-

July 2020

Scroll To Read Magazine

In This Issue

 -
Environment

Vertical Bridge Takes Step Forward for Tower Industry by Becoming Carbon-Neutral-Certified

Vertical Bridge REIT, the largest private owner and operator of communications infrastructure in the United States, has realized its goal to become 100 percent carbon-neutral. In announcing what it ca...

 -
5G FCC

FCC Adopts 5G Upgrade Order on Party-line Vote

On June 9, the FCC took action to facilitate the deployment of 5G wireless communications networks across the United States by clarifying and seeking comment on the agency’s rules regarding state and ...

 -
FCC

FCC Authorizes More Than $7.4 Million for Rural Broadband

An action taken by the FCC on June 12 will expand deployment to 11,852 rural locations, including on Native American tribal lands. The agency authorized more than $7.4 million in funding to be spent o...

A FirstNet flying COW. - Source: AT&T
5G FirstNet

FirstNet Authority Board Approves Network Investments for 5G, On-Demand Coverage

In an action taken on June 17, the First Responder Network Authority Board approved the first set of investments for enhancing FirstNet, the nationwide public safety broadband network. The board appro...

Raycap's integrated streetlight pole design. - Source: Raycap
5G Concealment

Concealment: New Opportunities to Camouflage 5G mmWave Small Cell Sites

As the pace of 5G deployment in the United States quickens, carriers, infrastructure providers, utilities and municipalities are compelled to collaborate on where to locate the requisite small-cell in...

 -
COVID-19 Safety

Revised OSHA Enforcement Guidance for Inspections and Record-keeping of COVID-19 Cases

The following guidance explains whether there is a requirement to report to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration COVID-19 positive cases or to record them on the OSHA 300 log.

Enforcement...

 -
Conferences

American Tower Executive Speaks of Technology, Social and Corporate Responsibility

In delivering a keynote speech on May 19 during the Connectivity Expo, also known as Connect (X), the president and CEO of American Tower, Tom Bartlett, addressed a worldwide audience through the spon...

 -
Business

Wireless Industry Transformation Can Lead to Unforeseen Communications Tax Complications

When you pause to consider everything that has changed in recent years, it is astounding just how drastically the communications industry has been reshaped. From the slow death of wireline to fast-fad...

 -
Business

Women of NATE Profile: Marianna Kramarikova

Marianna Kramarikova joined the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) in 2006. After leaving for three years to work for a private-sector company and focus on sales and marketing, she returned...

A technician on an aerial platform performs maintenance on a cell tower. -
Maintenance

New Technology Changes How Telecoms Schedule Maintenance Works

The need for speed and the growth of 5G wireless communications are undoubtedly having a profound effect on the demand for distributed antenna system (DAS) networks and small cells.

In fact, the incre...

 -
Business

Thinking About Selling Your Tower Site? Be careful. Plan ahead.

After participating in nearly 500 tower sales transactions, I have found that the most critical hurdle on the journey from Letter of Intent to closing is third-party consents. First, I will provide re...

 -
Business

The Leadership Cornucopia

Have you ever worked with someone who had a scarcity mentality? In other words, they believed that if someone else was successful, then there was less opportunity for them? Their whole belief system w...

 -
Environment

Vertical Bridge Takes Step Forward for Tower Industry by Becoming Carbon-Neutral-Certified

Vertical Bridge REIT, the largest private owner and operator of communications infrastructure in the United States, has realized its goal to become 100 percent carbon-neutral. In announcing what it called an unprecedented step forward for the communications infrastructure sector, Vertical Bridge said it is emerging as the first telecommunications tower company in the world to reach net zero emissions. This is just the first step, and we are committed to continuing to decrease our carbon footprint and to supporting additional carbon-reduction projects. — Bernard Borghei, cofounder and executive vice president of operations for Vertical Bridge The company said it has been officially certified as a CarbonNeutral company in accordance with the CarbonNeutral Protocol, a global framework for carbon neutrality.

Vertical Bridge undertook a rigorous assessment of its carbon footprint, including energy consumed by offices, operation and construction of towers and business travel in partnership with Natural Capital Partners, experts on carbon neutrality and climate finance. Building on a number of carbon-lowering tactics across its operations, the company said it is supporting four projects in North America to offset its unavoidable carbon emissions. The projects, which reduce and remove greenhouse gases, focus on nature-based climate solutions and resource recovery:

  • Grasslands Portfolio: Preserves grasslands across Colorado and Montana, locking carbon into the soil and avoiding the emissions from conversion to agriculture.
  • Seneca Meadows Landfill Gas: Reduces the environmental effect of landfills through methane capture, electricity generation and wetland enhancement.
  • Mississippi Valley Reforestation: Reforests more than 2.4 million acres of native woodland to restore the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley.
  • Darkwoods Forest Conservation: Protects 156,000 acres of Boreal forests in British Columbia, Canada, from subdivision, high-impact logging and other environmental threats.

The CarbonNeutral certification is the latest in the company’s ongoing environmental, social and governance (ESG) and social responsibility initiatives, which include its employee-run philanthropic arm, the Vertical Bridge Charitable Network (VBCN). Through VBCN, Vertical Bridge has donated more than $5.11 million and contributed nearly 6,000 volunteer hours to 501(c)(3) organizations selected by its employees since its founding in 2014.

Alex GellmanAlex Gellman “Being a profitable and at-scale company doesn’t mean much if you don’t foster the right culture,” said Alex Gellman, cofounder and CEO of Vertical Bridge. “That’s why philanthropy is such a big component of Vertical Bridge and why it’s an employee-driven program. As we thought about our company’s growth and overall social responsibility goals, becoming carbon-neutral was a natural progression and something everyone at Vertical Bridge would be excited to be a part of. I am tremendously proud of our entire team’s continual efforts to make a difference and look forward to seeing these programs continue to grow.”

Bernard BorgheiBernard BorgheiBernard Borghei, cofounder and executive vice president of operations for Vertical Bridge, who led the initiative, said: “We are extremely proud to be recognized as a carbon-neutral company, and even more so to be the first carbon-neutral tower company in the world. This is just the first step, and we are committed to continuing to decrease our carbon footprint and to supporting additional carbon-reduction projects. As the communications infrastructure sector prepares to deploy a record number of assets to support 5G networks, it is critical that we find ways to continue to mitigate environmental impact. We believe that achieving sector-wide carbon neutrality is possible and that our actions build upon the meaningful strides the wireless industry has taken thus far. We hope we are just the first of many in our sector to take this important step.”

Marc GanziMarc GanziMarc Ganzi, executive chairman of Vertical Bridge and CEO of Digital Colony, said: “Vertical Bridge’s certification as a carbon-neutral company is just one more example of how they are paving a new path forward for the communications infrastructure sector. As executive chairman of Vertical Bridge and as someone who has known this leadership team for more than 20 years, I am incredibly proud of this company and initiative, and as a communications infrastructure investor and CEO, I believe it sets an ESG framework for many other companies — including those in the Digital Colony portfolio — to follow.”

Vertical Bridge owns, operates and master leases over 269,000 tower, rooftop, billboard, utility attachment and other site locations in support of wireless network deployments. Based in Boca Raton, Florida, Vertical Bridge was founded in 2014 by executives from Digital Bridge Holdings and former senior officers of Global Tower Partners. The senior management team at Vertical Bridge has over 200 years of collective experience in tower infrastructure and related sectors.

Source: Vertical Bridge

 -
5G FCC

FCC Adopts 5G Upgrade Order on Party-line Vote

On June 9, the FCC took action to facilitate the deployment of 5G wireless communications networks across the United States by clarifying and seeking comment on the agency’s rules regarding state and local government review of modifications to existing wireless infrastructure. According to information released by the agency, the action will expedite equipment upgrades to deploy next-generation networks, which it says critical to expanding economic opportunities and supporting public health and safety in American communities.

Congress enacted Section 6409(a) of the Spectrum Act of 2012 to streamline state and local government review of certain requests to modify wireless transmission equipment on existing structures, and the FCC in 2014 adopted rules to implement Section 6409(a). Under this framework, a state or local government shall approve within 60 days any request for modification of an existing structure that does not substantially change the physical dimensions of that structure.

The declaratory ruling adopted on June 9 is intended to clarify the FCC’s 2014 rules with regard to when the 60-day shot clock for local review begins. According to the agency, the ruling also clarifies how certain aspects of proposed modifications — height increases, equipment cabinet additions and the effect on concealment elements and aesthetic conditions — affect eligibility for streamlined review under Section 6409(a). In addition, the action clarifies that, under the agency’s rules on environmental and historic preservation review, FCC applicants need not to submit environmental assessments based only on potential effects upon historic properties when parties have entered into a memorandum of agreement to mitigate effects on those properties.

