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Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr to Headline at NATE Unite 2022

Charlie Ergen (Photo Don Bishop)

Brendan Carr

NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association said today that Dish Cofounder and Chairman Charlie Ergen and FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr will participate in a keynote fireside chat at the NATE Unite 2022 Conference in Las Vegas. According to NATE, Jennifer Fritzsche, head of North American telecom and digital infrastructure at Greenhill & Co., will serve as the session moderator. Ergen and Carr are set to appear during the Dish-sponsored awards luncheon on Feb. 23 at Caesars Forum, NATE said.

“NATE Unite 2022 is widely regarded as the premier and most comprehensive educational conference and trade show in the diverse communications infrastructure industry,” a statement from NATE reads. “Conference attendees include representatives from contractor companies, engineering firms, wireless carriers, vertical realtors, manufacturers, distributors, public safety entities, technology firms, training companies, military organizations and educational institutions.”

NATE’s president and CEO, Todd Schlekeway, said that the conference would provide Ergen and Carr with a platform from which to speak directly to U.S. contractor company owners, technicians and vendors who build, service, maintain and deploy wireless and mobile broadband networks and related infrastructure.

“NATE UNITE 2022 being held in Las Vegas is well-timed to coincide with Dish preparing to activate service and make the city its first official 5G wireless market during the first quarter of 2022,” Schlekeway said.

Ergen said that Dish count on help that tower technicians provide.

“Dish would not be able to deploy America’s first cloud-based 5G network without our hardworking teammates in the tower industry,” he said. “We are grateful to NATE for providing this opportunity to connect and look forward to meaningful discussion with Commissioner Carr, Todd Schlekeway and conference attendees.”

Carr said that the individuals who build, service, maintain and deploy wireless networks have some of the toughest jobs.

“Their hard, often gritty work is critical for the buildout of 5G and has allowed us to continue to lead the world in wireless,” he said. “I look forward to speaking to these crews, and other attendees, about the work we can continue doing to ensure America keeps and extends its lead in 2022 and beyond.”

NATE has made available the conference’s schedule of events HERE. The organization said it invites companies interested in sponsorship and exhibiting opportunities to visit HERE. It said individuals interested in attending can register HERE. Conference attendees interested in participating in the Tower Family Foundation Golf Invitational can HERE.

NATE Gives Results of 2022 Board of Directors Election

NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association said that its member companies have reelected to its 2022 board of directors ; Kevin Dougherty, president of Millennia Contracting in New Castle, Delaware; Bryan Lee, president of Lee Antenna & Line Service in Springtown, Pennsylvania; and Jimmy Miller, president of Millerco in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Kenneth Santee, cofounder and chief operating officer at TNT Communications 

Board candidate Kenneth Santee, cofounder and chief operating officer at TNT Communications in Frisco, Texas was elected to serve as a new board member, NATE said. It said Santee has more than 29 years of experience in the telecommunications industry with a focus on tower erection, antenna and cable installations, tower modification inspection and microwave systems.

The five candidates who were elected will begin their new terms in February at a board meeting held in conjunction with the NATE Unite 2022 Conference in Las Vegas.

“On behalf of the association’s over 1,030 member companies and staff, I would like to offer my congratulations to Jessica, Kevin, Bryan, Jimmy and Kenneth on their successful election bids,” said Todd Schlekeway, NATE’s president and CEO. “2022 is poised to be a banner year for the association’s member companies as generational investments are made for the deployment of mobile broadband infrastructure that will serve to simultaneously help close the digital divide and continue to scale 5G in the United States.”

Schlekeway said that NATE’s leadership would work to establish rapport and to broker meetings with executives from wireless carrier and tower customers to seek collaborative solutions to marketplace, pricing and workforce pressures that small business contractors experience.

Congressman, FCC Commissioner Tour Texas Communications Tower Site

U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) and FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr toured a communications tower site in Huffman, Texas, on Dec. 17, 2021, in a visit facilitated by representatives of NATE and of Enertech, a company advised by former NATE chairman Jim Tracy, according to NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association.

“Congressman Crenshaw is a member of the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee, where he has championed important communications and workforce development legislation,” a statement from NATE reads. “The tour was designed to highlight the prominent role that telecommunications technicians and wireless infrastructure are playing in the country’s efforts to provide broadband coverage to rural, unserved and underserved communities. The event also provided a valuable platform to discuss the congressman’s workforce priorities with his constituents and the telecommunications industry. Congressman Crenshaw believes that the United States. needs ‘to promote vocational training and apprenticeship programs that give workers the skills that industries actually need.’”

During the tour, NATE said, Crenshaw and Carr surveyed the multicarrier tenent network equipment installed on the tower. It said that NATE and Entertech representatives discussed the work conducted in building, maintaining and deploying communications tower sites and related wireless infrastructure. Crenshaw put on a harness and personal protective equipment of the type technicians use to carry out their jobs in a safe and efficient manner, NATE said.

“Given the increased use of unmanned aircraft vehicles for tower inspections, participants also viewed a drone flight demonstration and heard from NATE members about the opportunities these technologies provide for contractors and tower technicians,” the NATE statement reads. “Participants also shared with the congressman and commissioner some of the challenges facing the industry as the Federal Aviation Administration continues to work on regulations impacting commercial drone usage.”

Crenshaw said that the House committee on which he serves often talks about delivering broadband to rural communities, but he said its members rarely experience what it takes to do it.

“It was exciting to see the work the men and women in the telecom industry do on communications towers that ensures Texans have access to high-speed internet and wireless services,” Crenshaw said. “It is clear that America’s tower climbers and technicians have been working on the front lines of broadband deployment, and I am proud to have visited with them and learned more about this critical industry.”

Carr said he has taken part in dozens of tower visits and climbs. He said that every time, he learns something new from the men and women who build, maintain and service the critical communications facilities.

“These visits are critical for policy makers to ensure they understand the important role America’s tower techs play in delivering ubiquitous high-speed Internet and communications services,” he said.

NATE Chairman Jimmy Miller, who also is president of MillerCo, said that Crenshaw has championed a number of the tower industry’s workforce priorities. With the tower visit, Miller said, Crenshaw experienced first-hand what contractors and technicians face on a daily basis.

“It is clear that the congressman has an appreciation for the role that NATE members play in expanding broadband to communities in his district,” Miller said.

Eric Chase, president and CEO of Enertech Holdings, said that as a communications infrastructure contractor, he is proud of the work contractors do to expand broadband services to their communities.

“It is great to see our local congressman is working to support our industry,” Chase said. “I am pleased to know that he has a deeper understanding and appreciation of the work we do and the role we play in expanding broadband to every community in his district.”

Legacy Telecommunications has posted to YouTube a video highlighting Crenshaw and Carr’s tower site tour and climbing experience that can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lliV66HaE0. Legacy is an Enertech company headed by Jim Tracy. NATE has placed a collection of photos from the tour on its InstagramTwitter and Facebook pages.

NATE Offers Safety & Health Manual Online Resource Library

Available free to member companies, the NATE Safety & Health Manual Online Resource Library is also available for nonmembers to purchase from NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association.

is also available for nonmembers to purchase from NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association.

The library, designed specifically for the communications infrastructure industry, is intended to serve as a resource for members to use when developing their own company safety programs. The safety manual contains 56 chapters focused on core subjects to help contractor service companies drive a culture of safety within their respective firms and proactively jump-start their internal OSHA and third-party onboarding compliance processes.

All 56 chapters of the NATE Safety & Health Manual Online Resource Library are available to download in a Microsoft Word format and are designed to be fully customizable for companies to include in their manuals to ensure the safety, growth and development of employees. Revisions and updates will be made to this resource as additional procedures and practices are adopted by the NATE’s membership.

The NATE Safety & Health Manual Online Resource Library is available and accessible as a free resource to member companies. To access the resource, member companies can click HERE and enter their member ID code to log in. Once logged in, on the right-hand side click on the plus (+) sign next to “Safety Resource,” then click on the Safety & Health Manual to view each individual chapter.

The NATE Safety & Health Manual Online Resource Library is also available for non-member companies and other industry stakeholders to purchase for $1,000. To purchase the manual, visit HERE.

COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate to Affect Tower Workers as Supreme Court Considers Reversal

By Don Bishop

Although the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to halt COVID-19 vaccine requirements imposed by local and state entities, the Biden administration’s effort to impose a federal mandate through on order from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) could be blocked by the court when it considers an appeal of a circuit court of appeals ruling. The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for Jan. 7 on the federal mandate for health care workers and testing-or-vaccine rules for large employers.

Earlier, an association of telecommunications tower service contractors issued a statement to remind employers that a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the Biden administration’s federal vaccine mandate. The ruling dissolves the Fifth Circuit’s stay — which put the vaccine mandate on hold — that had been in place since November, according to NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association.

A statement from NATE said that after the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling, OSHA released the following statement: “To account for any uncertainty created by the stay, OSHA is exercising enforcement discretion with respect to the compliance dates of the ETS. To provide employers with sufficient time to come into compliance, OSHA will not issue citations for noncompliance with any requirements of the ETS before Jan. 10, 2022, and will not issue citations for noncompliance with the standard’s testing requirements before Feb. 9, 2022, so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard. OSHA will work closely with the regulated community to provide compliance assistance.”

On Dec. 14, NATE sent a letter to Edmund Baird, associate solicitor for Occupational Safety and Health at the U.S. Department of Labor. In the letter, NATE said that it had surveyed its members, and nearly 80 percent of are opposed to a federal government mandate that workers be vaccinated.

“While NATE members generally oppose the vaccine mandate, many NATE members are encouraging and incentivizing employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19,” the letter reads. “Almost 20 percent of NATE members have either paid employees to get vaccinated or are considering similar incentives.”

The letter said the survey affirmed that NATE members are concerned that a vaccine mandate would exacerbate the workforce challenges they are already facing. In fact, approximately 85 percent of NATE members said they believe that some staff would resign if they are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and 30 percent of respondents indicated they would lose more than half of their workers, the letter said.

“Like many other industries involved in the skilled trades, NATE members have struggled to recruit skilled workers,” the letter said. “The possibility of losing a significant number of tower technicians is a serious concern for NATE members, and the potential of losing workers could come at a time when America is investing  billions of dollars in broadband projects. Furthermore, this could even impact the ability to deploy broadband and high-speed communications on federal lands and in federal buildings. Many NATE members, approximately 60 percent, either work on federal projects or have in the past, and if they are unable to hire and train workers to complete these federal contracts, then the government’s own broadband goals may be unfulfilled.”

NATE said that its members fear that if national vaccination goals are not implemented in a responsible manner, they could lose a significant number of workers who are vital to building and deploying broadband services to rural, unserved and underserved communities.

“Tower technicians who are responsible for installing, servicing or maintaining critical communications and broadcast infrastructure have worked tirelessly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter reads. “The men and women who undertake extremely challenging work on communications infrastructure primarily work outside and at elevations that minimize their risk of exposure and immediate interaction with other workers or the public.”

Referring to tower technicians as essential workers, the letter said that the technicians who work on communications infrastructure have ensured that Americans could work safely from home, provide remote learning opportunities, and visit with doctors and healthcare professionals through telemedicine appointments.

“Americans needed tower technicians and communications workers to help lead us through the transition to remote learning and working, and tower technicians did not stop doing their jobs due to the fear of COVID,” the letter said.


Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine.