Birds on Blue: A Public Art Cell Site

I am a sucker for the marriage of cell sites and public art, as brought to life in “Birds on Blue” in San Diego.

Birds on Blue: A public art cell site in San Diego.
Birds on Blue: A public art cell site in San Diego.

This cell site, the product of a collaboration of artists Ron Pekar and Sandy McDaniel, was brought to life by Esteban DuPont’s CellTech Wireless. The site was funded by Crown Castle, and permitted by the City of San Diego.

3D birds soar in Birds on Blue
Birds on Blue uses a total of 75 three-dimensional bird sculptures to bring this site to life.

Located at CA905 and Beyer Blvd in San Diego, I was honored to play a very small role in making this site come to life.

Here’s a link to a local NBC story on the creation of Birds on Blue:

What will Ron, Sandy, and Esteban bring to life at the next public art cell site?

To sell all 27 photos I took of this site on February 18, 2017, visit



FCC Chair Tom Wheeler’s Keynote At NATOA National

natoafccchair.20141001(Updated 5:29 p.m. PDT to include the prepared remarks of the Chairman.)

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler presented the keynote speech on October 1, 2014 at the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA.ORG) Annual Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The running time of the lecture is just under 30 minutes, and this is a ‘must listen’ lecture about issues important to the Commission, the telecom industry, and governments.

For those of you who are interested in the pending FCC Report and Order on Broadband Deployment (the ‘6409(a)’ NPRM) start at 20:35.  That portion is about 1 minute long, but contains very interesting clues as to how the Commission will address the comments received from the industry and governments and frame the pending rules.

Chairman Wheeler’s prepared comments are presented below the audio link.

Jonathan Kramer



Remarks of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors

Annual Conference

October 1, 2014


Thank you, Tony Perez, for that introduction. I join in congratulating the winners of NATOA’s Community Broadband Awards.

It’s great to be at the NATOA meeting here in Minnesota. Perhaps that explains why as I look out across this assemblage, all the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and the policy proposals above average.

A native Minnesotan, in fact, provides us with the intellectual foundation for our discussion today. It was the son of Hibbing, Minnesota, Bob Dylan who wrote, “You better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changing.”

That is the challenge we all face. There is no doubt that high-speed broadband – wired and wireless – is a-changing everything. Those who embrace these changes will help write the future. Those who don’t will…well…sink like a stone.

NATOA and the FCC are swimming to the common goal of making sure that communities across America – large and small – have access to robust broadband networks that deliver the benefits of broadband connectivity to all citizens.

But you may have noticed that not everyone is swimming alongside that effort. There are those who seek to block the competitive forces that can produce faster, cheaper, better broadband; those who make it difficult to build out the infrastructure necessary for the broadband future; and those with which both you and we have to contend that would use changes in technology as an excuse to sidestep the responsibilities network operators have always had to their users.

Today, I would like to visit about our responsibility to overcome this resistance and ensure that our nation has the networks necessary for the jobs, economic growth, and quality of life that will determine our nation’s place in the 21st century. Yes, that is a dramatic statement; yes, it is that important; and, yes, I know it is easier to say than to do.

You, in your positions in your communities, and my colleagues and I, in our positions at the FCC, have responsibilities, not just to the consumers and networks of today, but also to the consumers and networks of tomorrow. Here is the reality confronting us:

  • We need faster networks in more places. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of seeing the charts of where the U.S. ranks in comparison to the broadband speeds of other nations. Table stakes for the 21st century is 25 Mbps, and winning the game means that all consumers can get at least 100 Mbps – and more.
  • Competition is the best way to achieve those goals. Unfortunately, today there is an inverse relationship between competition and throughput. Three-quarters of American homes have no competitive choice at 25 Mbps. That includes almost 20 percent who have no option at all at those speeds!
  • Wireless is an increasingly critical broadband pathway of the future. The 21st century will be defined by the networks that marry the ever-increasing computing power of Moore’s Law with the invisible delivery of wireless spectrum. Our generation has been self-congratulatory about the connection of people – seven billion wireless subscriptions in a world of seven billion people is impressive – but you and we must plan on connecting 50 billion inanimate devices made smart by Moore’s Law.
  • Openness is the key to networks delivering on their possibilities. Blocking, discriminating, or degrading service for economic gain is contrary to the promise of broadband networks. Yet we have no protections in place to assure that kind of openness. We must have rules that will establish that an open Internet is the sine qua non of broadband.

