August 19, 2014 — The FCC has streamlined its Part 17 rules governing the construction, marking, and lighting of antenna structures in an attempt to reduce regulatory burdens and enhance compliance, while still preventing antenna structure from being hazards to air navigation, according to a Report and Order released Aug. 8. The industry applauded the Commission’s efforts.
“The Commission delivered real results on its process reform efforts by removing redundant regulatory requirements that increase compliance costs, which will allow investment to focus on broadband buildout,” Jonathan Adelstein, the president and CEO of PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association, said in a prepared release. “The FCC’s Order will harmonize its regulations with the FAA to eliminate unnecessary rules, thereby encouraging the adoption of advanced technologies.”
Under the old rules, any antenna structure that required notification of the FAA also had to be registered with the FCC, which sometimes resulted in overlapping oversight. To streamline the process, the FCC said it was harmonizing the regulatory process, reducing the ambiguity of having to comply with two sets of rules.
“Today’s Order will have a real impact on wireless broadband deployment,” Adelstein said. “For example, PCIA’s members have spent tens of millions of dollars on lighting inspections since 2007, despite the adoption and availability of continuous monitoring technology. By reforming lighting inspection requirements, the FCC will encourage more wireless providers to re-channel unnecessary compliance expenditures to more beneficial uses, such as infrastructure upgrades and rural deployment.”
FAA Advisory Circulars
The FCC revised its rules to eliminate any reference to older FAA Advisory Circulars. Instead, structure owners are required to comply with the FAA’s “no hazard” determination and associated study for a structure in establishing painting and lighting specifications.
“Eliminating specific references to FAA publications will clarify the lighting and marking obligations of antenna structure owners should any FAA Advisory Circulars (be outdated or) change in the future,” the Commission wrote.
The FCC will not require existing antenna structures to comply with new lighting and marking requirements, deferring instead to the FAA for future regulation.
“We find that, on balance, the costs associated with retroactive application of new lighting and marking specifications outweigh any limited corresponding benefit,” the Commission wrote.
Noting that conservation groups had urged the FCC to retroactively impose prohibitions against the use of certain steady burning lights to safeguard migrating birds, the Commission responded that while it understood their concerns, rule changes would have to wait until the FAA updates its Advisory Circulars to reflect the FAA 2012 Conspicuity Study.
The FCC clarified rules that require a new registration prior to making alterations to be in concert with the FAA rules that require a new aeronautical study and determination of “no hazard” when a change of one foot or more in height or one second or greater in location is proposed.
“We defer to the FAA’s expertise on these matters in finding that these requirements are sufficient to help ensure air safety. On balance, we conclude that harmonizing our standards for when changes in height or location require supplemental notice with the FAA’s requirement for when a new study is required is in the public interest, as it provides greater clarity to structure owners without harming air safety,” the FCC wrote.
The Commission harmonized its notification rules with FAA rules that require owners to file supplemental notice within five days of the time that a construction or alteration of a structure reaches its greatest height, a proposed construction or alteration is abandoned, or a construction or alteration is dismantled or destroyed.
Other topics contained in the Report and Order include voluntary antenna structure registration, posting of antenna structure registration, provision of antenna structure registration to tenants, maintenance of marking and lighting, inspection of structure lights and associated control equipment, notification of extinguishment or improper functioning of lights, lighting malfunction repair timelines, record keeping requirements, and maintenance of painting.