Ajit Pai: Loc Govs Delay Small Cell Sites

FCC Chair: Local Govs are Small Cell Problem

On August 28, 2019, FCC Chairman Pai spoke at the University of Mississippi Tech Summit, including about small cell installations.

Not so buried within his prepared comments was a window into the Chairman’s approach to perpetuating his role as chief wireless industry cheerleader, rather than the chief wireless industry regulator on behalf of the public.

Mr. Pai said:

Turning to our work on wireless infrastructure, the second part of the 5G FAST plan, we need to install hundreds of thousands of small cells for 5G—a huge increase in the number of antenna locations for our current networks.  Unfortunately, it’s routinely taken more than two years to get the regulatory approval for small-cell installations, which can only take about two hours to actually complete.  We’ve also seen excessive siting fees imposed by local governments.  Some cities charge $5,000 for the same approval that might cost $50 elsewhere.

That’s why the FCC set a reasonable shot clock for cities to rule on small cell siting applications and reasonable limits on the siting fees cities can charge.  There’s growing evidence that these reforms are working.  In 2018, the number of wireless small cells deployed in the United States more than quadrupled, from 13,000 to more than 60,000.

FCC Chairman Ajit PaiChairman Pai bare claim that “it’s routinely taken more than two years to get the regulatory approval for small cell installations” is pure fabrication from the wireless industry, which he (a former Verizon attorney) seems to have gladly swallowed without apparent care to independently verify that outrageous claim regarding small cells.

Yes, a percentage of applications can take years. A tiny percentage at best.

Chairman Pai’s statement that this is a routine time-frame is, to quote another member of the Administration, “fake news”.

From personal experience with thousands of wireless applications, a tiny percentage of those applications have taken more than FCC’s shot clock because of various reasons.  Those reasons most often lay at the feet of the applicants.

The reasons include (but are not limited to) poorly crafted wireless industry applications that miss material requirements needed to process the application to completion.  Some wireless site applications contain false or incorrect statement(s); some applications violate the sidewalk clearance requirements of the ADA; some applications would have the local government inversely condemn private property; some applications omit RF information needed to determine compliance with the FCC’s rules.  That list goes on.

Let’s move on to the next misstatement by Mr. Pai.  He claims that it “can only take about two hours to actually complete” a small cell review.  Of course he omits the source or basis for his claim.  It is outlandish and most certainly comes from the wireless industry; not from local government.  I’m just guessing here, but I’ll wager that the Chairman has not processed even one wireless application on behalf of a local government.  Again, the Chairman has taken us into the Administration’s land of fake news.

[Following paragraph added 9/3/19:] I’ve received some input suggesting that Mr. Pai’s comment about 2 hours meant that it only takes two hours to install a small wireless facility.  Ha.  That’s even more of a fantasy compared to the alternative claim that it takes two hours to process a SWF application.  Even strand-mounted SWFs takes days or weeks to install because of the steps required.  First, the installation of the power source, which may be local or remote; second, the installation of the back haul fiber (save for Sprint’s wireless back haul); third, the hanging of the radios and antennas; and fourth, the integration and optimization of the site into the network.  (At one AT&T small cell installed on a light standard a block from my L.A. office, AT&T has yet to bother to replace the concrete section of sidewalk at the pole.  It’s been nearly a year. AT&T, make the right choice and finish up your ground work.) Two weeks to two months is closer to the usual reality, and completely outside of any time frames set by a local government or the FCC on a local government.  If installation time is Chairman Pai’s beef, his is a “where’s the beef” comment disconnected from reality.  [End of paragraph added 9/3/19:]

As for the  Chairman’s third statement, that “[s]ome cities charge $5,000 for the same approval [for a small cell] that might cost $50 elsewhere”, that omits any basis in reality.  Even the Chairman seems to admit this when he says “might “cost”; not does cost.  Our third visit to Pai Fake News Land in just two sentences.