The FCC also adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that seeks comment on proposed rule changes regarding excavation or deployment outside the boundaries of an existing tower site and the effects of such activities on eligibility for streamlined review under Section 6409(a).

Promoting American leadership in 5G wireless technology has been one of my top priorities since becoming chairman. — FCC Chairman Ajit Pai The agency said it views the action taken on June 9 as a crucial next step in the FCC’s ongoing efforts to remove regulatory barriers that inhibit the deployment of infrastructure critical to building 5G networks.

Republican members of the FCC (Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr approved the action, and Democratic Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks dissented.

“Promoting American leadership in 5G wireless technology has been one of my top priorities since becoming chairman,” Pai said, in a written statement. “To that end, the FCC has been executing my 5G FAST plan, which includes three key components: pushing more spectrum into the marketplace, making it easier to deploy wireless infrastructure, and modernizing outdated regulations to expedite the deployment of fiber for wireless backhaul.

With respect to spectrum, Pai said, the FCC has left no stone unturned in its quest to make a mix of low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum available for 5G services. He said that over the past 18 months, the agency has concluded three auctions for high-band spectrum, making nearly 5,000 megahertz of spectrum available for next-generation wireless services. Referring to the most recent auction, Auction 103, Pai said the FCC offered licenses for 3,400 megahertz of spectrum, the largest offering in the agency’s history. He said carriers are acting quickly to put this spectrum to use for 5G service while the FCC continues to work on making additional low-band spectrum available. “We are nearing the end of the post-incentive auction repack, which is making available 600-MHz band spectrum for 5G on a nationwide basis, and we have reformed rules for the 800-MHz and 900-MHz bands,” he said.

According to Pai, perhaps the FCC’s most intense work over the course of the last couple of years has involved making additional mid-band spectrum available for 5G. “Specifically, we adopted rule changes last July to liberate the 2.5-GHz band and put more of this underused spectrum to work for mobile broadband, including adopting a priority filing window to make this spectrum available for service to rural native American tribes,” he said. “Thanks to Commissioner O’Rielly’s efforts, we’ve improved rules for operations in the 3.5-GHz band and have done the necessary coordination and technical work in the band. As a result, 150 megahertz of 3.5-GHz band spectrum is available today for the deployment of innovative services, and we will begin an auction of 70 megahertz of Priority Access Licenses on July 23, 2020. We have adopted service rules to make available 280 megahertz of spectrum in the C-band for 5G and are on track to auction that spectrum on Dec. 8. In addition, just recently, we announced that satellite incumbents have agreed to expedite the relocation process, so this 280 megahertz of spectrum will be available for 5G on an accelerated basis. None of this was easy. There were plenty of technical, political, and other challenges along the way. Nevertheless, the FCC majority persisted. And we’re getting major results.”

The chairman said that, in addition to pushing more spectrum into the marketplace, a key component of the FCC’s 5G FAST strategy has been updating its wireless infrastructure policies to encourage private-sector investment in the physical building blocks of 5G networks. He said that the June 9 declaratory ruling and NPRM do just that.

“Commissioner Carr has spearheaded the FCC’s efforts to update our wireless infrastructure policies,” Paid said. “This item, which was developed under his leadership, will clear up some of the confusion that has surrounded our rules implementing Section 6409(a) of the Spectrum Act of 2012. These regulations apply when wireless infrastructure companies want to upgrade the equipment on existing structures, such as replacing antennas on a macro tower or adding antennas to a building.”

Pai went on to say these clarifications will accelerate the build out of 5G infrastructure by avoiding misunderstandings and reducing the number of disputes between local governments and wireless infrastructure builders — disputes that he said lead to delays and lawsuits. “With today’s action, we continue to advance the same goal that underlay the Spectrum Act and inspired the Commission’s Section 6409(a) regulations in the first place — avoiding unnecessary ambiguities and roadblocks in order to advance wireless broadband service for all Americans,” he said.

Referring to those who argue that the FCC should have slowed down or stopped its work on the declaratory ruling because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pai said he could not disagree more. He said the COVID-19 pandemic is no reason for the FCC to slow its efforts to expand wireless connectivity and, instead, it is a reason to speed them up. The chairman said that the pandemic has highlighted the need for all Americans to have broadband connectivity as soon as possible. He gave as examples telehealth, remote learning, telework and precision agriculture as activities requiring broadband wireless service. He said it is an iron law that broadband service cannot be delivered without broadband infrastructure.

The argument that local governments have not had a sufficient opportunity to weigh in on these issues has no merit, Pai said. He said the petitions on which the FCC acted on June 9 were filed in August and September 2019, well before the COVID-19 pandemic. He added that the entire period for public comment on those petitions took place last year — also well before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, he said, calls for delay are nothing new. “Earlier this year, for example, some insisted that we should do absolutely nothing to make C-band spectrum available unless and until Congress passed a law on the subject,” Pai said. “How’s that advice looking now? If we had followed that politically motivated counsel, we would still be stuck at square one, half a year later, with no prospect of movement. Instead, we are on track for a major C-band spectrum auction this year. The same old tactic is now applied to wireless infrastructure. Wait until whenever, we are told. But waiting to deploy more wireless infrastructure isn’t going to deliver advanced wireless services to American consumers, and it isn’t going to make the United States the global leader in 5G.”

The chairman said it is easy for someone to say he or she favors moving forward quickly on 5G, but what actually matters is to do it. “I appreciate Commissioners O’Rielly and Carr for not just saying, but doing what’s necessary to usher in the next generation of wireless technology for the American people,” Pai said.

Commissioner Brendan Carr expressed himself in a written statement issued after the June 9 vote. “Two years is about how long it takes to build a new macro tower,” he said. “The process typically includes zoning, construction and electrical permits; city council presentations and public town halls; environmental and historical preservation reviews; negotiation about aesthetics and design — and that’s all after a provider has studied demand, engineered the signal, and bought land.”

The commissioner said it is a lengthy, involved, expensive process. He said that in some ways, it is understandable, because building a couple-hundred-foot-tall structure does not happen every day, and once built, a tower can provide service for decades.

Local governments, industry and Congress have concluded that there is often a better way, Carr said. He explained that reusing macro towers through collocating multiple providers and updating equipment can provide the public the benefits it deserves — wide coverage and fast connections — while avoiding the cost and delays associated with building new towers from scratch. He said it is common sense that putting new equipment on old towers is less intrusive and requires less regulatory review than new tower construction.

Carr said he had the chance to see how straightforward a collocation can be, when, the week before the June 9 vote, he drove out to a farm in Maryland and joined a tower crew that was swapping out 2G antennas for 5G ones on a macro tower.

Referring to the video viewable in his Twitter feed, Carr named workers Aaron and Charlie among the 25,000 tower techs building broadband across the country with their hands. He said that although their jobs are far from easy, the project they completed in about an hour was among their easiest: taking off an old antenna and attaching a new one.

“Congress encouraged collocations like these by making them simpler through Section 6409 of the Spectrum Act,” Carr said. “That law says that local governments ‘may not deny, and shall approve’ any tower modification ‘that does not substantially change [its] physical dimensions.’ In 2014, the FCC wrote rules to implement the law, in particular defining what constitutes ‘substantial change.’”

In the last six years, the commissioner said those rules have been used to upgrade thousands of towers. He said that the upgrades enabled 4G LTE service, especially on macro towers in rural America. “They’re being used now to build America’s world-leading 5G networks,” Carr said. “And they’re benefiting communities by reducing the potential for redundant towers, creating less costly and disruptive infrastructure.”

There have been what Carr called some bumps along the way, which he said were partly caused by the agency’s 2014 rules. He said that in some instances, the FCC’s definition of “substantial change” was not as clear as it could have been, leading to some disagreements over how to interpret the 60-day shot clock for local government approval. Those disagreements — the lack of clarity in the FCC rules — can themselves slow down internet builds, according to Carr. He said the FCC intended to resolve the ambiguities in its declaratory ruling and notice.

Carr highlighted a few of the key actions the FCC took on June 9 as follows:

  • We explain that the 60-day shot clock we adopted in 2014 begins when a provider takes the first procedural step that the locality specifies and shows in writing that the project qualifies for expedited consideration. The myriad processes that have grown outside of our shot clock should be brought back within it. Sixty days means 60 days.
  • We clarify that when we use the term “concealment element,” we are referring to those elements that make a stealthed tower look like something else — a clock tower or a tree, for example. A change becomes substantial and so does not qualify for expedited approval if a reasonable person would think that the modified tower no longer looks like that clock tower or tree.
  • In addition, we note that localities can place a number of conditions on new construction of a tower that cannot be circumvented through this expedited process. However, there has to be express evidence that a condition really was a condition of approval.

