When Wireless Firms Hire Electeds

In my view, there is (at the very least least) a fundamental ethical disconnect when local government elected officials then get hired by wireless firms, and then use their elected position in connection with promoting the wireless industry agenda nearby jurisdictions.  This is not like an elected operating a local pharmacy, and being greeted with, ‘Hey, Mayor, can I get a refill on my prescription?’  This is more like an elected making meeting appointments with electeds and other senior officials in nearby communities, then going in and saying things like, ‘As a Council Member in (insert the City name here) I know what you’re going through, and you really should allow the wireless company I represent to build lots of cell sites in your residential neighborhoods.’

I’ve seen it happen in the past, and I’m seeing it happen right now.

No, Madam Council Member or Mr. Mayor, you’re not smarter than the average bear, but only luckier to have been elected so you can then seemingly market yourself and promote your wireless employer off of your elected position.

I can hardly wait for the California Fair Political Practices Commission Form 700 (Statement of Economic Interests) season to open next year.  It’ll be interesting to see what the going employment salary is this year for elected official who are then employed by wireless providers.




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?



Verizon sues Rochester NY over attachment, tench, overhead fees

Verizon has sued the City of Rochester, NY in federal court claiming that Rochester’s fees for attachments, trenching, overhead, etc. exceed the FCC’s presumptive caps, and therefore sink to a prohibition of service.

How silly. How very silly.

I suspect this little law suit will go exactly nowhere while the big show is playing out in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Verizon law suit against Rochester turns on the outcome of the main 9th Circuit case.  The 9th Circuit case is where local governments around the country are suing to set aside the FCC’s Small Wireless Facility Order. It’s that Order that Verizon cites as the basis for its suit against Rochester.

I will not be surprised one bit when the judge in the Rochester case puts the brakes on that case to await the outcome of the 9th Circuit case.

Here’s Verizon’s complaint:




Professional Engineers Stamping Wireless Plans Without Actual Knowledge Will Be Caught

It continues to amaze me, and sadden me, how some professional engineers seem to be willing to put their hard-earned licenses on the line so often, and so obviously.

When a professional engineer stamps and seals plans that unambiguously show that the wireless site as built will violate ADA clearances, then we know the PE failed to protect the public.  When PEs stamp plans that will result in inverse condemnations, we know the same thing. There are other ‘tells’ we look for when reviewing wireless project applications for our clients.  Those tells allow us to identify the PEs we suspect are no more than a mere stamp mills, most likely being paid per project stamped.

Wink, Wink, shall we?

I recently sat in a government meeting reviewing a proposed small wireless facility where, when pressed, the entitlement rep conceded that the PE who stamped the plans probably never visited the site and likely had no personal knowledge about the measurements and elements shown on the plans sealed by that PE.


This dangerous and probably unlawful ‘public-be-dammed, all wireless siting ahead‘ mentality will come back to haunt those PEs when they find themselves referred to state PE licensing boards by local governments for prosecution.

The PEs won’t be the only ones referred to state boards.

Along with the PEs are likely to be entitlement companies that hire them, and potentially the wireless carriers who hire the entitlement firms.

To be crystal clear, there are true Professional Engineers out there who care about what they do, care for the quality of their work, and respect the public interests they serve.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who those true PEs are…their work speaks for them.  Those honorable and thoughtful PEs clearly do actual engineering reviews before sealing plans, and I suspect some of them have ended up on a  ‘naughty list’ for not being willing to waive the public interests they are committed to serving.




City of Berkeley Wins (Again) in CTIA RF Warnings Law Suit

Yesterday, the 9th Circuit ruled (again) in favor of the City of Berkeley in CTIA’s law suit regarding the City’s requirement that cell phone vendors alert purchasers to FCC-required RF warnings.

The City of Berkeley requires in its current Municipal Code the following:

9.96.030 Required notice

A.    A Cell phone retailer shall provide to each customer who buys or leases a Cell phone a notice containing the following language:

The City of Berkeley requires that you be provided the following notice:

To assure safety, the Federal Government requires that cell phones meet radio frequency (RF) exposure guidelines. If you carry or use your phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra when the phone is ON and connected to a wireless network, you may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure to RF radiation. Refer to the instructions in your phone or user manual for information about how to use your phone safely.

B.    The notice required by this Section shall either be provided to each customer who buys or leases a Cell phone or shall be prominently displayed at any point of sale where Cell phones are purchased or leased. If provided to the customer, the notice shall include the City’s logo, shall be printed on paper that is no less than 5 inches by 8 inches in size, and shall be printed in no smaller than a 18-point font. The paper on which the notice is printed may contain other information in the discretion of the Cell phone retailer, as long as that information is distinct from the notice language required by subdivision (A) of this Section. If prominently displayed at a point of sale, the notice shall include the City’s logo, be printed on a poster no less than 8-1/2 by 11 inches in size, and shall be printed in no small than a 28-point font. The City shall make its logo available to be incorporated in such notices.

C.    A Cell phone retailer that believes the notice language required by subdivision (A) of this Section is not factually applicable to a Cell phone model that retailer offers for sale or lease may request permission to not provide the notice required by this Section in connection with sales or leases of that model of Cell phone. Such permission shall not be unreasonably withheld. (Ord. 7443-NS § 1, 2015; Ord. 7404-NS § 1 (part), 2015)

The CTIA challenged the current law saying, essentially, that the City was forcing wireless providers to ‘speak’ thus violating their First Amendment rights.  The District Court hearing the case denied CTIA’s request to bar the City from enforcing its RF disclosure rules.  The CTIA appealed to the 9th Circuit.

In its original decision on CTIA’s appeal, a 3-judge panel of the 9th Circuit disagreed with CTIA and allowed the ordinance to remain in force.  The CTIA then asked the Supreme Court to review the 9th Circuit decision.

The Supreme Court took the case, vacated the 9th Circuit decision supporting the City, and remanded the case back to the 9th Circuit directing that the Circuit Court reevaluate the decision in light of the Supreme Court’s holding in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, 138 S. Ct. 2361, 201 L. Ed. 2d 835 (2018) (“NIFLA”).

The NIFLA case challenged a California law requiring compelled speech by anti-abortion counseling centers that included references to abortion clinics.  In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court overturned the California law citing a violation of the First Amendment.

NIFLA connects to CTIA by way of the Supreme Court’s analysis in NIFLA that said that a lower level of First Amendment protection exists for noncontroversial professional speech.  In NIFLA, the majority in the Supreme Court said,

[O]ur precedents have applied more deferential review to some laws that require professionals to disclose factual, noncontroversial information in their “commercial speech.” See, e.g., Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel of Supreme Court of Ohio, 471 U. S. 626, 651 (1985); Milavetz, Gallop & Milavetz, P. A. v. United States, 559 U. S. 229, 250 (2010); Ohralik v. Ohio State Bar Assn., 436 U. S. 447, 455–456 (1978).

According, the Supreme Court’s remand to the 9th Circuit required that the Circuit Court evaluate whether the City’s RF notice was factual, noncontroversial information.

In the case re-decided yesterday in favor of Berkeley, the majority said:

Given the FCC’s requirement that cell phone manufacturers must inform consumers of “minimum test separation distance requirements,” and must “clearly disclose[ ]” accessory operating configurations “through conspicuous instructions in the user guide and user manual, to ensure unsupported operations are avoided,” we see little likelihood of success based on conflict preemption.

Berkeley’s compelled disclosure does no more than alert consumers to the safety disclosures that the FCC requires, and direct consumers to federally compelled instructions in their user manuals providing specific information about how to avoid excessive exposure. Far from conflicting with federal law and policy, the Berkeley ordinance complements and reinforces it.

Yesterday’s decision cited existing disclosures in the FCC Record, as well as cell phone manufacturer warnings.

On remand, the 9th Circuit found that Berkeley’s RF law as non-controversial under the Supreme Court’s holding in NIFLA.  A dissent by Circuit Judge Friedland takes the opposite position.

The decision and dissent are provided in this link: CTIA v Berkeley. Case No. 16-15141

It seems likely that there will be another petition by the CTIA to review yesterday’s decision.



Booting Boost

T-Mobile’s ‘Un-CEO’ John Legere has announced that upon the completion of the FCC-overjoyed, DOJ-disfavored merger with Sprint, Boost Wireless will get the boot.  Boost wireless is Sprint’s ‘off brand’ of prepaid wireless services.

Prepaid wireless services are often used by people with less than normal credit ratings, those who want to live below the radar, and others who (for whatever reason) don’t have or want access to a standard wireless plan.

Mr. Legere says that NewT-Mobile will get rid of Boost selling it to a buyer that can invest in it and make it a stronger brand, but that NewT-Mobile will maintain its relationship with its own T-Mobile off brand providers Metro and Virgin Wireless.

We’ll see if Boost Wireless customers get the boot of NewT-Mobile.



Российская 5Г Радио испу́г

Roughly (and badly) translated, the title of this point means Russia 5G Wireless Fear.

Reports published in some segments of the US mainstream media over the past few days suggest that Russia is behind at least some of the fearmongering on the Internet related to 5G deployment and claims of negative health impacts.

If you conduct a Google search on the terms ‘Russia 5G’ you find references to RT.com television coverage aimed at U.S. citizens claiming that 5G will cause health problems, while all the while it appears that 5G deployment in Russia is a Kremlin priority.

Once this Russia story really hits Fox and Friends, it will drive the president crazy.  He’ll want to figure out a way to impose 25% tariffs on Russian imports of Chinese 5G equipment.  That’ll slow things down a bit.  Yup.

Oh…wait, President Trump just signed an Executive Order effectively banning the importation of Chinese wireless equipment, such as from Huawei.

I ponder all of this.



Getting Sirius(XM) About AT&T Cell Sites

AT&T is filing applications with local governments to modify existing cell sites to add a wire frame parabolic antenna at some of its sites.  The application also shows the addition of signal splitters (or combiners) and multiple power amplifiers.   In the applications that I’ve seen so far, there’s no mention as to the service that is being provided by (or is it to) this new antenna.

What the heck is going on here?

Well, I have a very Sirius answer for you.

AT&T is adding re-transmission services for SiriusXM radio to some of its cell sites.  Are they telling the jurisdictions that re-transmission is for a completely different non-carrier?  Well, so far unless pressed hard, all I’ve seen is a big fat NO to that.

Sirius-ly, what’s the story?

SiriusXM satellites are in orbits that are occasionally blocked for their mobile users. Why? Primarily because of tall building and hills that place physical barriers between the satellite and a car’s satellite receiver.  If the blockage lasts for more than a few seconds, drop-outs will start to occur.  In urban areas, such as here in L.A., rows of tall buildings are a real issue.

How does SiriusXM deal with this?

Historically, SiriusXM has used terrestrial relay stations that receive the satellite signal at high points and they re-transmit the signals via narrower beam width antennas shooting up and down highways with blockages on the south side.

Guess what?

A heck of lot of AT&T cell sites already do the same thing along highways, and into neighborhoods that are otherwise sometimes blocked by tall buildings.

And, on top of that, AT&T has a lot of antennas with spare transmission ports waiting to be used.  That’s what SiriusXM is going to do…use those spare ports, no doubt for a tidy fee.  Whatever the fee, however, it’s 99.999% likely that the collocation charges levied by AT&T will be less than SiriusXM leasing its own re-transmission sites.

Here’s a basic block diagram I’ve pieced together to example how all this works:

(Block diagram by JLK: Click on the image above to enlarge it.)

AT&T is claiming that these SiriusXM site modifications are subject to the expedited treatment under Section 6409(a).

Well, maybe

What I’ve seen so far, at least at camo AT&T sites, is that these SiriusXM add-on installations can bust the camouflage provision that drops a modification out of Section 6409(a) and back into major-mod land.  There are some other problems with these SiriusXM projects as well, but I’ll save those tidbits for our firm’s clients.

And now you know a lot more about this very Sirius AT&T issue.




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?