U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), the ranking member of the subcommittee, have reintroduced the Streamlining the Rapid Evolution And Modernization of Leading-edge Infrastructure Necessary to Enhance Small Cell Deployment Act or STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act.
National Association of Tower Erectors Executive Director Todd Schlekeway, said, “The association originally supported this legislation during the previous Congress and is pleased that it has been reintroduced in the 116th Congress. NATE member contractors are currently on the front lines densifying wireless networks through small cell installations and this legislation, coupled with the FCC’s leadership on key streamlining reforms, will ultimately serve to expedite the process of deploying the hundreds of thousands of small cell antennas and related infrastructure that is necessary to enable 5G connectivity in the United States.”
The legislation updates the Communications Act to better reflect developing technology and facilitate the rapid deployment of 5G networks to meet consumer demand by setting reasonable standards for public review of infrastructure siting while recognizing the unique challenges for small municipalities.
“I commend Senator Thune and Senator Schatz for their leadership on smart infrastructure policies,” said FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr in prepared text. “Their bill demonstrates bipartisan support for fee limits, timelines, and other reforms that are key to accelerating the buildout of 5G infrastructure in communities across the country. If passed, their work to modernize our country’s approach to small cells would notch another solid win for the U.S. in the race to 5G.”
Key provisions of the STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act
· Permits must be approved or denied on publicly available criteria that are reasonable, objective, and non-discriminatory.
· Small cell applications may be denied or regulated for objective and reasonable structural engineering standards, safety requirements or aesthetic or concealment requirements.
· Applications must be acted on no later than 60 days for requests to collocate equipment and 90 days for other requests.
· Flexibility and additional time is allowed for small municipalities (fewer than 50,000 residents).
· Empowers the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to grant flexibility by issuing a one-time 30-day waiver of the timeframes required for action upon a request by a state or local government.
· Requirements for reasonable state and local fees for processing applications
· Fees must be publicly disclosed, competitively neutral, technology neutral, nondiscriminatory and based on actual and direct costs (including, for example, costs for maintenance and inspections).
The FCC has assisted 5G through spectrum allocations and streamlined zoning regulations to meet the need for more small cells. But the success of these efforts has led to a new dilemma: the lack of a workforce to build out that infrastructure.
To that end, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr a workforce development event that highlighted the Tower Installation Program at Aiken Technical College in Graniteville, South Carolina, this week to promote the need for practical and classroom training that enables workers to find jobs as tower climbers.
“We have been modernizing our permitting rules to enable the deployment [of small cells]. Now we are at a point where are seeing a big increase in small cells that are going up and that creates a new challenge to have a skilled workforce in place to actually do this build,” Carr said. “The industry estimates that we need 20,000 workers to build out this infrastructure. The only way we can to that is to get more certified telecommunication tower technicians, [known as TTT1].”
The Tower Installation Program at Aiken Tech, which is one of 16 colleges in the South Carolina Technical College System, trains students in accordance with the standards and internationally-recognized certifications, including TTT-1, established by the National Wireless Safety Alliance. Nearly 100 percent of the program’s graduates are placed with a tower company in the Carolinas or in Georgia.
“A key pathway to getting more certified tower technicians is in community college programs, such as Aiken Technical School,” Carr said. “You can come in with zero skills and within 12 weeks, through a combination of classroom training and practical exercises, you come out able to find a job as a tower climber.”
Carr has been working with other stakeholders such as the National Wireless Safety Alliance to replicate what Aiken is doing when it comes to training tower climbers in other community colleges and technical schools.
“The community college model makes sense because it gives you access to Pell grants and other military funding. They are embedded in the community and are able to pull in people that are interested in this line of work,” Carr said.
Workforce development is not a traditional FCC regulatory function, but Carr and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai have taken a holistic view of the 5G regulatory process and its impact on the build out the infrastructure. They have both visited cell tower sites and made multiple climbs up to the top.
Also on this road trip Carr took a tour of the Raycap | STEALTH small cell manufacturing facility in Charleston, South Carolina, which has been growing its workforce at a rate of 5 percent to 10 percent monthly.
“You sit in DC and try to get these small cells regulatory reforms done, and it is really heartening to come out here and see that things really are speeding up. This buildout is really happening,” Carr said.
NATE, NWSA Representatives Also Attend Event
Also at the workforce development event was National Wireless Safety Association (NWSA) Executive Director Duane MacEntee, NWSA Board of Directors member Pat Cipov, NWSA Board of Governors member Dr. Gemma Frock and NATE Board of Directors member Shama Ray. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr and Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) were also on hand as special guests at the event.
With workforce development a top priority for companies at every layer of the wireless infrastructure ecosystem, the event helped shine a spotlight on the successful Tower Installation Program at Aiken Technical College. During the event, participants conducted a tour and talked to students of the college’s Basic Tower and Wireless Installation certificate program.
The program involves a 7-week curriculum model consisting of both classroom and field-based instruction intended to provide students with the necessary theory and hands-on education to receive a job in the applicable field. Topics covered include safety, basic rigging, fall protection, principles of electricity, fiber optics, wireless technology, cell components, antenna basics, and spectrum management. Students who graduate from the program can immediately seek employment in the industry or can elect to progress to the Advanced Tower and Wireless Installation Certificate and work towards the Associate in Applied Science at Aiken Technical College.
FCC Comm. Brendan Carr unveiled his proposal to cut costs and streamline approval periods for small cells in remarks given on the Senate floor of the Indiana Statehouse this morning. Carr’s plan, set to be voted on at the FCC’s Sept. 25 Open Meeting, is modeled on the small cell bills enacted in 20 states across the country.
“At the federal level, we have learned from the forward-looking legislation that local leaders have enacted in 20 states and counting,” said Carr. “My plan builds on those grassroots, commonsense reforms and extends regulatory relief throughout the country so that no community will be left behind.”
Carr’s plan has four main components:
The National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) applauded Carr for unveiling his 5G plan to increase small cell deployment and streamline wireless infrastructure siting policies in order to bring broadband to more Americans.
NATE Executive Director Todd Schlekeway, said “Over the last five months, NATE has played a prominent role providing FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Commissioner Carr and their respective staff members with tangible opportunities to visit sites and experience first-hand the role that wireless infrastructure and siting policies play in the deployment of macro towers and small cells that are both so critical to 5G.
“The plan that Commissioner Carr unveiled today takes the successful tenets of small cell deployment legislation that have been passed by some of the states and standardizes them in a manner that will provide a road map moving forward that is necessary to ensure more Americans are in a position to take advantage of broadband and 5G networks in the future,” added Schlekeway.
Wireless Infrastructure Association President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein also applauded Comm. Carr’s announcement.
“In his announcement, Commissioner Carr rightly reaffirmed a balanced framework with localities over wireless infrastructure decisions where appropriate, while ensuring that commonsense guardrails apply to actions that inhibit broadband deployment,” Adelstein said in a prepared statement. “The partnerships between the wireless industry and local communities remains crucial to 5G deployment and Commissioner Carr’s announcement strikes a positive tone to build upon them.”
According to a recent study, Carr’s plan will save $2 billion in unnecessary fees, stimulate $2.5 billion in additional small cell deployments and create more than 27,000 jobs.
The FCC approved a Notice of Inquiry today on creating a Universal Service Fund pilot program to promote the use of telehealth services among low-income Americans and veterans in rural areas. The proposal would establish a $100 million “Connected Care Pilot Program,” which would be led by Commissioner Brendan Carr.
Telehealth services include remote patient monitoring technologies and mobile health applications that can be accessed on smartphones, tablets and other connected devices by patients in rural areas.
“Advances in mobile technology and applications mean that Americans can now get high-quality healthcare delivered directly to them, regardless of where they are located,” said Commissioner Carr. “With this new pilot program, the FCC is looking to support this trend in telehealth and ensure that even more communities get a fair shot at next-generation telehealth opportunities.”
The program has gathered support from a number of health professionals, including
Dr. Karen Rheuban, UVA Center for Telehealth, who encouraged the FCC to align its initiative with the Veteran’s Health Administration and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Not surprisingly, support came from the American Telemedicine Association, which tweeted, “We’re proud to support this pilot program, which will help bridge the urban-rural healthcare gap. #TelehealthForward”
Support also came from American Hospital Association, American Agri-Women and National Grange, as well as from Congress.
Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer said, “I welcome the new telehealth initiative from the FCC. This program would increase Nebraskans’ access to connected health care services and life-saving technologies. Better telehealth connectivity will improve follow-up care and enhance doctors’ ability to monitor patients outside of the hospital.”
Speaking at the AGL Local Summit in Philadelphia earlier this year, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said he has an appreciation for the hard, often gritty work that goes into deploying the wireless infrastructure necessary to bring next-generation opportunity to communicate. The commissioner viewed wireless deployments in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, in Beatty, Nevada, and in Baltimore and Detroit.
The commissioner also said he attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the opening of a training facility built by Sioux Falls Tower & Communications in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which has a 50-foot-tall practice structure.
“I had the chance to climb it with two of their experienced tower workers, Brandon and Leland,” Carr said. “Looking back, I am convinced that they left at least one zero off of that 50-foot description. When we reached platform at the top, I was a little winded. And it did not help when Brandon and Leland started rocking the structure back and forth in an exercise they said was designed to give me a sense of the conditions on a taller tower like the 2,000-foot one Brandon recently climbed.”
To have an FCC commissioner engaged with wireless infrastructure on these two levels — business development and safety — supports an optimistic view for advancements in wireless communications.
In a mention that I have reason to like, Carr recalled writing an article, “How Federal Preemption Helps Tower Owners,” that AGL Magazinepublished in 2006. “Fast forward a dozen years later, and I would submit that finding ways to modernize and streamline wireless infrastructure deployment is as important as ever,” he said.
My thanks to Commissioner Carr for speaking at the AGL Local Summit. The attention the FCC pays to facilitating wireless infrastructure development and doing it in a safe manner will be helpful to those in the tower, small cell and distributed antenna system business.
And, if you have been considering whether to write an article for AGL Magazine, take heed of what it did for Brendan Carr’s career. Hesitate no longer.
Come to the next AGL Local Summit September 27 in Kansas City.
On July 12, the FCC took steps with an order and a notice of proposed rulemaking leading to making available for wireless communications 500 megahertz of radio-frequency spectrum in the 3.7-GHz to 4.2-GHz range known as mid-band spectrum. Anything that helps wireless carriers to offer improved and additional services means opportunity for the wireless infrastructure business.
Executive Editor and Associate Publisher
Don Bishop joined AGL Media Group in 2004. He helped to launch and was the founding editor of AGL Magazine, the AGL Bulletinemail newsletter (now AGL eDigest) and DAS and Small Cells magazine (now AGL Small Cell Magazine). He served as host for AGL Conferences from 2010 to 2012, appearing at 12 conferences. Bishop writes and otherwise obtains editorial content published in AGL Magazine, AGL eDigest and the AGL Media Group website. Bishop also photographs and films conferences and conventions. Many of his photographs have appeared on the cover, in articles and in the “AGL Tower of the Month” center spread photo feature in AGL Magazine. During his time with Wiesner Publishing, Primedia Business Information and AGL Media Group, he helped to launch several magazines and edited or managed editorial departments for a dozen magazines and their associated websites, newsletters and live event coverage. He is a former property manager, radio station owner and CEO of a broadcast engineering consulting firm. He was elected a Fellow of the Radio Club of America in 1988, received its Presidents Award in 1993, and served on its board of directors for nine years. Don Bishop may be contacted at: [email protected]