The commissioner said he is proud of the process the FCC took to create the declaratory ruling, a process he described as thorough and thoughtful. He gave credit to the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and its infrastructure team, recalling that the two petitions that prompted the June 9 action came to the FCC more than nine months ago.

“We sought comment on the petitions, and at the request of local governments and utilities, we extended the comment period into November,” Carr said. “The record that developed was robust. We heard from infrastructure builders, broadband providers, local governments and everyday Americans alike.”

Localities were especially active, Carr said. “We heard from 70 local governments and their associations, and they provided us nearly 700 pages of detailed comments,” he said. “They made a substantial contribution to this order, and their positions carried the day on several issues we decide. For example, we require industry to make written submissions before they can claim that the shot clock starts, and we protect a broad swath of localities’ conditions of tower approval.”

By bringing greater clarity to the FCC rules, Carr said, the June 9 decision reduces disagreements between providers and governments. He said it separates the wheat from the chaff, meaning, the more difficult approval decisions, such as whether and how to construct a new tower, from the easier ones, such as whether to allow an existing tower to be upgraded.

Carr said it was important for the FCC to act now because providing more broadband for more Americans has never been so important. He said it is at the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic as children learn at home, parents provide for their families away from the office, patients access critical care outside of hospitals and everyone connects with one another at a distance. Making upgrades easier is at the heart of 6409, the commissioner said, and this order comes at a time when users need as much capacity as possible. He said he is glad that the FCC took action with clarifications that will help tower crews connect even more communities.

We also streamlined the process for swapping out utility poles to add wireless equipment, among other reforms. — FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr According to Carr, the June 9 decision is the latest step in a series that the FCC has taken since 2017 to modernize its approach to 5G. Previously, he said, it cost too much and took too long to build internet infrastructure in the United States. He said in response, the FCC has updated environmental and historic preservation rules that slowed small cell builds. He said the agency built on common sense reforms adopted by states and reined in outlier conduct. “We also streamlined the process for swapping out utility poles to add wireless equipment, among other reforms,” he said.

With steps it has taken, Carr said, the FCC has unleashed private sector investment that already is delivering results for the American people, citing the first commercial 5G service launched in the United States in 2018. By the end 2018, he said, 14 communities had 5G service. Halfway through 2019, that figure expanded to more than 30, according to the commissioner, and one provider has committed to building 5G wireless communications service to reach 99 percent of the U.S. population.

“America’s momentum for 5G is now unmistakable,” Carr said. “You can see it not only in big cities like New York or San Francisco, but in places like Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where 5G small cells are live and in rural communities like the one I visited last week in Maryland where macro towers are beaming 5G through farms and forests. Our infrastructure work will continue until every community has a fair shot at next-generation connectivity.”

The FCC called its June 9 decision the 5G Upgrade Order, Carr said, “because it will accelerate wireless service upgrades for the benefit of so many Americans. It will be an upgrade for rural America, as families who never had a choice in wireless will get new service. It will be an upgrade for first responders, as dedicated networks and expanded capacity are built on existing towers. And it will be an upgrade for all of us, as our networks blow past previous technologies to world-leading 5G.”

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said that the June 9 FCC action refocuses its infrastructure efforts on the foundation of wireless networks, the macro tower. He said the agency has taken several steps to reduce the regulatory burdens on siting small cells, but similar updates for macros have been lagging. A business plan centered on small cells and millimeter waves may work in the largest cities, the commissioner said, but traditional towers and mid bands will be needed throughout much of the United States, especially in rural areas, where small cells do not, generally-speaking, make the most sense, at least at the current time.

“I started pushing for a review of the barriers facing macro tower siting around five years ago, as industry started to consider what a 5G suburban and rural network build would look like,” O’Rielly said. “While it is unfortunate that we didn’t get to this sooner, I am grateful that Commissioner Carr has honored his word to me that we would address hurdles that some localities have placed in the way of large tower siting. With significant progress being made on mid-band frequencies, it is imperative that we facilitate the deployment of macro towers that will be used to deliver the myriad of offerings mid-band spectrum will enable. In addition, as I have said before, our actions are precipitated by the behavior of a few bad actors, and here we address some of the problems being experienced. I fully recognize that many, if not most, local and state governments see the great benefit that these networks will bring and are actively working to fulfill the needs and demands of their citizens.”

In O’Rielly’s view, although the FCC took steps in 2014 pursuant to Congress’s direction under Section 6409 of the Spectrum Act of 2012 to set localities straight on unacceptable activity when it came to collocating facilities, some entities are still slowing down progress or doing what they can to stop wireless innovation from reaching consumers. He said the declaratory ruling clarifies how some FCC rules implemented in response to Section 6409 should be interpreted, such as when the shot clock begins, how to measure height increases for towers when adding additional antennas, what is an equipment cabinet and the treatment of concealment elements, among others.

“I am pleased that, at my request, further details were provided about the documentation needed to start the shot clock and to evidence that concealment elements were envisioned when obtaining a locality’s approval,” O’Rielly said. “Such guidance is necessary so that all parties understand expectations and to avoid disputes down the road. While I understand some have asked that we delay today’s action due to some concerns, many of the clarifications are straightforward and should reduce the burdens on locality staff reviewing applications. And, these clarifications are needed to facilitate the expansion of 5G networks by wireless providers and help entities like FirstNet meet their public safety obligations.”

O’Rielly said that the notice portion of today’s item seeks comment on a proposal to allow minimal compound expansions under Section 6409 streamlined processing. He said he is pleased that his request was accepted to make this a proposal, as opposed to simply seeking comment. Over the years, the commissioner said, tower companies have repeatedly come to him with the challenges they face when compound expansions are needed to accommodate additional equipment for collocation purposes. He said there is a good foundation for such a change, as the construction of replacement towers that do not expand a compound by more than 30 feet are excluded from historic preservation review under a nationwide programmatic agreement. He said he expects that an order on this proposal will be presented before the FCC as quickly as possible.

Moreover, O’Rielly said, localities should note that the FCC is taking these matters seriously and will continue to issue such orders if its intent is being contravened or its rules implemented incorrectly. He said the agency would be ready to follow up on any issue, including those not covered in the June 9 action, such as the inappropriate use of other local permitting processes to hold up infrastructure siting or charging excessive fees.

“Now that we have clarified some areas where there were misunderstandings over the rules for streamlined collocations, it is time to conclude the ultimate collocation problem — twilight towers,” O’Rielly said. “The FCC needs to resolve this quagmire so that these towers can hold additional antennas that are needed to provide wireless services to the American people.”

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel expressed her dissent with the June 9 FCC decision with a written statement.

“Let’s start with the numbers,” she said. “More than 113,000 people have died in the cruel pandemic that is affecting communities across the country. Nearly 43 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits as the economy reels from this public health catastrophe. The unemployment rate is now at its highest levels since the Great Depression. Protests have erupted in all 50 states as we face a nationwide reckoning over racial injustice. We cannot say with certainty where this overwhelming series of events takes us next. I pray it is toward a more just future. I hope it is one where the truths we hold to be self-evident are apparent not only in word but in deed. However, we can say with certainty that state and local governments are on the front line in all of these crises. That means they are dealing with an epic combination of illness, joblessness, food insecurity, social distancing, and public safety challenges — at the same time.”

Rosenworcel said that all of this work is being carried out with fewer resources than ever before. She said that is because social distancing has reduced consumer spending and wages, causing tax revenues to plummet. At the same time, she said, the demand for funding basic social services has gone up. In her view, this has created an unprecedented strain on state and local budgets.

As a result, Rosenworcel said it is understandable why mayors and governors across the country are ringing the alarm. She said they are wrestling with historic crises and struggling to find a new way forward in a period of profound civil unrest. They want to be heard by Washington, she said, but the FCC’s June 9 decision demonstrates that the agency is not listening.

In explaining why, the commissioner said the June 9 decision seeks to clarify how the agency interprets Section 6409 of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, which she said sounds technocratic. Nevertheless, she said, it goes to the heart of what role cities and towns get to play in decisions about the communications infrastructure in their backyard. Rosenworcel said that is important for communities across the country and for our national wireless ambitions.