Let’s be clear: The small cell rules the Chairman speaks about have already been partially invalidated by the DC Circuit based on a lack of factual foundation at the FCC.  The various 9th Circuit suits by local governments to overturn the Small Wireless Facilities Order continue.

Verified facts trump fake news, and regulators should not see their primary role be industry enablers when their real job is to regulate those under its supervision.

Those are my opinions.  What are yours?



President Trump: Drinking the Industry 5G Kool Aid

On Friday, April 12, President Trump held a press event in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.  His subject?  5G deployment.  He remarks bear some close examination, as they come right out of the wireless industry playbook as enhanced by the FCC, a captured agency of that industry.  Let’s take apart the remarks, which are copied here from WhiteHouse.Gov:

THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much, everybody. Big day. Very important day. We have a lot of important days at our White House. And this is, to me, the future.

I want to thank you all for being here to discuss a critical issue for our country’s future: winning the race to be the world’s leading provider of 5G cellular communications networks. It’s all about 5G now. We were at 4G, and everybody was saying, “We have to get 4G.” And then they said, before that, “We have to get 3G.” And now we have to get 5G, and 5G is a big deal. And that’s going to be there for a while. And I guess, at some point, we’ll be talking to you about number 6. What do you think? (Laughter.) Do you think that’s true, Ajit?

As for the statement that we were at 3G, and we had to get to 4G, and now we must be at 5G, and perceptibly the president says that we’ll have to get to 6G (and if my math holds, 7G must follow 6G and so on…).

But, right now, we want to be the leader in this. We’re the leader in almost everything else.

And we’re grateful to be joined by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who’s been doing a fantastic job, and Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Stephen Censky. Thank you very much, Stephen. Appreciate it. And tell Sonny “hello.” He’s doing a tremendous job. Really tremendous.

Secure 5G networks will absolutely be a vital link to America’s prosperity and national security in the 21st century. 5G will be as much as 100 times faster than the current 4G cellular networks. It will transform the way our citizens work, learn, communicate, and travel. It will make American farms more productive, American manufacturing more competitive, and American healthcare better and more accessible. Basically, it covers almost everything, when you get right down to it. Pretty amazing.

American farms? Healthcare? Manufacturing?  American farms in rural areas are largely waiting for full deployment of 3G, and for many 4G is a dream.  The wireless industry has not seen fit to show how they will bring 5G wireless services to areas already grossly under-served.  As for healthcare, and manufacturing, those market segments are fixed users who largely rely on the speed of fiber to power their user networks.

Certainly, 5G will aid “citizens work, learn, communicate, and travel” as soon as they (a) in areas with true 5G, and (b) have dropped a thousand dollars per device to buy phones and tablets that can utilize 5G.

And just as 4G networks paved the way for smartphones and all of the exciting breakthroughs — they made possible so many things — this will be more secure and resilient. 5G networks will also create astonishing and really thrilling new opportunities for our people — opportunities that we’ve never even thought we had a possibility of looking at.

I agree that 4G (and 3G before) have facilitated users to gain access to better APPs and 5G will do the same thing.  As for being more secure and resilient, that’s a different ball of wax altogether. To be secure and resilient, you need to have and and control over the critical elements of the network. Notably, America does not have manufacturing capability for 5G networks. Huawei, the giant Chinese telecommunications firm thought to be controlled by or at least very friendly to the Chinese government, is a market leader in 5G switches and network components. If someone is going to monitor and control American 5G networks, I’d certainly prefer to see that monitoring and control in corporations that are fully aligned with U.S. interests.

We cannot allow any other country to out-compete the United States in this powerful industry of the future. We are leading by so much in so many different industries of that type, and we just can’t let that happen. The race to 5G is a race America must win, and it’s a race, frankly, that our great companies are now involved in. We’ve given them the incentive they need. It’s a race that we will win.

