The FCC voted today to seek public comment on a plan to exclude from routine historic preservation review the collocation of wireless communications equipment on certain towers known as Twilight Towers. The proposed plan would make existing infrastructure available for additional wireless deployments.
Twilight Towers, which were constructed between March 16, 2001 and March 7, 2005, either were built without undergoing the historic preservation review required by Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, or lack documentation that such review was conducted. As a result, these towers are not eligible for collocations in the same way as towers that have documented Section 106 review and clearance or towers that were exempted under the pre-2001 standard.
“NATE sincerely appreciates the solutions-oriented leadership displayed today by Chairman Pai and Commissioners Carr, Clyburn, O’Rielly and Rosenworcel in order to address the regulatory status of twilight towers in a manner that will ultimately open up thousands of communication structures for wireless colocation deployment activities,” stated Executive Director Todd Schlekeway.
The Public Notice requests input on whether to formally request that the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation adopt a document called a Program Comment that would allow collocations on Twilight Towers without historic preservation review so long as certain conditions are met.
The FCC’s proposal to facilitate collocations on Twilight Towers recognizes that collocations on existing towers have less potential to affect the environment and historic and cultural sites than constructing new towers. In addition, making these towers readily available for collocation will facilitate next-generation wireless services.
In a highly controversial proceeding, the FCC voted 3-2 today to reverse the Title II regulation of broadband internet access service, known as Net Neutrality, implemented in 2015. Additionally, the FCC instituted transparency requirements that will protect consumers by empowering the Federal Trade Commission to act when broadband providers engage in anticompetitive and deceptive acts.
“The framework adopted by the Commission today will protect consumers at far less cost to investment than the prior rigid and wide-ranging utility rules,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said. “Restoring a favorable climate for network investment is key to closing the digital divide, spurring competition and innovation that benefits consumers.”
Adding to the tension surrounding the FCC vote, federal protective service interrupted the meeting and cleared the room in the middle of Chairman Pai’s statement. The meeting came back to order minutes later. It was later divulged that the break was the result of a bomb scare.
Comm. Mignon Clyburn, who dissented, characterized the FCC’s action as the “destroying Internet Freedom” order. In her “eulogy,” she described the Net Neutrality rule as a “carefully crafted” attempt to strike a balance between protecting consumers and enabling investment in the internet. She noted the high probability that the issue will be decided in the courts.
“What saddens me the most is that the agency that is supposed to protect you is actually abandoning you,” Clyburn said. “What I am pleased to say is that the fight to save Net Neutrality does not end today. The agency does not have the final word. Thank goodness for that.”
Comm. Jessica Rosenworcel had a finger on the pulse of why the FCC received 22 million comments in the Net Neutrality proceeding, not to mention the countless protests that occurred.
“The future of the internet is the future of everything,” she wrote in a dissenting statement. “That is because there is nothing in our commercial, social and civic lives that has been untouched by its influence or unmoved by its power.”
The Restoring Internet Freedom order eliminates the net neutrality rules, which have both survived challenges in the courts and now enjoy popularity among the American people, according to Rosenworcel.
“Today we wipe away this work, destroy this progress and burn down time-tested values that have made our internet economy the envy of the world,” she wrote.
New York AG to Sue Government over Internet Freedom Order
The next stage of the drama is already set. Among others, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman plans to lead a multistate lawsuit to stop the rollback of net neutrality.
“The FCC’s vote to rip apart net neutrality is a blow to New York consumers, and to everyone who cares about a free and open internet,” he said in a press release. “The FCC just gave Big Telecom an early Christmas present, by giving internet service providers yet another way to put corporate profits over consumers. Today’s rollback will give ISPs new ways to control what we see, what we do, and what we say online. That’s a threat to the free exchange of ideas that’s made the Internet a valuable asset in our democratic process.”
Well, for those of us who thought Net Neutrality was a good idea, President Trump, trumps again. Why am I surprised? It’s just another notch in the shift of wealth to mega-corporations, which has become the mantra of Trump, and in general, the Republican Party.
The Trump slogan of “if President Obama did it, I will undo it” is alive and well. (Am I beginning to sound like an anarchist?) To wit, the appointment of Ajit Pai as chairman of the FCC, who, from the onset, was anti-net neutrality. So was there any real doubt Pai that would not his choice for chairman?
Despite the partisan effort that put the order in place a couple of years ago, cooler heads prevailed and it became a policy. Not because Obama championed it, but because it is a good idea. Otherwise, why did virtually every large telecom, content provider, large ISP, and others fight so hard against it then, and are now fighting so hard now to have it dismantled? As it is noted by Hackernoon* “Pro-Net Neutrality is not Anti-Free Market.” Having net neutrality did nothing more than level the playing field. Something the greedy and monopolistic players really dislike.
The list of net neutrality opponents reads like a who’s who of corporate America; Cox, Comcast, Charter, Time Warner, etc. Then throw in Google, Facebook, Netflix, yada…yada…and one can readily see the self-interest of the anti-neutrality conglomerates. If these companies are such good corporate citizens (how many times have they been fined for illegal activities, or cheating on bills, etc.), what would they have against it?