In adopting a declaratory ruling that requires every state and local government to immediately review and update their current ordinances, policies, and application systems involving wireless towers, Rosenworcel said the FCC is requiring them to rework the way they process new requests, how they measure tower height, what they do with requests to add more equipment and how they conceal structures to preserve the visual character of their communities. Although addressing these things is not unreasonable, according to the commissioner, these clarifications can be difficult to put into practice, and they were shared with state and local governments for the first time only three weeks prior to the June 9 FCC vote.

“It’s no wonder that we have heard from the National League of Cities, the United States Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors and the National Association of Towns and Townships,” Rosenworcel said. “Together they represent more than 19,000 cities, 3,069 counties, and 10,000 towns across the country.”

If local governments are forced to respond to this Declaratory Ruling instead of focusing on their public health and safety responses, it very well may put Americans’ health and safety at risk. — FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel They want more time to weigh in on the FCC’s decision, the commissioner said, so they can be in a better place to implement it. She said they want more time because their resources are strained by a deadly virus, economic calamity and civil unrest.

Rosenworcel cited from a letter sent to the FCC by 24 members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce: “If local governments are forced to respond to this Declaratory Ruling instead of focusing on their public health and safety responses, it very well may put Americans’ health and safety at risk.”

In Rosenworcel’s view, the FCC decided to ignore what she called a modest request for time to review. “I don’t get it,” she said. “Why can’t we acknowledge what is happening around us? The sad truth is that this is not the first time we have given short shrift to the pleas of local governments who are strained by these historic days. It was just a few weeks ago when city officials and local firefighters asked the FCC to give them more time to weigh in on the court remand of our misguided decision to roll back net neutrality. But we didn’t grant their request.”

In contrast, the commissioner said, when companies suggested they needed more time to clear the 3.5-GHz band because of the pandemic, the FCC was quick to oblige, pushing back the start of our next spectrum auction, citing business disruptions caused by the coronavirus. She said the FCC even granted an extension of time to a foreign company it is investigating as a national security threat to the United States.

“Why can’t we offer the same courtesy to state and local governments?” Rosenworcel asked. “The law demonstrates a clear congressional policy in favor of removing locally imposed and unreasonably discriminatory obstacles to modifying existing facilities in order to foster the rapid deployment of wireless infrastructure. I know. As congressional staff, I helped write it. But some of the decisions we make today seem to be less about speeding up routine approvals under this law and more about lowering the costs of non-routine approvals by retrofitting them into this process, too.”

In Rosenworcel’s view, seeing to it that infrastructure expands broadly and equitably across the country takes federal, state, and local authorities working together. “History proves this is true,” she said. “And in these historic times this agency should not be ramrodding this effort through without listening to cities and towns across the country. They called for a bit more time. But the FCC hung up.”

In his written statement, Commissioner Geoffrey Starks led with a reference to the pandemic.

“More than 106,000 people have died from COVID-19 so far, and unemployment has hit its highest levels since the Great Depression,” Starks said. “The school year is ending, and millions of children have missed months of in-classroom instruction. And in the last two weeks, the recent protests have brought millions of people into the streets of cities across the country to demonstrate for justice. This is a true moment in American history.”

State and local governments form the front line for all of these issues, Starks said. He said they run the public hospitals and emergency response units treating the sick, dispense benefits to the unemployed, operate the schools struggling to provide distance learning to our children, and oversee the police departments that are both the focus on the demonstrations and helping to keep us safe. According to the commissioner, even in good times, they operate on tight budgets and limited resources.

...I hope that any benefits from today’s item will result in improved service and more affordable offerings for all neighborhoods, not just those with the wealthiest Americans. — FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks For state and local governments, tax revenue is declining because of the economic fallout of COVID-19, even as they must increase their expenditures to respond to the pandemic and the demonstrations, the commissioner said. Replacing retiring employees is out of the question, he said, and layoffs and furloughs are under consideration, even as these governments prepare their budgets for the next year.

“That is the moment in time in which we place today’s item,” Starks said, referring to the June 9 FCC actions. “Let me be clear — I support the deployment of infrastructure to improve service and connect more Americans. Low-income and minority families in particular rely on wireless service, and I hope that any benefits from today’s item will result in improved service and more affordable offerings for all neighborhoods, not just those with the wealthiest Americans. Moreover, tower technician jobs offer a path to financial security for many Americans even in these uncertain times. Finally, streamlining the infrastructure approval process has had broad support. Congress intended to provide a quick path for approval of straightforward modifications when it adopted Section 6409, and a unanimous Commission adopted implementing rules back in 2014.”

Nevertheless, Starks said, the declaratory ruling and NPRM do not represent the right way to achieve those goals. He said that instead of reducing burdens, the declaratory ruling imposes new obligations on local governments at a time where they have the least amount of time and resources. Instead of providing clarity, it creates uncertainty, he said. Because of these issues, Starks said he is concerned that the FCC decision may actually slow the growth of advanced wireless service rather than accelerating it.

In Starks’ view, those who support the decision claim that it is necessary because local governments have unreasonably blocked straightforward modifications to existing wireless sites, insisting on burdensome and unnecessary meetings and documentation. According to the petitions, he said, these alleged practices have slowed or prevented upgrades that would provide advanced services and allow more Americans to realize the promise of 5G. He said that supporters claim that the FCC must act to encourage the growth of these services.

“This is starkly different from what these parties are publicly and commercially saying elsewhere,” the commissioner said. “Just recently, T-Mobile announced that it now offers 5G coverage in all 50 states. AT&T says it remains on track to offer nationwide 5G sometime this summer, and Verizon plans to offer 5G service in 60 cities by the end of 2020. Dish Network remains committed to building a standalone nationwide 5G network in the next few years, and the major tower companies have asserted that even COVID-19 hasn’t slowed down their buildout efforts.”

Despite the challenges local governments face these days, Starks said, they continue to take timely action on applications from these companies and their partners. Even industry has recognized the efforts of local governments to maintain operations while their offices must be closed, he said, including allowing electronic filing via online portals and email, creating drop boxes for hard copies of documents and waiving and modifying requirements regarding permits, filing fees and public meetings.

Given what he called the unusual circumstances and the extraordinary efforts by local governments to continue the timely processing of applications, Starks said he is deeply disappointed that the FCC rejected the reasonable request for more time to review the draft order submitted on behalf of local governments across the country and supported by 24 members of Congress. He said that although the petitions underlying this decision were filed last fall, the FCC action taken on June 9 does not adopt the recommendations proposed in those filings.

“It was only with the release of the draft declaratory ruling just three weeks ago that commenters learned that the commission was even considering certain issues, let alone specific outcomes,” Starks said. “Indeed, even the commissioners only saw the current version yesterday, which contains substantive differences from the original draft.”

Even under the best of circumstances, Starks said, three weeks would not be enough notice for such an important decision, which will affect communities around the nation. In his view, the FCC at a minimum should have deferred consideration of the declaratory ruling to allow interested parties more time to analyze and comment on the draft decision. Were it up to him, he said, he would have gone further and dealt with the issues through a rulemaking proceeding, with notice of the agency’s proposed approach and an opportunity for public comment.

Although Starks said he agrees that the FCC’s rules could use clarification, he said the declaratory ruling consistently misses the mark. As an example, he said the FCC should clearly define when the Section 6409 shot clock starts. However, although the declaratory ruling acknowledges the value of preliminary reviews and meetings, Starks said it nevertheless starts the shot clock before those events take place and provides no flexibility to adjust once an applicant submits its paperwork and requests that first meeting.

“Under today’s decision,” Starks said, “once an applicant has taken these actions, the local government must ensure that every other step in the process is completed before the shot clock expires. This approach not only places an unfair burden on the local governments, but also it could lead to disputes between governments and applicants about the reasonableness of any requirement and whether it can be accomplished within the 60-day shot clock period. We should have done a rulemaking to discuss these issues and how to avoid such outcomes.”

Other issues troubled Starks, too. He said that in many cases, local governments approved sites years ago, well before passage of the Spectrum Act. Particularly for smaller cities, it is unlikely that their decisions explain the intent behind a particular requirement affecting a site’s appearance, he said. Nevertheless, he said, the declaratory ruling states that, unless the regulator can provide express evidence in the record demonstrating that a requirement was intended to disguise the nature of the equipment as something other than a wireless facility, the local government must give streamlined treatment to any changes. Moreover, for changes in appearance that do not disguise the nature of the equipment but merely make it harder to notice, the declaratory ruling establishes a standard that effectively preempts any requirement that the applicant claims it cannot reasonably meet, the commissioner said.