It’s hard to win a race when you’re not even competing in that race. To the extent that “our great companies are now involved in” this race, it’s hard to understand why we allow the coxswain to be a foreigner with suspect allegiances.

In the United States, our approach is private-sector driven and private-sector led. The government doesn’t have to spend lots of money. According to some estimates, the wireless industry plans to invest $275 billion in 5G networks, creating 3 million American jobs quickly — very quickly — and adding $500 billion to our economy.

Let’s do the math: $275B to create 3M jobs = nearly $92,000 per job to create.  President Trump says nothing about the longevity of those jobs, much less anything about the jobs that may be lost to automation. Moreover, the $500 billion is, as some would call it, a completely disingenuous SWAG.

And, as you probably heard, we had another alternative of doing it; that would be through government investment. And leading through the government, we don’t want to do that because it won’t be nearly as good, nearly as fast. And especially in that business, I think that they’ll be better doing the job than a lot of the folks who we know and love.

I don’t suppose that President Trump truly knows, much less loves, the main wireless industry participants in the wireless facility builders. Most of us outside know them, but hardly love them.

To accelerate and incentivize these investments, my administration is focused on freeing up as much wireless spectrum as needed — we’re going to free it up so they’ll be able to get out there and get it done — and removing regulatory barriers to the buildout of networks.

As Chairman Pai will discuss with you in a moment, the FCC is taking very bold action — probably bolder than they’ve ever taken before; it’s a new frontier — to make wireless spectrum available. By next year, the United States is on pace to have more 5G spectrum than any other country in the world. That’s a big statement because, as you know, some people got ahead of us. We should have been doing this a long time ago, as advanced as it may be.

In addition, last October, I directed the Department of Commerce to develop a National Spectrum Strategy to free up even more spectrum for economic activity, including 5G.

The FCC has also taken action to streamline the permitting process for 5G infrastructure with state and local governments. That’s a big deal. It takes too long to get permits. We’re going to free that situation up, and we’re going to put limits and the local areas are going to listen to us very, very strongly. They have a big incentive to do that.

Yes, local governments have been listening, and so have the citizens, and what we hear is not very encouraging. We hear the wireless industry going from state to state incentivizing state legislators to enact laws that silence the public as to siting matters, and shift the cost of wireless deployment permitting from the remote shareholders of the wireless firms to the backs of the local public.

there is a lively and legitimate debate going on regarding how this next generation of wireless facility should be deployed, and where. It’s a debate that the wireless industry attempts to legislatively squelch.

They must now approve new physical infrastructure within 90 days, instead of many years. It can sometimes take three, four, and five years. We’re going to put a limit of 90 days. And there is now a cap on the unreasonable fees local governments often charge. They get greedy. They think, “Hey, we can really take advantage.” And it ends up that everybody gets hurt. So we’re putting a cap on those fees. These changes will contribute greatly to building high-speed networks across America. And it’s going to happen very quickly. Very, very quickly.

While the wireless industry, and the FCC, would prefer to focus on the relative handful of cases where permitting a wireless site took substantially longer than the average, and avoid at all costs understanding why that happens, the reality is just the opposite of what the president claims. As a practitioner in this area, I know that it commonly takes substantially less than a year to get a permit and often just a matter of a few months.

If charging fees to cover a local governments permitting costs are greedy, then the president does not understand (or want to understand) that process.  This is unlike trying to secure permits for a midtown hotel, or a golf course, or a faux university.  This is permitting for wireless facilities that will be in front of someone’s home for the next 50 years.

By the end of this year, the United States will have 92 5G deployments in markets nationwide. The next nearest country, South Korea, will have 48. So we have 92, compared to 48. And we’re going to accelerate that pace greatly.

That statement reminds me of Benjamin Disraeli’s quote about the three kinds of lies. (You can look it up.)   Here, it’s enough to say that if you overlay the outline of the country of South Korea over a map of California, South Korea would take up less than half of California.

