May 30, 2017
On the heels of the FCC’s adoption of the “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposed rulemaking, which proposes to end utility-style regulation of the internet, FCC Comm. Mignon Clyburn said she will work to continue Title II regulation of the internet, known as net neutrality, and ensure that communities can continue to rely on the internet as the “preeminent engine of innovation and opportunities.”
On the third day of the Wireless Infrastructure Conference, May 24, in Orlando, Florida, Clyburn spoke out against the so-called fast lanes reserved for those willing to pay more and preferences for those with business relationships with an internet service provider, which many say will be the result of killing net neutrality.
“And the 2015 Open Internet Order reflects a long-standing commitment shared by millions of Americans to protect a platform that inspires innovation and entrepreneurship, fosters freedom of speech and expression, and stimulates incentives for investment,” she said.
Clyburn passionately preached about the importance of broadband internet access to communities so that children can do homework, the unemployed can apply for jobs, the sick can obtain health care, and entrepreneurs can drive the economy.
“So as far as I am concerned – broadband is where we must all start,” she said. “To have an educated, competitive workforce in this century and beyond, we must ensure that everyone in our communities truly has access to broadband service, for all of the infrastructure builds in the world will not enable access if the service is not affordable.”
Clyburn said she met a man during a visit to skid row in Los Angeles who told here if he did not have an email address, he would have no address at all.
“That is just one example of how important connectivity is and how important it is for that person to be connected to the goods and services that will improve their life,” she said. “I think we all benefit when there is an open platform.”
Clyburn rejected the viewpoint that the internet would be better off without any regulation.
“What we have been the beneficiaries of in terms of this enabling platform did not happen by accident. It happened because there was a framework of rules that were codified,” she said. “People keep forgetting that all these things that enabled you to connect came about because there were clear rules of the road.”
As to what will happen next, Clyburn said she hopes “cooler heads” will prevail, but she will wait to see the record that is created by comments in the proceeding (FCC-17-60). There also could be a legislative solution that could restore federal regulation to the internet, she said.
May 24, 2017
While FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly expressed frustration at the pace of change at the Commission in during his tenure, he expressed optimism that under a new chairman the wireless industry will see some action on longstanding issues in his afternoon keynote address during the first day of the 2017 Wireless Infrastructure Show in Orlando, Florida.
“It’s been just over two years since my last visit with you all and sadly the overall picture of issues of importance hasn’t changed all that much,” O’Rielly said. “A few things have changed in this time: a new administration, a new chairman, and a refreshing new outlook on communications policy.”
O’Rielly expressed his unhappiness that the regulatory uncertainty has not been resolved surrounding “Twilight Towers,” which are towers built between 2001 and 2005 that did not go through the National Historic Preservation Act’s Section 106 review and cannot accept collocations. The issue affects about 4,300 twilight towers where close to 6,500 antenna collocations have been prohibited, according to O’Rielly.
However, there is hope. The Commission did formally seek comment last month on resolving the issue of twilight towers, which includes assurance that no enforcement action will be taken against legitimate twilight towers.
Another area where O’Rielly has experienced frustration is tower marking. While the FCC successfully eliminated regulatory burdens in tower marking in 2014, the FAA Extension, Safety and Security Act of 2016 mandates that all towers ranging between 50 to 200 feet meet painting and lighting requirements.
The law potentially affects 25,000 communications towers and another 25,000 broadcast towers. the bill would cost the industry $750 million every five to seven years. Increased costs for building towers will cause rural areas to miss out on future 5G and IoT deployments.
“While no one disputes the desire to protect human life for those aviators whizzing planes inches from the ground, carrying out the burden as written will be an extremely expensive undertaking due to the cost of the specialized labor that climbs these towers,” O’Rielly said.
The fix according to O’Rielly is pass a provision clarifying that communications towers are exempt.