“The confusion doesn’t stop there,” Starks said. “This decision explicitly states that the number of equipment cabinets that can be added to a site is measured for each eligible facilities request and rejects the interpretation that the relevant rule sets a cumulative limit. The local governments are justifiably confused about whether today’s decision effectively eliminates any limitation on the number of equipment cabinets that may be added over time. Today’s decision disagrees with the suggestion that there is no such limit but fails to explain exactly how a local government would derive it. A rulemaking could have clearly spelled out our expectations.

In Starks’ view, taken as a whole, rather than clarifying FCC policies and expediting approvals, the posture of the declaratory ruling is most likely to lead to time-consuming and costly disputes about intent and reasonableness between local governments and industry; and furthermore, it is most likely to lead to protracted litigation. Moreover, he said, because of the substantial burdens the FCC places on local governments’ review of modifications to existing sites, those governments may even give greater scrutiny to initial siting requests, leading to additional frustration and delays.

These problems would be serious in a proposed rulemaking, but the process in the June 9 FCC vote raises the stakes even higher, Starks said. “Because this is a declaratory ruling, it applies retroactively to decisions that may be decades old,” he said. “This decision will create uncertainty regarding existing sites across the country. Moreover, doing this via a declaratory ruling will place an undue burden on local governments that are unfamiliar with the FCC. A clerk in a small city may not realize that a proposed site modification will require her to review not only the Code of Federal Regulations, but also the language of this decision and our 2014 order.”

In concluding his statement, Starks said, “I wish that we had addressed these issues in a rulemaking proceeding, like the one we initiate today regarding proposed excavations and the meaning of the term ‘current site.’ While I have serious reservations about the approach proposed in the NPRM, I agree that we should receive input from the public before we act further in this area, although I would have provided more time for that input. I hope that we reconsider that timetable, given all the other demands currently faced by local governments.”

Source: FCC

 -
FCC

FCC Authorizes More Than $7.4 Million for Rural Broadband

An action taken by the FCC on June 12 will expand deployment to 11,852 rural locations, including on Native American tribal lands. The agency authorized more than $7.4 million in funding to be spent over 10 years to expand rural broadband in Oklahoma and Oregon. Tribal provider Redwire will receive $4,766,845.60 to provide fixed broadband of at least 25/3 Mbps to 8,041 rural homes and businesses in Oklahoma, including in tribal areas. Viasat will serve 3,811 rural locations in Oregon with $2,708,529.40 in FCC support. Together, these investments will connect 11,852 unserved rural homes and businesses.

“Bringing broadband to unserved rural homes and businesses in Oklahoma and Oregon will make a real difference to these communities and continue our progress in closing the digital divide,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, in an FCC news release. “I am determined to do everything possible to ensure all Americans are able to access online resources for work, education, and healthcare. The FCC is delivering real value at a critical time for our nation, particularly to those living in unconnected rural areas.”

The funding represents the 13th wave of support from what the FCC referred to as the successful 2018 Connect America Fund Phase II auction. Providers must build out to 40 percent of the assigned homes and businesses in the areas won in a state within three years. Buildout must increase by 20 percent in each subsequent year, until complete buildout is reached at the end of the sixth year.

State Company Minimum Speed Support/10 Years Locations
Oklahoma Redwire 25/3 Mbps $4,766,845.60 8,041
Oregon Viasat Carrier Services 25/3 Mbps $2,708,529.40 3,811

In total, the Connect America Fund Phase II Auction in 2018 allocated $1.488 billion in support during the next 10 years to expand broadband to more than 700,000 unserved rural homes and small businesses in 45 states. The FCC has now authorized 13 waves of funding, and the June 12 action brings total authorized funding to more than $1.45 billion, which is expanding connectivity to 643,813 homes and businesses nationwide. Funding rounds will continue until the authorization process is complete.

The FCC said that the Connect America Fund Phase II Auction is part of a broader effort to close the digital divide in rural America. A map of winning bids in the auction is available at https://www.fcc.gov/reportsresearch/maps/caf2-auction903-results/.

Source: FCC

A FirstNet flying COW. - Source: AT&T
A FirstNet flying COW. Source: AT&T
5G FirstNet

FirstNet Authority Board Approves Network Investments for 5G, On-Demand Coverage

In an action taken on June 17, the First Responder Network Authority Board approved the first set of investments for enhancing FirstNet, the nationwide public safety broadband network. The board approved more than $200 million for initial network upgrades to set FirstNet on the path to 5G wireless communications and to expand the dedicated fleet of deployable assets.

“These investments mark the next major step in our mission as we continue to evolve the FirstNet network based on public safety’s needs,” said Edward Horowitz, chairman of the FirstNet Authority board of directors. “The board’s actions set the network on a path to 5G and will boost on-demand coverage for public safety. We look forward to delivering on these advancements for public safety and working to identify our next network investment opportunities.”

During a quarterly meeting held via webcast, the board approved Resolution 105, “Network Investments,” which directs FirstNet Authority management to issue two task orders under the existing nationwide network contract with AT&T. The board approved $218 million for the FirstNet Authority to invest in:

  • Expanding the fleet of FirstNet deployables to enhance network coverage and capacity for public safety during emergencies and events. In 2019, public safety turned to the FirstNet deployables for additional support in more than 450 operations around the nation. In 2020, these assets have continued to support public safety communications, such as during the COVID-19 response, at large events, emergencies, and responses to disasters, including wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes. The FirstNet fleet currently includes 72 land-based deployables, such as Satellite Cell on Light Trucks (SatCOLTs), plus three airborne Flying COWs (Cell on Wings) and the FirstNet One aerostat. The Board’s actions will grow the fleet to help meet the increasing demand for these assets from public safety agencies.
  • Initial generational upgrades to enable 5G network capabilities. Evolving the network to 5G is expected to be a multiphase effort, beginning with upgrades to the dedicated FirstNet network core. The physically separate, highly available, redundant and highly secure network core is foundational to FirstNet. It acts as the nervous system of the network, separates all public safety traffic from non-public safety user traffic and enables differentiated services for network users. In the future, 5G is expected to drive major increases in the quantity and types of connected devices for FirstNet users, including vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles and sensors.

“This is a significant milestone for the FirstNet Authority’s strategic investment program, which is driven by our partners in public safety,” said Edward Parkinson, the FirstNet Authority’s executive director. “We appreciate their continued support as we work with them to identify investment opportunities for FirstNet, the only nationwide public safety broadband network. This is just the beginning; we look forward to the work ahead to achieve the full potential of this network.”

The FirstNet Authority’s investments are made possible through a sustainable business model that enables the organization to continually improve and advance the network. The investments align with the FirstNet Authority’s Roadmap, which outlines the key priorities and activities for advancing and evolving the network beyond current contractual commitments. In addition, the FirstNet Authority established a set of investment principles to further guide the decision-making process for network investment.

The FirstNet Authority is an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce. Created in 2012, its mission is to ensure the building, deployment and operation of the nationwide broadband network that equips first responders to save lives and protect U.S. communities.

Source: FirstNet Authority

Raycap's integrated streetlight pole design. - Source: Raycap
Raycap's integrated streetlight pole design. Source: Raycap
5G Concealment

Concealment: New Opportunities to Camouflage 5G mmWave Small Cell Sites

Small cell poles combine and conceal AC- or DC-powered 5G mmWave and 4G radios, integrated AC disconnect functions with surge protection, and fiber management and connectivity enclosures.

As the pace of 5G deployment in the United States quickens, carriers, infrastructure providers, utilities and municipalities are compelled to collaborate on where to locate the requisite small-cell infrastructure. In dense, high-volume urban areas, 5G small cells are widely expected to become prevalent along busy city streets and in historic sites and neighborhoods, coexisting with lighting poles and other street furniture and buildings.

To avoid cluttering the urban environment, carriers, municipalities and their partners are recognizing that new or existing street lighting poles are obvious advantageous platforms for 5G small cell sites. However, these are not the only options, because carriers also need solutions to seamlessly blend 5G equipment into other environments, such as signs, monuments and buildings. Whatever the method of deployment, it is essential that the resulting site meets both the carriers’ performance requirements and the aesthetic considerations of municipalities.

Solutions for Placing Small Cell Sites on Lighting Poles

Carriers, infrastructure providers, utilities and municipalities have an array of options to consider when installing small cell sites on street lighting poles. These include fully concealed small cell poles built to meet certain specifications and maintain maximum RF performance. Designed for flexibility, performance and aesthetics, they are available in varieties that can be delivered fully integrated in multiple color options.

However, partially concealed and non-concealed poles featuring specially designed brackets and mounting structures are also suitable for situations when full concealment is not necessary.

Integrated poles: In many instances, integrated small cell poles will be the de facto siting location for 5G infrastructure. However, they need to fit in with the existing architecture, public spaces and pedestrian rights of way. This is because each city has its own history, challenges, ordinances and aspirations. Therefore, small cell poles will need to be easily adapted to different designs yet be based on a standard product for streamlined customization and manufacturing.

Crucially, small cell poles must combine and conceal all the elements needed for a complete 5G small cell site. This includes AC- or DC-powered 5G mmWave and 4G radios, integrated AC disconnect functions with surge protection for safety and long life, along with fiber management and connectivity enclosures.

integrated streetlight pole designPhoto 1. This integrated streetlight pole design, approved by the LA Bureau of Street Lighting, can integrate 4G and 5G radios, lighting and associated electronics.Source: RaycapThrough integration, these small cell poles answer a related challenge of 5G site infrastructure: rapid time to deployment. They can be manufactured as a standard product line and then quickly customized for a particular need. Integrated small cell poles can be manufactured, assembled and tested at a factory under controlled conditions. This means they will arrive at a site with cabling, radios, power control, protection and fiber equipment ready to go. All that is needed for installation is to affix the pole on the foundation, then hook up the feed lines for power and fiber. This is much faster than hiring field crews to install electrical components and run cabling on site. (See Photo 1.)

Existing poles: Given that they are already present in the urban environment, existing streetlight poles are also seen as a backbone for 5G mmWave small cell deployment and have been targeted in some municipalities as the ideal home for 5G small cell sites.

Customization is a crucial facet of 5G small cell concealment, particularly in areas where the installations need to blend in with existing environments seamlessly. In these instances, custom-made mounts, shrouds and enclosures to conceal or partially conceal equipment on existing metal or wooden poles help to streamline the engineering, review and approvals of pole-mounted small cell sites.

Raycap Apelio line of enclosuresPhoto 2. The DoITT Box in the Raycap Apelio line of enclosures can support 4G and 5G equipment along with AC power management and an active cooling system.Source: RaycapRaycap offers these types of engineered solutions through its Apelio line that also can integrate concealment materials and surge protection devices to provide municipalities with complete solutions for custom shrouds, street furniture and electrical protection of network infrastructure equipment. (See Photo 2.)

Pole-toppers: Most small cell poles mount the 4G/5G antennas or radios in the top of the pole to optimize performance and make concealment easier. They are standard equipment for new integrated poles but also can be fitted onto existing poles.

The overriding characteristic of pole-toppers should be flexibility in configuration, so the radios can be positioned optimally (and eventually upgraded) depending on the needs of that particular site. Importantly, the pole manufacturer must be able to provide a concealment material that does not interfere with the 5G mmWave signals.

To meet required coverage patterns, multitenant siting and future upgrades, the pole-topper should have a uniform form factor, and it should accommodate brackets that can host different brands of 5G radios, and that are backwards-compatible to lower-frequency equipment. With a range of mounting options, the form factor can support different orientations of the radios, radios on different levels, on top of one another or back-to-back.

Materials for Concealing 5G Small Cell Sites

With one or more small cell sites on every street, municipalities are rightly concerned about the aesthetic implications. Fortunately, there are now materials that can cover 5G radios with little or no effect on performance.

Raycap InvisiWave pole-toppersPhoto 3. Raycap InvisiWave pole-toppers provide a complete solution for 5G radios and 4G canister antennas on top of wooden or metal poles.Source: RaycapFor example, a unique 5G mmWave concealment material called InvisiWave is now available that meets the needs of 5G bandwidth and gigabit speeds, while minimizing dB loss. It has been tested and approved for use at the mmWave frequencies commonly used for 5G networks and, crucially, is entirely backwards-compatible with widely used frequencies for 4G and earlier technologies. (See Photo 3.)

Importantly, InvisiWave material is approved for use at mmWave frequencies, after extensive research and testing at the 24-GHz, 28-GHz and 39-GHz bands — even as high as 100 GHz. It is also fully backwards-compatible with all commonly used sub-6-GHz frequencies, so radios from different generations can be combined in the same enclosure.

This performance has been confirmed by measurements conducted in an RF anechoic chamber using network and spectrum analyzers, specifically measuring losses over the range from 700 MHz to 52 GHz. Furthermore, specialized measurements were conducted to evaluate absorption when the concealment surface is wet, in addition to proximity testing and several beamforming pattern measurements.

For maximum flexibility, the InvisiWave material is available in many configurations. It can be used in pole-toppers, surrounds and radomes on integrated pole configurations, as well as for panel products such as chimneys, lanterns, cupolas and other rooftop concealments. It is fabricated with a smooth, hydrophobic surface and has the durability to stand up to environmental extremes. What’s more, it can be painted to match existing architecture.

With InvisiWave technology, municipalities have the latitude to decide where and how to use concealment. This streamlines the process of defining regulations and procedures that speed up deployment of 5G networks while maintaining control over the urban aesthetic environment.

Alternative Camouflage Options Can Fit Particular Neighborhood Requirements

Meanwhile, other solutions are available for locations where new or existing streetlights or utility poles are not viable. Indeed, in some locations, installation on the ground is not possible. Whether because of lack of space, permit restrictions or even a costly installation of power or fiber cables for the connectivity, this scenario requires the installation of active equipment (antennas and connectivity enclosures) on or at the side of an existing structure.

For instance, it is straightforward to conceal 5G small cell sites on buildings using rooftop or wall side-mounted box concealments. These complement existing architecture, with painted surfaces of hand-crafted-looking faux brick, block, stucco and stone, enabling 5G infrastructure to seamlessly blend with buildings.

Meanwhile, ballasted (non-penetrating) concealment pods are a great solution for disguising rooftop antennas. The ballasted pods comprise a steel frame, center mast pipe, steel clamp-on bulkheads and a radome. These standard frames allow for reduced engineering cost and lead time, plus the optimized framing material makes manufacturing and installation a breeze.

Multiple Options Will Speed Deployment

A wide range of 5G mmWave small cell concealment solutions are now available to balance the needs of service providers and municipalities.

These include integrated poles, pole-toppers, enclosures and other concealment solutions that give carriers and municipalities multiple choices and a high degree of flexibility to solve specific site characteristics. Crucially, where collocation is required or deemed preferable, Raycap, with its Stealth product line, offers proven and robust solutions that can accommodate multiple tenants. This ultimately will help benefit all stakeholders in streamlining and speeding up the deployment of 5G services.

For most 5G small cell sites, concealment will be one of the primary considerations, and Raycap is an experienced partner and information resource to help all key stakeholders find the right balance of performance and aesthetics.

Trey Nemeth is senior vice president of operations and engineering at Raycap Stealth. His email address is tnemeth@raycap.com.

 -

July 2020

Tower Type: Monopole

Height: 98.4 feet

Carrier: INWI

Location: Marrakesh, Morocco

Photography by Jonathan Kramer

 -
COVID-19 Safety

Revised OSHA Enforcement Guidance for Inspections and Record-keeping of COVID-19 Cases

The employer’s safety program should be following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and OSHA regarding COVID-19.

The following guidance explains whether there is a requirement to report to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration COVID-19 positive cases or to record them on the OSHA 300 log.

Enforcement Guidance

Federal OSHA has faced recent lawsuits from traditional labor relating its regulatory response to the pandemic, including its decision not to issue new regulations to address COVID-19. On May 19, 2020, OSHA issued a new enforcement guidance (Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease 2019, May 19, 2020) acknowledging that many non-critical businesses have begun to reopen in areas of lower community spread, and that numerous other businesses will be reopening in coming weeks. The risk of transmission is lower in specific categories of workplaces, and personal protective equipment potentially needed for inspections is more widely available for OSHA staff. According to OSHA, it will “continue to prioritize COVID-19 inspections, and will utilize all enforcement tools as OSHA has historically done.” In the areas of lower risk, OSHA will return to doing more onsite inspections, which have largely been limited to fatality inspections during the pandemic.

According to the ERP, OSHA will continue to prioritize COVID-19 cases. The agency acknowledged that it will continue to target health care employers, who historically have not been a primary target of OSHA enforcement. During an inspection, the ERP instructs compliance officers to examine whether employees “who are expected to perform very high and high risk exposure tasks are using respirators (i.e., N95 or better).” The ERP states in bold text that “appropriate respiratory protection is required for all healthcare personnel providing direct care for patients with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.” Area directors will continue to evaluate potential on-site inspections for COVID risks to OSHA personnel and will not send compliance officers where they perceive a hazard.

Enforcement against employers will be largely through the General Duty Clause. The ERP provides a sample citation (Attachment 4), again focused on health care employment and precautions during the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Attached to the Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan are specific enforcement procedures (Attachment 1); a sample employer letter for COVID-19 activities (Attachment 2); a sample hazard alert letter (Attachment 3); and additional references, including OSHA’s prior COVID-19-related enforcement memoranda (Attachment 5).

Record-keeping Guidance OSHA is revising its previous enforcement policy for recording cases of coronavirus (Revised Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019, May 19, 2020). Under OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, coronavirus is a potentially recordable illness, and employers are responsible for recording cases of the coronavirus, if the case:

Work-related cases that result in an employee fatality or must be reported to OSHA by phone or online. Because of the difficulty in determining whether this widespread virus was actually contracted at the worksite, OSHA has stated that it will focus on an employers’ reasonable, good-faith efforts in making work-related determinations.

In determining whether an employer has complied with this obligation and made a reasonable determination of work-relatedness, compliance officers will consider the following:

  • The reasonableness of the employer’s investigation into work-relatedness.
  • Employers, especially small employers, should not be expected to undertake extensive medical inquiries, given employee privacy concerns and most employers’ lack of expertise in this area.
  • It is sufficient in most circumstances for the employer, when it learns of an employee’s COVID-19 illness, (1) to ask the employee how they believe they contracted the COVID-19 illness; (2) while respecting employee privacy, discuss with the employee their work and out-of-work activities that may have led to the COVID-19 illness; and (3) review the employee’s work environment for potential SARS-CoV-2 exposure. The review in (3) should be informed by any other instances of workers in that environment contracting COVID-19 illness.

Accordingly, OSHA continues to recognize the difficulty in determining work-relatedness for an illness that exists in the community and that may be contracted from numerous sources and will assess employers’ reasonable efforts in making work-related determinations. In making the work-relatedness determination, employers need to consider the effect of numerous safety and health procedures that the employer has implemented to control and minimize the risk of possible infection within the workplace.

The employer’s safety program should be following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and OSHA regarding COVID-19. These precautions, when considered individually and collectively, effectively reduce and control the possible risk that the COVID-19 virus will be present or transmitted to another worker in the workplace or both. For example, by ensuring that employees are staying home and not at work when they have symptoms that might stem from a COVID-19 infection, the employer would be eliminating the possibility that a worker who is symptomatic with COVID-19 is at work. Further, by following key safety precautions, such as social distancing and wearing masks and face coverings, the employer is eliminating or significantly reducing the chance that an associate will be in close contact with someone who may have COVID-19.

If an employer makes a reasonable and good-faith inquiry but cannot determine whether it is more likely than not that exposure in the workplace caused a worker to contract COVID-19, OSHA says that the employer does not need to record the case or to report a hospitalization or fatality. There is community transmission of the disease, so if an employer is taking the CDC-recommended precautions, there are few situations where an inquiry will reveal that an employee definitely got the case at work and there is no alternative explanation that is equally or more plausible.

The employer’s individual work-relatedness reasonable inquiry for each COVID-19 case can be short and focused on whether an employee had close contact with other individuals at work (15 minutes or more of contact, within six feet, without face masks or barriers). Cases are not recordable without close contact at work with a known or suspected COVID-19 case. Such contact is necessary but insufficient, because the probability of transmission is low and there is normally an alternative explanation of community transmission.

Mark A. Lies II is a Seyfarth Shaw partner who works with clients to build strong worker safety policies, identify hazards, ensure compliance and protect their operations and reputation. His email address is mlies@seyfarth.com. Adam R. Young is a Seyfarth Shaw associate who concentrates his practice on the defense of OSHA inspections and citations. His email address is ayoung@seyfarth.com.

 -
Conferences

American Tower Executive Speaks of Technology, Social and Corporate Responsibility

Tom Bartlett, president and CEO of American Tower, expressed concern for safety and health during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said people depend on wireless communications networks for work, education, health care and entertainment in ways that no one would

In delivering a keynote speech on May 19 during the Connectivity Expo, also known as Connect (X), the president and CEO of American Tower, Tom Bartlett, addressed a worldwide audience through the sponsoring Wireless Industry Association’s All Access online convention broadcast. Moved online to replace an in-person convention set to be held in Miami Beach, Florida, the All Access broadcast responded to safety concerns associated with the ongoing COVID-19 respiratory disease pandemic. In that context, Bartlett said that American tower gives the utmost importance to the health and safety of its employees, customers, suppliers and surrounding communities. He said that with the vast majority of its global workforce operating remotely, the company is grateful to its wireless customers for keeping everyone connected.

Tom Bartlett, president and CEO of American TowerTom Bartlett, president and CEO of American Tower“We remain committed to providing the highest possible level of service, understanding that our infrastructure is integral to their success,” Bartlett said. “Over the years, we have refined our processes, enhanced our digital platform and deployed a fleet of drones to secure more accurate data on our sites. Our longstanding focus on efficiency and customer service has guided us through shifting global circumstances.”

Bartlett said he recalled that when he joined American Tower in 2009, the industry was evolving from 3G to 4G wireless communications, and that the company’s assets primarily supported voice calls, text messages and early incarnations of mobile video. He said the industry has evolved to meet the challenges associated with the exponential growth of mobile data, in part by increasing availability and variety of shared infrastructure assets.

To that point, Bartlett said American Tower operates 180,000 sites in 19 countries across five continents, including 41,000 in the United States. He said those assets help the company to meet the 450 percent increase in average U.S. smartphone users’ mobile data consumption over the last five years and the 68 percent increase in global data traffic in 2019.

With 5G wireless communications as the next frontier, Bartlett said, businesses and customers can expect the industry to deploy a variety of low-, mid- and high-band radio-frequency spectrum assets during the next decade, some of which he said already have been made available.

“As we realize the potential of 5G for both the consumer and enterprise uses, we will continue to see the deployment of high-band millimeter-wave in densely populated urban areas, mid-band spectrum focused in suburbs and along highway corridors, and low-band spectrum across most geographies to provide the necessary coverage layer of the network,” Bartlett said. “With the CBRS C-band auction scheduled for 2020 and the FCC continuing to proactively evaluate additional spectrum potentially released for broadband, we are excited for what lies ahead in the United States and confident that carriers will have sufficient spectrum available to help fuel continued innovation.”

As policymakers and industry leaders act to free up key low-, mid- and high-band spectrum, Bartlett said that macro towers are in a position to underpin the next evolution of the wireless network. He said that towers continue to be the most cost-effective category of wireless infrastructure in the vast majority of the United States and at the same time have tremendous capacity for additional tenancy and equipment loading in the 5G future.

Enhanced equipment placed on and at existing macro tower sites will deliver 5G speed, low latency and more capacity, Bartlett explained, saying it will help to ease the often uneven distribution of assets to communications topology across rural and urban areas. With these benefits in mind, he said, the FCC has made great strides toward ensuring that macro towers remain the cornerstone of tomorrow’s wireless networks.

Bartlett said American Tower is thankful for FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr’s leadership and FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly’s support in crafting policy to support the deployment of wireless infrastructure. He said the company appreciates the FCC’s consideration of the Wireless Infrastructure Association’s petition about the acceleration of collocation during what he called a critical period.

As for the future, Bartlett said there will be tremendous opportunities for the wireless infrastructure industry to further innovate. As an example, he said that as networks become increasingly virtualized and software-dependent, there most likely will be an increasing role for infrastructure providers to play in the nascent edge data ecosystem. Eventually, he said, edge compute offerings probably will serve connected and autonomous vehicles, interactive and immersive media delivery, cloud gaming and any number of other products and services where lower latency is a must, because end-user data-processing needs to be closer to the access device.

“Although the potential for a scaled, mobile edge solution is likely several years away, we are seeing positive indications of customer interest in the first phases of edge solution at our tower sites with initial micro datacenters for distributed computing as well as our own metro interconnect facility in Atlanta for collocation,” Bartlett said. “As machine-to-machine information generating processing progressively pushes to the network edge, particularly with respect to advanced 5G internet-of-things (IoT) applications, data reduction through local inferencing and lower-latency application access to storage and compute functionality will benefit both wireless and wireline services. Suffice it to say, we as an industry are going to have some interesting opportunities arising from the edge evolution, and we are working to position ourselves for success.”