But we must not rest; the race is far from over. American companies must lead the world in cellular technology. 5G networks must be secure. They must be strong. They have to be guarded from the enemy — we do have enemies out there — and they will be. They must cover every community, and they must be deployed as soon as possible.

Finally, there’s something that a thinking person can agree with.  Security, strength, guarding from the enemy, and coverage over every community.  While the first three are agreeable and doable, it is a fantasy to believe that a free-market will see a truly national deployment that reduces the wireless divide between wealthy and poor, suburban and rural, city center and farming, etc.

Those are my opinions.  What are yours?




Mobilitie: Fake News; FCC Fines; and Churchill’s Barking Dog.

Mr. Jason Caliento, the Executive Vice President of Network Strategy at Mobilitie, presented the keynote address and a follow-up discussion at the AGL Summit on September 27, 2018. That Summit was held in Kansas City as an ongoing part of AGL’s (very important for municipal officials and industry personnel alike) lecture series.

I spoke at the AGL Summit on a 5G topic, but that’s not the focus of this post.

Mr. Jason Caliento (left) with Mr. Bryan Tramont.  Photo  Copyright © 2018 by Dr. Jonathan Kramer

The focus of this post is a snippet of about 2 minutes and 40 seconds of the one-on-one follow-up discussion with Mr. Bryan Tramont, Esq., the Managing Partner of Wilkinson Baker Knauer, LLP. The subject of that portion of their exchange was the 2018 Consent Decree between the FCC, Sprint, and Mobilitie. That Decree was adopted and released on April 10, 2018. (CLICK HERE to download and read the Consent Decree.)

In their relatively short exchange, Mr. Caliento managed to claim that there was some sort of ‘fake news’ involvement in the story about Sprint and Mobilitie violating the FCC’s rules; that the ends justified the means; and that Mr. Caliento seems guided by Sir Winston Churchill’s quote, “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” I suppose an apparently intentional program between Mobilitie and Sprint to build sites absent required regulatory permissions is the barking dog in his odd analogy.

Please listen to Mr. Caliento’s comments responding to Mr. Tramont on this topic in its entity.  Then you may decide for yourself what you think of Mobilitie’s and Sprint’s (presumably and hopefully former) approach to regulatory compliance:

Okay. I suppose that’s one way to spin intentionally violating federal regulations because the ends seem to justify Mobilitie’s and Sprint’s means. Further, as for the ends justifying the means, apparently paying the FCC an $11 million dollar fine seems a very small and economical price to Mobilitie and Sprint given the billions Mr. Caliento claims that they have saved (and presumably will save).

I opine that now we know the real fake news.


PS: The next AGL Summit is in Atlanta, Georgia on November 8th. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend, but I highly recommend this event to municipal officials who want the real story about what’s happening in the coming 5G world. -jlk


Mayor Sam Liccardo Resigns from FCCs Sham BDAC

Today, San José Mayor Sam Liccardo resigned from the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (“BDAC”). This comes as no surprise to most of us in the local government sector, yet we’re sorry to see him leave.

When FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced just one year ago his intention to form the BDAC as a vehicle for local governments and the wireless industry to work together to draft proposals for balanced local wireless deployment policies, we knew that the membership of the BDAC (hand selected by the Chairman) would tell the tale.

Unfortunately, the tale told by the Chairman’s lopsided selection for BDAC membership showed an industry-captured agency where the real intent was to top-load the Committee with industry players, while assigning a paltry-few membership slots to local government representatives.  More: See this link.

Mayor Liccardo took on one of the micro-minority slots doled out by the Chairman to local government representatives and he really attempted to make something of it.  For that, we applaud Mayor Liccardo, and hope the side of his head is not too dented.

Read his resignation letter, below.  You’ll get why we know that work product of the BDAC is most likely (say only 99.999999999999% likely) to be a sham…and a means and justification for the Commission to adopt new rules based on the sham work product of the captured agency.