A minute ago I spoke of the responsibilities of networks. For the better part of a century, there has been a set of principles that has defined the relationship between those who build and operate networks and those who use them. I call this the “Network Compact” and our goal as regulators and policy makers is to assure that these principles continue to define that relationship into the future. These principles include:

  • Access – both to networks and on networks,
  • Interconnection – by definition a network is a series of connections; in the broadband world, the Internet isn’t a thing, but a connected collection of networks,
  • Consumer protection – technology has pushed the laws of physics, but nothing has changed the laws of human nature or economics, and consumers must be protected from exploitation,
  • Public safety – we’ll talk more about this in a minute, but it must be the underlying deliverable of all networks, and
  • National security – in a world in which networks are now attack vectors, we must have secure and safe connectivity.

There are those who argue that the move from analog networks to IP networks changes these principles. They are wrong. The form these responsibilities take may change in an IP world, but the principles do not – and should never – go away.

As we transition to an all-IP world, the challenge confronting those of us in this room is how do we preserve these values that we have come to expect from our networks, while seizing the opportunities that our new networks promise? So let’s address these issues head-on – starting with competition.

Competition works, and how we behave determines whether there will be competition. The existence of four national wireless carriers, for instance, is an important national priority and we worked to protect that reality. Similarly, there cannot be effective competition in wireless without new spectrum and without assuring that the most advantageous low-band spectrum is available to all competitors. We are doing both of those as well.

The advantages of competition are so obvious and ingrained in the American psyche that many local communities have stepped up to facilitate it where the private sector has not. Communities are listening to the needs of their citizens and enterprises, engaging community stakeholders, and focusing on delivering competitive broadband services to respond to those needs.  As you know, two communities – Wilson, NC and Chattanooga, TN – have petitioned the FCC to preempt the laws enacted by state legislatures that prohibit them from expanding their community-owned broadband networks. There are currently laws in 19 states that impose restrictions of one kind of another on such local decision-making.

We will make our decision on those petitions on the record and on the merits. I am not going to comment on them any further.

However, I do encourage you to consider how local choice and competition can increase the broadband opportunities for your citizens. I love the story of Lafayette, Louisiana where the local incumbent fought the city’s fiber network tooth and nail, bringing multiple court challenges and triggering a local referendum on the project.  Thankfully, none of the challenges managed to prevent deployment – sixty-two percent of voters approved of the network in the referendum, and the Louisiana Supreme Court unanimously sided with the city – but they did delay deployment almost three years.  When the network was finally built, the community experienced the benefits of competition, as the local cable operator decided to upgrade its network. Local choice and competition are about as American as you can get.

Those American principles can play an important and essential role in assuring America’s future.

Here’s where you and other local officials become critically important. If the infrastructure necessary to build out both wired and wireless broadband networks doesn’t receive the prioritization that it warrants as a major national undertaking, then all the efforts to achieve faster, cheaper, better broadband service that will enhance our nation’s competitiveness, create quality jobs for our fellow citizens, and introduce services that will redefine both our commerce and our culture will be for naught.

I know this is often a zoning matter in which you are as much an observer as we are. In those instances where some of you may have a role, however, I encourage you to be pro-active. In those instances where it is others who have the authority, I urge you to stand up for your telecommunications responsibilities. I understand the very real and very strong Not-In-My-Backyard sentiments.  Everyone wants cellphone service but no one wants cellphone antennas in their neighborhood.  Everyone wants access to state-of-the-art transmission service, but no one wants the neighborhood streets dug up.  It reminds me of another folk song: “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”

However, we’re talking about a national priority; about the maintenance of economic leadership; about America’s continuing to be the home of innovation. We must find ways to enable the extension and expansion of broadband infrastructure.  Local officials with permitting authority have a special obligation to both their own communities and to the larger society. It is simply impossible to have the connectivity our nation requires without the necessary infrastructure. While there is an understandable desire to engage in cognitive dissonance of wanting connectivity but not its consequences, as policy makers we must resist within reason such myopia.

In that regard, we must build on and expand the creative thinking that has been the hallmark of the good work many of you have done to facilitate advanced broadband builds around the country.  It’s great that NATOA has developed best practices on tower siting and is updating those practices. And as I understand it, there is also a guide on rights of way issues, but it’s 12 years old. Things have changed a bit in the last dozen years. I encourage you to update your rights of way guide.

You have the ability to develop national best practices that embrace strategies that have been shown to work in today’s technological and economic environments – strategies that embrace new technology and new ideas to facilitate the timely deployment of wired and wireless broadband. There is a reason Google Fiber developed a “City Checklist” to aid in determining where to invest in gigabit fiber. It contains simple things, like timely and accurate information about and access to poles and conduit. These low-cost steps are relevant to all broadband providers; we must bring those insights to all localities.

At the FCC, we will use our authority to attack the broadband deployment challenge. We will work with you, so that national best practices are included in our Agenda for Broadband Competition…the ABCs of consumer choice in the 21st century. We will also move on our own authority. Last Friday I proposed to my colleagues a new set of federal policies on the siting of wireless facilities. This proposal will take concrete steps to immediately and substantially ease the burdens associated with deploying wireless equipment – particularly for collocations and deployments of small-cell systems that can be installed unobtrusively on utility poles, buildings, and other existing structures. At the same time, my proposal preserves the front-line authority of local and Tribal governments to determine which structures are appropriate for wireless deployments, as well as authority to enforce building codes, electrical codes, laws related to health and safety, and to require companies to use camouflage or concealment designs. The Commission will consider this item at our next open meeting on October 17.

There is another component of our broadband responsibilities, and that is video programming. We’ve been hearing a lot lately that access to video is necessary for broadband deployment because consumers increasingly watch video online and that translates into more demand for video-quality broadband. So if we can make it easier for video choices to come to communities, we should be able to incent more broadband competition as a result.

Broadband becomes more economically viable, we are told, when it is bundled with video services. In a perverse way, then, how localities handle video competition can determine whether they will have broadband competition.

I want to close my remarks by emphasizing one other place we must work together – public safety.

Robust, accessible 911 service is central to our shared public safety missions.

The transition to all-IP communications raises new challenges for 911.

We are used to thinking about 911 outages as a result of acts of nature: a hurricane, a tornado, vast flooding.

But there is a new threat. The emerging Next Generation 911 system is more complex than the legacy 911 system and relies more extensively on infrastructure, resources, and relationships that are multistate or national in scope. It is supported by a larger number of service providers, including new entrants that are offering new, niche functionalities.

Innovation is good, and we want NG 911 to support new forms of emergency communications.

But the creation of new, complex systems where no one is responsible, and where the system as a whole lacks reliability and resiliency is not acceptable.

The threat is real….and growing.

In April, citizens in seven states lost access to 911 for six hours…six hours!  More than 5,600 911 calls did not get through because of a software glitch in an outsourced database!

This August, there was a 911 outage in one of the nationwide wireless networks, and there was an outage in Vermont that knocked out 911 service statewide for nearly an hour.

The fact that these outages occurred, and the common issues they raise, are evidence of the challenge we face, and suggest that we are at risk of experiencing far worse failures if we don’t take action now.

We recognize that states and local governments also have long-standing and significant responsibility for 911 service within their jurisdictions.  We believe the best approach is a partnership between the FCC and state and local authorities to ensure that there are no gaps in the reliability of the entire NG911 system. The FCC’s staff has worked closely with state and local officials to investigate these outages, and, at our open meeting later this month, will be presenting the findings of this investigation, as well as recommendations for concrete steps to promote end-to-end reliability and accountability of the 911 system.

The critical point is this: neither we at the federal level nor you at the state and local level have the ability to ensure end-to-end 911 reliability on our own – we must work together.

We must work together, not just on 911, but on all the topics I’ve discussed today.

When competitive broadband options don’t exist, let’s work together to create an environment that encourages investment to switch-on America’s competitive genius.

When there is no broadband availability at all, let’s work together to get infrastructure deployed by any and all entities willing to step up to meet the challenge; and

When providers begin to retire legacy networks for newer technologies let’s work together to make sure that the expectations of consumers and businesses continue to be met, including access to 911.

For the times they are a’changing. Let’s work together to embrace the new opportunities and build a better tomorrow.

Thank you.


Rarer than the Loch Ness Monster: the Mono-Scaffold Wireless Tower!

The elusive and rarely photographed Mono-Scaffold.
The elusive and never-before photographed Mono-Scaffold wireless tower.  Click to enlarge.

It is rare that I have the privilege of capturing a never-before documented wireless tower design.  Yet fate has chosen to grace me by allowing me to find, in the wild, this most elusive of wireless tower designs…

…the Mono-Scaffold!

While hereto-now only hushed rumors of this rarest of tower designs have been uttered in the strictest of confidences between contract wireless engineers working for carriers, I am able to confirm with irrefutable evidence forthe international scientific and lay communities the first documented, photographed mono-scaffold site.

This mono-scaffold site, located in Malibu California on Pacific Coast Highway, forever quiets the popular speculation of the existence of this fabled design.  It is true.  It exists.

Having now proven the existence of a Mon0-Scaffold, I must now turn my attention to the most important follow-on query:

Is a Mono-Scaffold subject to Section 6409(a) of The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012?

A lessor question, but important in its own right:

Is a Mono-Scaffold is subject to EIA/TIA-222?

As is most often the case, one answer provokes several new questions.  The expansion of knowledge continues.

You are lucky to live in the time during which the existence of the fabled Mono-Scaffold was proven as a fact.

If you wish to field-verify my findings, I encourage you to navigate…quickly…to N34.0394 W118.6717.

I urge you to hurry.  There is no telling how long the Mono-Scaffold will remain in this one location.



3rd Party Engineers, T-Mobile & Local Jurisdictions

T-Mobile’s National External Affairs (“NEA”) Newsletter is a monthly online publication aimed at T-Mobile’s  outside siting professionals and others related to siting.  NEA was kind enough to add me to their subscriber list.

What follows below is an article appearing in the July 2013 issue of T-Mobile’s National External Affairs’ Siting Newsletter.  It describes T-Mobile’s view of 3rd party engineers retained by local jurisdictions primary to evaluate towers for structural integrity during upgrades.

While we on the government side might expect the article to be one sided and dismissive, I have to say that NEA’s presentation is thoughtful, considered, and very balanced.  As the article concludes, “It’s not just technical answers that will help achieve success, it is also building understanding from all sides of the equation.”  Well said, T-Mobile.

I encourage you to read the entire article below.  I reprint it here with T-Mobile’s prior written permission.

Siting from Different Perspectives:
3rd Party Engineers, T-Mobile & Local Jurisdictions

A growing number of jurisdictions are outsourcing wireless site engineering to third-party firms, especially when it comes to municipally owned water tanks. The practice creates challenges not only for T-Mobile but also the engineering firms themselves as they strive for a happy medium where wireless facilities can quickly and efficiently be deployed while satisfying municipal objectives surrounding safety and asset protection.

Municipalities turn to outside engineering firms for several reasons, including a feeling that their own staffers are ill-equipped to judge the assertions made by wireless carriers regarding siting. Budgetary constraints also restrict the time and resources municipal employees can dedicate to siting issues.

“They just want to make sure that they’re protected, that they’re protecting their assets, which is why they’re hiring these firms,” said Steve Carlson, partner delivery manager for real estate in T-Mobile’s Minneapolis market.

Minneapolis has a high percentage of wireless facilities installed on water tanks. T-Mobile’s modernization project in the market includes 162 water tank sites out of 698 total sites. It is common practice for cities in the market to require reviews of site applications by third-party engineers anytime a carrier wants to perform a new installation on a tank or conduct any kind of an upgrade.

However, there can be drawbacks for carriers when it comes to dealing with third-party engineering firms. Municipalities generally select the third-party engineering firm with which a carrier must deal, and that firm will bill all charges for time and materials to the carrier. In Minneapolis, the cost of each full review might be $3,000 to more than $10,000, Carlson said.

Often, municipalities provide no oversight of these engineering firms, some of which may run up what appear to be exorbitant bills for their reviews, said Lori LeBlanc, T-Mobile’s senior development manager in Minneapolis. “There’s no checks and balances put into place with regard to the city. It’s almost like an open-ended checkbook,” she said.

Indeed, some engineering firms appear to be taking advantage of the situation by requiring more reviews than needed. For example, T-Mobile has on occasion submitted duplicate plans from a previous installation that an engineering firm approved, only to have the same firm find issues with the new installation. “It’s always a three-review process one way or another,” Carlson said.

In addition to the financial impact, there is also an opportunity cost involved, not just for carriers, who suffer delays in deployment plans, but for local residents, who must wait for upgraded service. Individual site reviews in Minneapolis for T-Mobile modernization projects have taken from three months to more than a year.

Additionally, once a building plan is approved, a number of inspections might be instigated, all of which must be paid for by the carrier.

Further complicating matters is the fact that in Minneapolis, the three third-party engineering firms hired to conduct site reviews are vastly understaffed, with generally only one or two individuals at a firm available to perform all of its water tank reviews. This is especially egregious given the number of site upgrades currently being implemented by T-Mobile and other carriers.

“They did not staff up for the workload that they have. The cities, who are ultimately our landlords, don’t really understand that,” Carlson said.

A view from the other side

While carriers cite a number of issues in dealing with third-part engineering firms, it’s important to remember that those firms also face numerous challenges when it comes to conducting site reviews and granting approvals for wireless installations.

Paul J. Ford and Company was started in 1965. The employee-owned company, which is strictly focused on structural engineering, has offices in Columbus, Ohio; Orlando, Florida; and Atlanta, Georgia. It is registered in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada and Venezuela.

Some 40 people work in Paul J. Ford’s telecommunications unit, which has been kept busy lately with requests for site reviews related to LTE upgrades, said the company’s President Kevin Bauman.  He started with Paul J. Ford in 1976, working with the company’s tower business from the start.

Placing communications antennas on a water tank usually involves three parties with divergent interests, Bauman said.

“The municipality wants assurance from a design professional that there will be no negative impact upon their water tank due to the addition of the communication equipment.  The wireless carrier knows that mounting something as small as an antenna on something as large as a water tank should have a negligible impact on the water tanks structural stability.  The structural engineer understands that it isn’t logical to require a thorough and time-consuming structural analysis of the entire water tank for this type of installation, yet some due diligence is required if that company is going to assume the responsibility for the adequacy of the installation,” he said.

Bauman explained the process that engineers go through to ensure that structural integrity and conformance to building standards are fully considered when wireless facilities are planned for installation on water tanks.
“Generally we try to get as much structural information about the water tower as we possibly can. If the water tower is adequate as it now stands, it’s usually impossible to overstress it by adding communications antennas to it,” Bauman said.

However, if the building code has changed, then a thorough structural analysis of the water tank might reveal that the water tank is structurally deficient even though the cause has nothing to do with the addition of the communication antenna. Further, Bauman noted that in many areas of the country, seismic (earthquake) loads are the controlling design criteria and not wind loads or weight.

He contends that mobile carriers often “do not have a real good understanding of the type of things that we need and the type of things they need us to do.”

For one thing, carriers often provide third-party engineering firms with insufficient information and rarely have the original drawings for a site. Bauman said he has received photos of water tanks with no additional specs from carriers that need a site review.

“A structural engineer can’t create a set of drawings and place his/her professional engineers seal on a drawing, if even the most basic structural information about the water tank is unknown,” Bauman noted.

“Many times we get so little information, we back out of the project, and that makes everybody mad,” he said. “But if we lack adequate information we can’t perform the necessary due diligence to form a professional opinion.”
When it comes to water tanks, firms such as his often have a difficult time convincing municipalities that changes to a wireless deployment on a water tank can be so insignificant from a structural viewpoint that they do not require a whole lot of engineering work.

“It’s kind of a no-brainer, but municipalities don’t like to go along with that. They want to see reams of calculations to prove that everything’s okay,” Bauman said.

That’s not to say installing wireless communications equipment on a water tank is child’s play: There are actually lots of unique issues with which to contend.

“The tricky part about doing water tanks is that they have water in them,” Bauman said. It is tough to weld anything to the side of a water tank because the water inside acts as a giant heat sink, making it difficult to develop enough heat for a good weld. In addition, when installing equipment on top of a water tank, any exterior welding can impact the coating inside the tank that protects the water.

Carriers can sometimes attach antennas to water tanks using an epoxy, which can be successful with the right epoxy and environmental conditions. There are also magnetic mounts that can be used for mounting equipment atop a water tank.

“How a structural engineer ever proves to a municipality that the magnets are strong enough, I don’t know,” Bauman said, noting there are no numbers available to prove such a setup works. But numbers are exactly what municipalities want from their third-party engineering firms.

To conduct the necessary structural reviews and provide all of the information demanded by municipalities is a time-consuming endeavor. Bauman said most carriers underestimate the amount of effort involved in water tank site reviews.  “We probably turn down 70 percent of all water tank work because it’s just not worth it,” he added.

Smoothing the process

There is clearly room for improvement in relationships between carriers, municipalities and third-party engineering firms.

Understanding the pressures put upon third-party engineering firms is one way that mobile operators can build rapport with the outside engineers. Simplifying the process from the carrier side is also beneficial.

In the Minneapolis market, where T-Mobile has modernized 106 of 162 water tank sites, the market team has strived to make the third-party review process more efficient. For example, T-Mobile assigned one construction manager to handle all interactions with third-party engineers regarding water tank placements. That helped T-Mobile in terms of tracking projects and consistency in handling issues as they cropped up, though this has admittedly sped up the process only minimally.

However, there is still work to be done.  “In the future, how do we approach the cities for future projects?” asked LeBlanc.

T-Mobile hopes that initiating more conversations with all of the parties involved will lead to more creative solutions for streamlining the approval process for new wireless installations and site upgrades when third-party engineering firms are involved. It’s not just technical answers that will help achieve success, it is also building understanding from all sides of the equation.

Copyright © 2013 T-Mobile US, All rights reserved. The National External Affairs’ Siting Newsletter is a publication that highlights topics of interest to anyone wanting to know more about siting and T-Mobile’s work with communities. For more information, please contact us by telephone (425.383.8413) or by email at
Our mailing address is: T-Mobile US,  12920 SE 38th Street, Bellevue, WA 98006



Urgent: California 6409(a)/Shot Clock Law Floated in Sacramento

California Assembly Bill 162California Assembly Bill 162

[Updated March 28, 2013]
[Updated March 24, 2013]
[Updated March 23, 2013]
[Original March 22, 2013]

[Update/Heads-Up: I’ve received a copy of Assembly Member Holden’s Fact Sheet on AB 162, which has been christened the “Broadband Expansion Act.” I’ve rechristened it the “Wireless Industry Gift and Public Exclusion Act of 2013.” In the next day or two I’ll be posting the Fact Sheet, and my point-by-point analysis, rebuttal and corrections to the Fact Sheet.]

The wireless industry has quietly dropped an awful bill, Assembly Bill 162, into the hopper in Sacramento to impose severe new rules requiring mandatory and lightning fast wireless collocation approvals by California local governments.

Assembly Bill 162 is a combination Super Section 6409(a) coupled with a Super Shot Clock.  To add icing to the wireless industry’s cake, the bill would effectively eliminate any consideration of whether the applicant has a significant gap in its service, and would define its key terms so broadly as to make nearly every component part of a wireless tower or site (including components not now considered to be either).

Well, really, there’s nothing super about this bill if you’re either a concerned citizen or a local government.

Assembly Bill 162, sponsored by Assembly Whip Chris Holden D-41, started as a housing bill in January.  It was gutted yesterday, on March 21, to become an 8-figure gift to the entire wireless industry.

In its now-morphed form, Assembly Bill 162 would add Section 65964.5 to the Government Code to do the following:

1.  Parrot the opening of Sec. 6409(a) of the Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2012 by saying,

(a) Notwithstanding any other law, and pursuant to Section 6409 of the federal Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (47 U.S.C. Sec. 1455), a local government shall approve and may not deny any eligible facilities request for a modification of an existing wireless telecommunications facility that does not substantially change the physical dimensions of the wireless telecommunications facility.

2. Then the next section would make the failure of a Local Government to act on such a request within 45 days result in the project being deemed approved. 

(b)The failure to act on an eligible facilities request within 45 days of receipt of a request shall be deemed an approval of the request. The 45 days shall be tolled if the request is determined to be incomplete. If the request is determined to be incomplete, the local government shall comply with subdivision (c) of Section 65943 of the Government Code.

Section (b) would effectively eliminate any possibility of public hearings in advance of mandatory approvals.  The 45 day shot clock would cut in half the time determined by the FCC to be adequate to process collocations.  The effective result would be that wireless collocation projects would take priority over virtually every other project considered by a local government.

Section 65943(c) of the Government Code provides for a formal appeal process for projects deemed incomplete by a local government.   Since this is already state law, it seems redundant here.

3.  Forget about coverage gap proof for collocations.  Subsection (c) of Assembly Bill 162 would kill that:

(c) A local government shall not require proof of gap in coverage as part of the approval of an eligible facilities request.

4.  Next, the proposed legislation goes on to define key terms:

(d) For purposes of this section, the following definitions shall apply:

(1) “Eligible facilities request” or “request” means any request for modification of an existing wireless telecommunications facility that involves any of the following:

(A) Collocation of upgraded transmission equipment.

(B) Removal of transmission equipment.

(C) Replacement of transmission equipment.

(2) “Substantially change” means any of the following:

(A) The mounting of the proposed antenna on the wireless telecommunications facility would increase the existing height of the wireless telecommunications facility by more than 10 percent, or by the height of one additional antenna array with separation from the nearest existing antenna not to exceed 20 feet, whichever is greater, except that the mounting of the proposed antenna may exceed the size limits set forth in this subparagraph if necessary to avoid interference with existing antennas.

(B) The mounting of the proposed antenna would involve the installation of more than the standard number of new equipment cabinets for the technology involved, not to exceed four equipment cabinets, or more than one additional equipment shelter.

(C) The mounting of the proposed antenna would involve adding an appurtenance to the body of the wireless telecommunications facility that would protrude from the edge of the wireless telecommunications facility more than 20 feet, or more than the width of the wireless telecommunications facility at the level of the appurtenance, whichever is greater, except that the mounting of the proposed antenna may exceed the size limits set forth in this subparagraph if necessary to shelter the antenna from inclement weather or to connect the antenna to the wireless telecommunications facility via cable.

(D) The mounting of the proposed antenna would involve excavation outside the current wireless telecommunications facility site, defined as the current boundaries of the leased or owned property surrounding the wireless telecommunications facility and any access or utility easements currently related to the site.

(3) “Wireless telecommunications facility” means equipment and network components, including towers, utility poles, transmitters, base stations, and emergency power systems that are integral to providing wireless telecommunications services.

The definitions in Assembly Bill 162 are so broad as to encompass nearly every portion of a wireless system, including DAS networks.  Moreover, the definitions are in conflict with the plain words of the proposed statue as to what constitutes a substantial change in the physical dimensions of the wireless telecommunications facility.

The definitions (and in part the lack of definitions) would also open the door to the conversion of fully camouflaged sites to morph into ugly monopoles or visible sites.  Moreover, the definitions would allow for the mandatory installation of any type of emergency power system (including diesel powered generators and hydrogen fuel cells) at any cell site.

Assembly Bill 162 is one of the worst bills that would essentially kill public input into wireless siting process for collocations in California.  It would speed up the process to the point where the public would be denied any effective opportunity to have any meaningful review, much less input, on proposed wireless collocations (which seem to be the bulk of wireless projects in California now).

The sponsor of Assembly Bill 162 is one of the most powerful members of the Assembly, and the owner of CHMB Consulting Firm (a real estate consulting firm in Pasadena).  No doubt Mr. Holden’s goal is to promote the rapid deployment of more wireless service in California, but Assembly Bill 162 in its current form is anti-constituent and anti-government.  As it is now set out, the Bill amounts to a massive gift to the wireless industry at the expense of the public and local governments.

Members of the public will need to directly communicate with Assembly Member Holden about Assembly Bill 162, as well as their own local governments and elected representatives, if there is to be any chance to maintain meaningful community and local government involvement in wireless tower collocation siting matters in this state.

To read the original housing bill, now struck, with the replacement wireless industry gift language, click to open the PDF: AB 162 Assembly Bill – AMENDED

Here is a link to the current version of Assembly Bill 162 making its way through the California Legislature:

To express your views about Assembly Bill 162 directly to Assembly Member Holden, you can use his web site’s comment form:

Check back here often to find out what’s happening with Assembly Bill 162.  Share this post with your friends and your local elected officials (who I hope are also your friends).

Thanks to J.D. for his help making this post even better!

FCC Offers “Guidance” on Sec. 6409(a)


As an aside, I note that the Commission did not consult with its own Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, much less advise them of the release of this Guidance in advance.

The Commission crafted its Section 6409(a) Guidance to provide the public its own view of how state and local governments should interpret the following self-created questions:

  1. What does it mean to “substantially change the physical dimensions” of a tower or base station?
  2. What is a “wireless tower or base station”?
  3. May a state or local government require an application for an action covered under Section 6409(a)?
  4. Is there a time limit within which an application must be approved?

I’ll let you read the Guidance for yourself (see link below)  to learn the Commission’s thoughts in response to its four questions.  I’m not going to get into my specific thoughts about the Guidance other than to say that it is flawed and overreaching in most areas covered.  The only bright light is that the Commission did recognize that carriers are not exempt or excused from following the state or local government application process  for collocations covered by Section 6409(a).

Importantly, however, there is about a 103% certainty that wireless carrier representatives will show up to local governments toting a copy of the Guidance misrepresenting it as the way that 6409(a) must be read and understood by those governments. That will be factually incorrect, but its tough for planners at “the counter” to critically evaluate a document bearing the FCC seal.  That critical evaluation and the inevitable challenges to the Guidance will be a job for attorneys and stakeholder organizations like NATOA.

At the end, the Commission’s Guidance is advisory only.  Given the fundamental omissions and differences in Section 6409(a) (some of which are acknowledged by the Commission), Section 6409(a) remains a moving target, as does compliance with that moving target.

Click here to read the FCC’s Guidance on 6409(a)


Clearwire to sink from sight/site

clearwire_sinking(Updated 4:41 p.m.; added AGL Magazine story link.)

Well, it’s almost over.   Clearwire, that is.

Clearwire will sink from site, er, from sight as SoftSprint (or someone else depending on the investor law suits will will claim insufficient value to be paid by Sprint) ponies up the relatively small bucks to buy the rest of Clearwire that Sprint doesn’t already own.

So Clearwire’s WiMax is dead.  Clearwire’s shift to LTE is dead.  Clearwire’s microwave sites will soon be dead.

Clearwire is all but dead.  The corpse is worth more dead, mainly if not entirely because of the FCC’s spectrum licenses it presently owns…and soon will transfer.  My gut says that the existing sites are mostly useless expect for some possibility of site-to-MTSO backhaul.

I bet Google’s sorry it jumped ship in February of 2012, receiving only $1.60 for each of its 29 million shares (something greater than a 90% loss on its original investment).  With the current buyout at $2.97 per share, that’s nearly $40m that Google would have relieved had it not jumped early.  Still quite a loss over what they paid for the shares originally, but $40m is still a lot of money for Google…like a couple of hours of revenue.  Okay, maybe Google won’t care so much.

Expect that if you are negotiating with Clearwire now, those negotiations will freeze.  The REALLY cold freeze.

A lot of Clearwire site landlords should expect the ‘really bad news’ letter in about 6 months or so.  If Sprint wins control of all of Clearwire, and it’s true to form, then they’ll offer landlords sucker deals to take on the liability for the non-removal of portions of Clearwire’s equipment.  (See my posting on this subject HERE.)

AGL Magazine has good story coverage with quotes, which you can read by CLICKING HERE.

Another one bites the dust.




Time Warner Making a (Wireless) Ruckus

Ruckus Wireless ZoneFlex 7761-CM installed by Time Warner in Los Angeles, California.

In the midst of its deployment of WiFi (and likely more) in Southern California, Time Warner has started to install WiFi nodes manufactured by Ruckus Wireless, specifically the Ruckus ZoneFlex 7761-CM.

Previously, Time Warner has been widely deploying Belair Networks gear.

The Ruckus 7761-CM is an intriguing node, supporting “8 downstream and 4 upstream bonded channels with theoretical data rates of up to 340 Mbps (downstream) and 130 Mbps (upstream).”  Okay, those are theoretical data rates, but even if they can only achieve half that, this is still a box to be contended with by competitors, and enjoyed by users.

The Ruckus gear, like Belair’s equipment, is plant-powered and strand mounted.  This means that TW (or any cable operator using this configuration of equipment) can often deploy WiFi without going through the joint pole committee for permission, and likely permissibly…or not..bypassing the local cable franchising authority.

An interesting use for the 7761-CM is delivering broadband services from outdoors to extend managed wireless LANs (WLANs) locations and where Ethernet cabling is not feasible.  In English, this means that these boxes can be used to provide point-to-point Ethernet (10, 20, 100 Mbs etc) which would have typically required fiber extension.

In states like California, which restrict how non-cable services are provided via cable plant, this box continues TWs apparent encroachment outside the bounds of its state-issued cable TV franchise and its CPCN restricting deployment of business services to cable users.

For an interesting map of TW’s current deployment, check out Time Warner’s WiFi/3G/4G map here.

WiFi (and 3G/4G) node deployment is something that should be carefully evaluated by governments, and by the DAS industry.

For governments, the questions center around about who regulates what services, permitting, and proper compensation for the use of the public rights-of-way from local users, hourly users, and users from other cable systems and operators granting access on a reciprocal basis.  I’m working with several of my government clients crafting language in their new wireless ordinances to address these issues.

For the DAS industry, its single greatest threat is cable TV’s deployment of wireless nodes using the existing CATV plant for backhaul, and the overhead strand and pedestals for radio mounts.  The cable TV industry beats DAS hands down every time for deployment economics and time-to-market.  For more on this, see my article in the April 2102 edition of AGL Magazine.


PS: I snapped the photo for this article just 1/2 block south of my office here in Los Angeles. -jlk


If the Tower Doesn’t Grow, Can Municipalities Say No?

John Pestle of Varnum and I have been invited to speak on  this month’s T-Mobile’s National External Affairs Headliner Speaker Series.  This is a monthly conference call/webinar with hundreds of internal and external T-Mobile executives, managers, line-level staff, and outside contractors.

The title of our lecture, thought up by T-Mobile, is “If the Tower Doesn’t Grow, Can Municipalities Say No?

The conference call is scheduled for Wednesday, April 25th at 11am PST/2pm EST.

If you’re invited, you should already have the call-in information.  If not, you’ll have to contact External Affairs to get it.

This should be fun!  I have lots of slides to share.

Heck, I’ve always wanted to be a headliner!

(Added 4/23 at 8:50 a.m. PDT: I’ve received several questions asking if non-T-Mobiler’s can sit in on the call.  The answer is that I wish I could say yes.  This is a closed webinar, so you’ll have to ask your contact at T-Mobile External Affairs whether you can join in. -jlk)


Why not WiMax, Sprint? Oh, it’s LTE. Got it.

Sprint, whose original “4G” network was to be built on a WiMax platform, is moving to deploy an LTE network in place of WiMax. This means that Sprint is currently running 2 types of “4G” technology on its network, LTE and WiMax.

The problem with WiMax is that its availability is limited and its performance, when compared to LTE, is not lighting fast. It’s just DSL fast and we all know that isn’t really that fast. Another limitation of WiMax is the farther you get from the node the slower the network speed. Who wants slower speed?

Is Sprint ditching its WiMax partner? It appears so.

The big push to deploy LTE seems to be a result of pressure from Sprint’s consumers rather than a big difference in the technology. I mean, all the other big time providers are deploying LTE, why can’t Sprint’s customers have LTE?

WiMax might still have viability in other platforms like broadband internet access as a landline bypass, as cable or satellite TV bypass, or for providing some limited backhaul services.

One thing that seems almost certain, is that WiMax viability as a mobile telephone provider is waning as LTE is becoming the next go to technology for high speed mobile data.