Tower Crews and the Repack
O’Rielly acknowledged the high demand for tower crews that is being created by the relocation of 987 TV stations as part of the broadcast spectrum incentive auction repack, which is occurring on top of the buildout of AWS-3 and 600 MHz spectrum and general network densification. And he noted the concerns that the tower industry may miss the 39-month deadline repack.
“While some are rightfully concerned about the ability to meet the current deadlines, I think it is not irrational that we wait to see how the first stages go before jumping to any premature conclusions, O’Rielly said. “If it looks like we cannot meet the 39-month timeframe, at some point, we can reassess. In the meantime, I suggest that everyone should take a deep breath as we head down the repack path together.
O’Rielly said one of the siting issues he hears about the most is access to the public rights of way where the industry is experiencing excessive delays when filing siting applications, explicit moratoria and de facto moratoria.
“These are not acceptable responses to new small cell technologies that need to be deployed for the United States to maintain its position as the leader in wireless communications,” he said. “The Commission should clarify that such behavior is not consistent with the Communications Act, which clearly reads that state and local regulations may not ‘have the effect of prohibiting the ability of any entity to provide any interstate or intrastate telecommunications service.’”
O’Rielly added that the “excessive” fees being charged for use of the rights of way are not “fair and reasonable” compensation. “There needs to be a declaration that fees similar to those imposed on macro towers are not appropriate or sustainable for small cell networks,” he said.
Tribal Review Process
Another sticking point for antenna siting is the dramatically increasing tribal approval fees, which have soared from an average of $439 per site in 2011 up to on average $6,754, according to one carrier, or a 1,500 percent increase. “This is not economically sustainable,” O’Rielly said. “Further, tribes are receiving the payments, but then never respond as to whether there is actual concern, causing endless delays.”
April 29, 2015 – FCC Comm. Michael O’Rielly said that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has revealed his desire to conduct the incentive auction in the first quarter of 2016. O’Rielly said he is comfortable with the timing if there are no legitimate reasons for delay in a keynote speech at the Wireless Infrastructure Show in Hollywood, Florida, yesterday. Carrier capitalization should be factored into the timing decision, he added.
“Is there a need for wireless carriers to recapitalize to raise the $41 billion or $44 billion to provide that funding to the government, if needed, and then to have money to bid in an auction?” he asked. O’Rielly said he raised the question of the need for carrier recapitalization at the NAB Show two weeks ago in a an AWS survey, which resulted in an increase of what the broadcasters “thought their stations were worth.”
The commissioner said he worries that broadcasters could be “pricing themselves out of the market and the wireless carriers may have a gulf where they don’t have enough capitalization, and the gulf would mean the FCC has a failed auction. It’s most important that we get that timing right.”
Referring to a statement made on a CNBC TV program, O’Rielly said there is an idea that next-generation devices might bypass cell towers and become a part of a mesh-style cellular network. Considering that he was speaking to an audience of tower owners, his choice of the example was attention-getting.
“This could result in a diminished reliance on cell towers, and may even make them a thing of the past,” he said to tower developers and investors who have a lot riding on a future that continues to see wireless carriers renting space for antennas on their towers.
The Commissioner, however, made plenty of references to the FCC’s commitment to making spectrum available for wireless and to the critical nature of wireless infrastructure.
“Without infrastructure, the latest innovations and offerings will not be available to meet the demands of American consumers. Without infrastructure, the U.S. does not maintain its position as the leader in wireless and Internet technologies. Without infrastructure, the economic growth of the wireless sector and its corresponding benefits to the U.S. economy comes to a halt,” he said.
The commissioner showed an awareness of some of the nuances of promoting new tower development, including working with Native Nations to increase the efficiency of historic preservation application and review procedures.
“I hear that improvements can be made to provide Native Nations the information they need to protect their historic sites while ensuring that the process allows for the prompt construction of facilities. Creating best practices or guidelines, including reasonable timeframes and fees, could help provide greater certainty and finality to this process. Both industry and Native Nations should have shared expectations as to how this process works,” he said.