Net Neutrality was a weapon to prevent ISPs like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and now other peripheral players from blocking, throttling, or prioritizing lawful internet traffic within their networks for financial gain – period. It also prevented ISPs from slowing down services like Netflix, or YouTube, or any other service or give other websites and apps preferential treatment and prevents charging internet companies for faster access.
Some say that the market should respond to demand and the net should be allowed to ebb and flow with the market, sans regulation. In a perfect world, I wholly agree with that, if the playing field was level. Where I live, I only have two choices for ISP, Comcast or CenturyLink. In addition, isn’t it amazing how they both charge the same amount for the same bandwidth and speed? Somehow, that just does not seem like competition to me.
Oh, I get the argument that these companies invested heavily in the infrastructure and should be given preference to recoup some of these costs. OK, I can buy that, to some degree. But if they didn’t see the dollars at the back end, why did they invest in the front end, with or without incentives? Did they expect to have lifetime guarantees that they would have a corner on the market? Wasn’t there a similar argument back in the days of the telco breakups? And that worked out pretty well in the long run.
The market for content delivery is poised to become one of the most lucrative (although competitive) new opportunities, especially with 5G and the Internet of Everything/Everyone (IoX) – the M&As are proof of that. However, everybody should have a chance at obtaining their piece of the pie. Let’s hope not every Republican is on board that fast train to the Corporate States of America. Net Neutrality was a good idea back in 2015 and it is just as good an idea in 2017.
Ernest Worthman is the Executive Editor/Applied Wireless Technology. His 20-plus years of editorial experience includes being the Editorial Director of Wireless Design and Development and Fiber Optic Technology, the Editor of RF Design, the Technical Editor of Communications Magazine, Cellular Business, Global Communications and a Contributing Technical Editor to Mobile Radio Technology, Satellite Communications, as well as computer-related periodicals such as Windows NT. His technical writing practice client list includes RF Industries, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Agilent Technologies, Advanced Linear Devices, Ceitec, SA, and others. Before becoming exclusive to publishing, he was a computer consultant and regularly taught courses and seminars in applications software, hardware technology, operating systems, and electronics. Ernest’s client list has included Lucent Technologies, Jones Intercable, Qwest, City and County of Denver, TCI, Sandia National Labs, Goldman Sachs, and other businesses. His credentials include a BS, Electronic Engineering Technology; A.A.S, Electronic Digital Technology. He has held a Colorado Post-Secondary/Adult teaching credential, member of IBM’s Software Developers Assistance Program and Independent Vendor League, a Microsoft Solutions Provider Partner, and a life member of the IEEE. He has been certified as an IBM Certified OS2 consultant and trainer; WordPerfect Corporation Developer/Consultant and Lotus Development Corporation Developer/Consultant. He was also a first-class FCC technician in the early days of radio. Ernest Worthman may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hundreds of towers were built during the time between the FCC’s adoption of the 2001 Collocation National Programmatic Act (NPA) and the 2005 Nationwide Programmatic Agreement for Review of Effects on Historic Properties for Certain Undertakings Approved by the FCC (Wireless Facilities NPA), which were not reviewed under the National Historic Preservation Act. Therefore, collocation has been prohibited on these structures, which were dubbed “Twilight Towers.”
After more than a decade of debate, the FCC has put forward a plan to exclude Twilight Towers from review under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. In particular, the Commission seeks public comment on a draft Program Comment addressing the historic preservation review requirements for collocating communications equipment on Twilight Towers. The draft Program Comment would establish procedures for permitting collocations on Twilight Towers, if adopted by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP).
“This action would open up potentially thousands of existing towers for collocations without the need for either the collocation or the underlying tower to complete an individual historic review, thus ensuring that these towers are generally treated the same as older towers that are already excluded from the historic review process,” the FCC said.
Comment is being sought on draft program comment for the FCC’s review of collocations on certain towers constructed without Section 106 review, WT Docket No. 17-79. The deadline for comment is 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. Reply Comments are due 45 days after publication in the Federal Register.
It has also been circulated for tentative consideration by the FCC at its December 14, 2017 open meeting.
The FCC continues its initiative to streamline the deployment of small cells, approving rules that facilitate access to utility poles and conduits, which can be a costly and time-consuming barrier to broadband deployment.
The rule changes reduce costs by barring pole owners from charging make-ready fees. Pole attachment disputes will be resolved by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau through a 180-day shot clock. Additionally, local providers would be allowed to have equal access to each other’s poles.
Another set of reforms revise rules that delay or stop the replacement of copper with fiber and delay the deployment of IP technologies.
Certain Utility Poles Exempted from Historic Review
In a separate action, the Commission has determined that replacement utility poles that have no potential effect on historic properties do not need to complete the historic preservation review.
Specifically, the Order eliminates historic preservation review when a pole is replaced with a substantially identical pole. Some of the conditions the replacement pole must meet include that the original pole is not a historic property, that it does not cause new ground disturbance, and that it is consistent with various other size, location, and appearance restrictions detailed in the rule.
The Order also consolidates multiple historic preservation review rules and procedures into a single rule, making it simpler to find, understand and comply with the rules.