FCC BDAC Resignation Letter of Mayor Sam Liccardo (San José, California). January 25, 2018.

Sprint Uses My Photo of Mobilitie to Promote Small Cells

I guess Sprint really, really likes my cell site photo collection, and photos I use in my lectures.  So much, in fact, that they they included one of my annotated photos of a Mobilitie ‘pox-on-a-pole’ site in Los Angeles as a presentation tool in an Ex Parte meeting with 9 staff members at the FCC on October 23, 2017.  Here’s my annotated photo, used by Sprint in its Ex Parte presentation:

Did Sprint bother to ask me for permission to use my intellectual property in its Ex Parte presentation?

Of course not.

Does my annotated photograph above, used by Sprint without my permission, look like the type of cell you’d want in front of your residential balcony?

I suspect not.

Hey, Sprint (and specifically Keith Buell), the next time you’d like to use my intellectual property, please consider giving me a call first.

Here’s a link to Sprint’s Ex Parte 4-page filing containing MY photo: CLICK HERE.




First the IRS was after me…now it’s the FBI!

I must be a really bad person (well, perhaps to some wireless infrastructure companies…ahem).

First, the IRS was after me, now it’s the FBI.

Oh my…oh my…oh my!

Oddly, when I called back and told the “agent” I was recording the call all I heard was <click>!  How rude of them to hang up on me when they’re trying to arrest me.  NOT FAIR!



Published reports late today have Sprint putting aside its merger talks with T-Mobile to focus on a potentially MUCH MORE IMPORTANT deal–one with Charter and Comcast (or is it Comcast and Charter). I’ve predicted a deal like this for years.

Why is a Sprint-MSOs deal more important than a deal with T-Mobile?

As I’ve said before, cable TV MSOs are like Visa: “Everywhere you want to be.”

Sprint needs to strike a deal with the biggest MSOs to gain access to the fat backhaul offered by MSOs, the quick deployment and provisioning of small cells on cable TV strand (and inside cable TV pedestals), and to the back or front yards of millions of homes passed by the cable operators.

Who are the real losers?  Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Mobilitie.  As to the first three, they are likely to be blocked for Cable TV strand-mounting of small cells in the major markets controlled by Comcast and Spectrum.  As for Mobilitie, I believe it stands to lose the most from any Sprint-MSO deal that will invariably drive a silver stake into the heart of what I can only call a very troubling and disjointed ‘5G-but-not-really-5G’ piecemeal deployment of small cells that aren’t really all that small.

Oh, yes, Crown Castle and Extenet, as well as other fiber/builder providers will suffer from a deal like this which would cut into the heart of their fiber and node businesses in a really big way.

Not too long after Sprint inks a deal with the MSOs it can expect to cease to operate as a separate entity as the cable operators swallow Sprint whole to bring the wireless services under the sole control of the MSOs.  For the MSOs it gives them the existing Sprint network, such as it is, outside of the MSO’s footprints to offer streaming video services over Sprint’s wireless network.  This would likely follow AT&T’s deployment of offering streaming video services via wireless outside of the existing wireline U-Verse and Giga-whatever footprint.

T-Mobile should now expect to receive merger-partnering overtures from other first tier and second tier cable operators. Moreover, it can expect to slide to a solid last place with a Sprint-MSO deal.

Those of you old enough will recall that Sprint largely came out of Cox Communications’ pioneer FCC licenses. What’s old is new again, and we live in interesting times.



LPTV/Translators/NAB v. FCC/Microsoft/Google

Today’s San Francisco Chronicle features an interesting story about the tension between LPTV broadcasters and TV translator operators verus an FCC push to clear some TV channels for a new national WiFi-type of service.  On one side are the NAB, LPTV braocasters, and TV translators.  On the other side are an odd alliance of Microsoft and Google.  I have a couple of quotes in the article that was written by Dominic Fracassa.  Mr. Fracassa is the Chronicle’s business reporter covering technology matters.

Here’s the story link: