquisition of Sprint closed.

On the call, Kirby said T-Mobile was eliminating Sprint’s inside sales unit, a division that focuses on small businesses. The executive didn’t say how many staff were laid off. Almost 400 people were in the phone meeting, a person on the call told TechCrunch. Continue Reading

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

FCC to Probe T-Mobile Outage

UPDATE The FCC wants to get to the bottom of Monday night’s T-Mobile network outage. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called the hours-long outage “unacceptable” and said the agency will investigate.

T-Mobile said it had a “voice and text wireless issue" that began around noon EDT Monday. The company said at 1 a.m. Tuesday that all problems should be resolved. The company blamed an internet-traffic issue that caused problems with its network for the outage, according to the Associated Press. 

AT&T and Verizon both said their networks were operating normally. But there were reports of their customers not being able to call T-Mobile customers, creating the impression of a widespread communications failure.

Public-safety officials were worried about lack of access to 911. For example, the Redmond, Washington, police department tweeted that T-Mobile customers should have “an alternate plan in place in the event you need to call 911.”

Monday, June 15, 2020

FCC Skeptical SpaceX Can Deliver Low Latency Broadband

If SpaceX and other satcos are rejected from the low-latency category, they will be at a disadvantage in the upcoming Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. The reverse auction, set to begin October 29, will distribute $16 billion yearly, over ten years. The auction will give internet service providers (ISPs) funding to deploy broadband in census blocks where no provider offers home-internet speeds of at least 25 mbps downstream and 3 mbps upstream.

The FCC will prioritize low-latency networks when awarding funding, so SpaceX and other low-earth orbit providers could come up short against terrestrial networks, reports Ars Technica. SpaceX has said the FCC's skepticism is unwarranted, telling the agency its Starlink broadband system "easily clears the commission's 100 [milliseconds] threshold for low-latency services, even including its 'processing time' during unrealistic worst-case scenarios." Continue Reading

Friday, June 12, 2020

Clock Counts Down on Unfunded FCC Broadband Maps

House Commerce Committee GOP leaders and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai are double-teaming other lawmakers to get money for improved broadband maps. They asked House appropriators to find funding to implement the Broadband DATA Act that was signed into law in March as future appropriations bills are considered.

“Once this law is implemented and funded, FCC and other agencies will be able to rely on accurate broadband maps when they distribute federal funds for broadband deployment, which will lead to a more efficient use of federal dollars,” wrote the Republican committee members, led by House Energy and Commerce Ranking Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon and Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Ranking Member Bob Latta of Ohio.

According to a Congressional Budget Office estimate, the bill would require appropriating $25 million in 2021, and $9 million annually from 2022 through 2028. The money would go toward issuing rules, establishing reporting requirements, and hiring contractors to establish a comprehensive broadband database and maps. Continued Reading

Thursday, June 11, 2020

CC Proposes Opening Up 70/80/90 GHz Bands

The FCC voted Tuesday to begin a proceeding to provide more spectrum for 5G wireless backhaul and to make it easier to deploy broadband on planes and ships. The agency hopes to make more efficient use of additional millimeter-band spectrum in the 71–76 GHz, 81–86 GHz, 92–94 GHz, and 94.1–95 GHz bands.

The item approved in a non-controversial 5-0 vote proposes allowing smaller antennas to be used in the bands. The Commission hopes to lower costs, facilitate network densification, and help support wireless 5G backhaul. 

The changes could open up competition for broadband in aircraft, according to FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. During the vote, she said: “It is fair to say many of us hope to return to the skies soon and when we do, one feature Americans want to see is the ability to reliably [get internet service] at 35,000 feet.” Continue Reading

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

FCC Approves 5G Upgrade Ruling in Heated Session

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief By a quarrelsome 3-to-2 vote, the FCC yesterday approved an order to modernize wireless infrastructure. Specifically, the Declaratory Ruling specifies when a 60-day shot clock for local approval begins and clarifies Section 6409 of the Spectrum Act to enable upgrades on existing macro towers.

The ruling also clarifies how certain aspects of proposed modifications – height increases, equipment cabinet additions, and impact on concealment elements and aesthetic conditions – affect eligibility for streamlined review under Section 6409(a).  In addition, the action clarifies that, under the Commission’s rules on environmental and historic preservation review, FCC applicants do not need to submit environmental assessments based only on potential impacts to historic properties when parties have entered into a memorandum of agreement to mitigate effects on those properties.

The so-called “5G Upgrade Order” also says which new equipment qualifies for streamlined approval. It ensures localities can’t misuse concealment and aesthetic conditions to limit the ability to quickly upgrade concealed infrastructure, according to the agency. Continue Reading

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

5G Rollout Gets Streamlined With FCC Upgrade Order

In a contentious vote today, the FCC approved the so-called “5G Upgrade Order,” the agency’s latest initiative, headed by Commissioner Brendan Carr, to accelerate wireless infrastructure builds.

The order:

  • Sets a clear demarcation as to when the 60-day shot clock for local approval begins
  • Clarifies which new equipment qualifies for streamlined approval
  • Ensures local governments cannot misuse concealment and aesthetic conditions to limit the ability to quickly upgrade concealed infrastructure
  • Asks for public comment on what activity related to a modification can occur outside of a wireless site
  • Accelerates wireless network builds by clarifying rules for upgrading equipment on existing infrastructure
Co-location is “the process of putting new equipment on old towers. It’s less intensive and requires less regulatory review than new tower construction,” explained Carr during the vote. Clarifying the Section 6409 rules benefits communities “by reducing the potential for redundant towers, creating less costly and disruptive infrastructure,” he said. Continue Reading

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

480 Miles of Overland Fiber Now Runs From North Pole to Anchorage

Alaska is now connected to the “lower 48” states as the first overland fiber-optic cable was completed by a Matanuska Telephone Association (MTA) subsidiary. The 480-mile project, which began in April 2019, was a collaboration between MTA, Canadian telecom Northwestel, and contractor Alaska Directional, reported the Anchorage Daily News.

The overland cable begins at the town of North Pole near Fairbanks and ends at Haines Junction, Yukon. There, it connects to cables installed by Northwestel, which enables connection to the rest of North America. The Daily News reported with the new cable, the state “is no longer solely dependent upon a series of subsea cables for high-speed internet and telephone” connectivity. Continue Reading

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Pai: FCC “Vindicated” as Big Satcos Agree to Quick C-Band Move

UPDATE FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Monday said the repurposing of C-band spectrum for 5G services will move forward on an accelerated timeline. The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau secured commitments from all eligible satellite operators to meet a faster clearing timeline that will make way for faster 5G deployment in the 3.7 GHz band.

Inside Towers reported Intelsat, SES and Telesat told the agency by the May 29 deadline they would clear the lower portion of the C-band quickly and move to the higher portion of the band. Eutelsat and Star One also chose accelerated relocation. They wanted to qualify for a share of as much as $9.7 billion in incentive payments, in addition to a share of another $3.3 billion to $5.2 billion the feds would reimburse them for moving costs. Continue Reading

Monday, June 1, 2020

Subcontractor Dies After Fall Into 35-Foot Caisson

Tragedy struck on Thursday morning when a subcontractor working on a Verizon tower project fell to his death after his machinery malfunctioned, reported South Tahoe Now. The man, who has not yet been identified, fell headfirst into a 35-foot by six-foot hole.

Several fire and rescue services, including a helicopter, were dispatched to the site in the forest near the South Tahoe Public Utility District.

According to South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Jay Manning, rescuers were lowered into the hole to retrieve the unconscious victim. Manning added that the man was transported to Barton Memorial Hospital via ambulance, where he later died.

Manning’s team conducted an investigation, which they will turn over to The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which did not travel to the site due to COVID-19 restrictions. The job site was turned back to the contractor that morning.