FCC Streamlines Tower Rules
August 11, 2014 at 4:01 AM (PT)
The FCC has streamlined and revised what it called outdated provisions of the rules regarding construction, marking and lighting of antenna structures. The changes are aimed at helping accelerate wireless broadband deployment by reducing the regulatory burden on tower operators.
Among the changes, the rules are being "harmonized" with FAA standards, including what data tower owners need to provide and how they do so; towers with "robust, modern monitoring systems" are being exempted from the quarterly inspection requirement; and outdated provisions are being removed.
Chairman TOM WHEELER said, "(T)he issues resolved in this proceeding were first raised more than nine years ago. Today they move off of that backlog ... The reforms we adopt here will remove barriers to wireless deployment, reduce unnecessary costs and encourage providers to continue to deploy advanced systems that facilitate safety."
Commissioner MIGNON L. CLYBURN said, "Antenna tower registration and maintenance requirements are necessary to ensure these structures do not jeopardize aviation safety, but some of these rules are decades old and are now outdated. One example is the requirement for quarterly physical inspections of tower monitoring systems, which have cost some of the larger tower companies millions each year. Advances in technology now allow for remote monitoring to ensure that those towers have the proper lighting required by our rules. Therefore, I am pleased this Order will exempt tower owners from a quarterly inspection requirement, if they use a Network Operations Center based monitoring system that is staffed with trained personnel, who can respond to alarms 24 hours a day. Today’s Order also improves our lighting outage notification requirements, standardizes repair timelines, and harmonizes other maintenance requirements, with current FAA guidelines."
Commissioner JESSICA ROSENWORCEL said, "Today, in this Report and Order, we acknowledge that wireless infrastructure is the unsung hero of the wireless revolution. Because no amount of spectrum will lead to better wireless service without good -- and safe -- infrastructure."
Commissioner AJIT PAI said, "When the Commission eliminates a rule specifying that tower owners must notify the FAA about lighting outages 'by telephone or telegraph,' you know our modernization effort is long overdue. I’m glad we’re updating our rules today, especially by streamlining some of those governing towers, antennas, and other infrastructure. Spectrum policy grabs the headlines, but wireless infrastructure is no less important. No matter how much spectrum we make available, consumers won’t have superior or even adequate wireless service if companies can’t deploy infrastructure in a timely manner. And for far too long, the FCC’s infrastructure rules have not kept pace with changes in technology. They have impeded innovation and imposed costs with few -- if any -- offsetting public benefits. Today’s Order makes some progress on this front."
And Commissioner MICHAEL O’RIELLY said, "The question that has to be asked is why did it take nine years to get this item before the Commission for a vote? We simply must do better than this. I applaud the Chairman for moving these backlog proceedings during his short time at the Commission."