Digital Village Squares initiative undertaken by our ATC India teamAmerican Tower's Digital Village Squares initiative is undertaken by ATC India team. Digital Village Squares are learning centers anchored by tower sites that provide computer and internet access as well as technology training.Source: American TowerBartlett pointed out the potential for 5G wireless service to bring new opportunities for in-building connectivity. He said that American Towers’s in-building connectivity solutions that use Wi-Fi, 4G and 5G with unlicensed, licensed and shared CBRS spectrum are positioned to deliver additional value for its carrier customers to help them achieve scale and for property owners to help them attract new tenants with enhanced services, smart building automation and IoT-enabled applications.

“Today’s building tenants view wireless service as an amenity and expect property owners to provide vast speeds for connectivity over secure networks that meet the needs of their businesses and employees,” Bartlett said. “As demand for better, faster and more secure network connectivity continues to accelerate in multidwelling units, Class A office spaces, shopping areas, stadiums and other similar locations, we expect to help meet that demand in a broader array of venues than traditional distributed antenna systems (DASs) with fully managed, fiber-rich 5G-enabled in-building wireless infrastructure solutions.”

In commending American Towers’s U.S. carrier customers that he said have expertly kept pace with today’s unprecedented network demands, Bartlett said the company tips its hat to AT&T, the New T-Mobile, Verizon and the many other wireless operators across the country for having met the connectivity needs of their customers during the pandemic. He said everyone depends on these networks for work, education, health care and entertainment in ways that would not have been imagined a few months ago.

Bartlett said he was excited about the closing of T-Mobile and Sprint’s merger and pleased to see their ingenuity and persistence rewarded. Meanwhile, he said American Tower and its peers look forward to Dish Network building a 5G wireless communications network and becoming the fourth national facilities-based operator. This, he said, opens up more opportunities for the wireless infrastructure industry, creating a competitive environment and providing motivation for innovation to advance technologies while enhancing connectivity for consumers and businesses.

He acknowledged that many who were listening to him rely on wireless infrastructure growth and innovation to fuel their businesses, saying, “It is certainly a dynamic time to be involved.” American Tower, Bartlett said, much like many other Wireless Industry Association member companies, has an unwavering commitment to social and corporate responsibility. He said the company is dedicated to building connections responsibly and minimizing its effect on natural resources and ecosystems while promoting renewable energy and biodiversity. By hosting equipment from multiple tenants on its sites, Bartlett said, the American Tower business model is fundamentally green, because it reduces the environmental footprint of modern wireless networks. He said the company has made significant advancements in energy management and innovative technologies to increase efficiencies for its customers.

Speaking of the American Tower Foundation and regional philanthropic initiatives, Bartlett said that American Tower focuses on education and technology used to empower students, teachers and communities in need worldwide as well as to support several disaster relief efforts, including most recently the organizations providing COVID-19 relief. “This includes a number of programs throughout our emerging market footprint where we are proactively bringing much-needed connectivity to underserved populations who can benefit the most,” he said.

Bartlett said that it is an honor for him to lead American Tower and be part of an industry that will play such an important role in the digital future. He said the company is more than ever committed to providing connectivity. “We are excited about the opportunity to move the wireless infrastructure industry forward as we deploy 5G technology in rural, suburban and urban centers across the United States and around the globe,” he said.

 

 -
Business

Wireless Industry Transformation Can Lead to Unforeseen Communications Tax Complications

With new offerings hitting the market virtually every month, communications tax authorities will be seeking new ways to capture revenue from these products and services.

When you pause to consider everything that has changed in recent years, it is astounding just how drastically the communications industry has been reshaped. From the slow death of wireline to fast-fading traditional voice services, numerous transitions have created a landscape that looks remarkably different than it did a mere decade ago. Phone calls have been replaced with texting and chatting, DVDs have been traded for media downloads and streaming digital platforms, and the move to VoIP has led wireless, cable, and software companies to offer new types of voice services.

Appetites for Apps and Services

There are undoubtedly many more changes to come, with one factor behind it all: more data. With the anticipated mass rollout of 5G wireless communications, business and consumer appetites for data-intensive apps and services will skyrocket.

It is easy to understand why so many companies are redefining how they will meet consumer demand and rethinking how to remain competitive. Many voice, video and technology services are already converging via communications service providers (CSPs) that offer various combinations of voice, media, content, entertainment and apps over networks designed to serve as rich, functional platforms.

In the midst of tremendous opportunities, there are also some big risks — ones that many companies tend to overlook. Near the top of the list is communications taxation. Although businesses may be accustomed to collecting and remitting sales and use tax, failure to consider communications tax implications of new offerings could lead to unanticipated liabilities.

That could mean that what begins as an exciting new product launch has the potential to end in costly penalties and interest. To avoid such a fate, it is imperative that companies become familiar with possible tax ramifications and revisit rules and regulations early and often.

Interest in bundling various servicesInterest in bundling various services together is driven by growing customer demand for new services and a decrease in traditional voice services.Source: Aberdeen Study

The Arrival of 5G

With the long-anticipated rollout of 5G, expectations are high across many industries for desirable business models. In many instances, the increased speed and lower latency will be used to enhance existing data-intensive services. In other applications, new capabilities will be combined with internet-of-things (IoT) technologies such as sensors, machine learning, artificial intelligence and telematics to push businesses to the next level.

Top offerings companiesTop offerings companies are planning to provide through partnership.Source: Aberdeen Study

For carriers, 5G investments might mean expanding beyond traditional communications services to enter new areas such as ecommerce. For other companies, the move may involve increasing profit margins by focusing attention on technologies like software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN). Carriers and service providers have made clear that some of these new offerings are most likely to roll out soon, while others are still a blip on the horizon.

Implications

Regardless of where, when or how they are introduced, the implications are the same. The transition is not merely going to change how consumers and companies interact with the world. It may well transform business relationships with tax authorities, too.

Communications Tax Complexities

As this trend expands, so do the communications taxation complexities. Analysts say it is imperative that companies remain aware of the possibility they could become liable for communications tax — something that could possibly occur as soon as a product or service begins transmitting data. Getting ahead of any potential communications tax responsibility will be key to gaining a competitive advantage.

biggest fears related to taxesOrganizations’ biggest fears related to taxes.Source: Aberdeen Study

“The arrival of 5G is predicted to have enormous implications for communications taxes,” Aberdeen researchers said in a 2019 report, Communications Tax Compliance: Surviving and Thriving with Preparedness and Agility. “5G will enable sensors to transmit data approximately a hundred times faster than its predecessor, 4G, and could empower a multitude of new companies to enter the market. As a result of these dynamics, policymakers are scrambling to keep up and determine how to tax the associated infrastructure and technology.”

Although most businesses are familiar with collecting and remitting sales and use tax, many are unaccustomed to the depth and complexity of communications tax. In addition to some incredibly complex calculations, communications taxes vary significantly across local, state and federal regulatory authorities. In addition, while typically lagging, rules and regulations have been known to change daily across jurisdictions. The rapid pace of innovations, mergers and acquisitions — not to mention the complexities of bundling and nexus — will all affect how communication services are taxed.

Many companies are opting to collect sales and use tax alone, but this is a big gamble. What would happen to the business if it faced a sudden tax shock? In addition to back taxes, you may incur both interest and penalties — and you company could be forced to contend with negative customer reactions if it raised prices to cover costs.

At the heart of the matter is one mission-critical question: When and how will communications taxes apply to new products and services? Unfortunately, the answer is not an easy one.

Technology is advancing far faster than policymakers’ abilities to adapt rules and regulations. As a result, tax laws are a patchwork, as thousands of local jurisdictions, states and the federal government seek to regulate an industry that is in a continuous state of change. That means different areas of communication are all taxed in highly different and exceptionally complex ways.

With some of the most complicated tax calculations and filing requirements of any industry, communications taxes can make it incredibly difficult for companies to know when, where and how to stay compliant as they adopt new business models. Which is why, even in the midst of tremendous progress, this one area can quickly become a detriment to growth. The successful communications company will remain up-to-date on the latest changes and challenges and watch for potential transitions on the horizon. In particular, it pays to watch several potentially sticky areas:

Nexus determinations — “Nexus” is the connection between a taxing jurisdiction and business entity; state taxes typically are not imposed until nexus has been established. Most states consider “physical presence” as a determining factor, but many also look at “economic connection,” which is based on the amount of sales generated within the state or jurisdiction. Nexus can also apply to communications technology, even in instances where there is little more than invisible, undetectable digital signals to track.

Bundling complexities — Driven by customer demand for data-driven applications, selling “bundled” offers combining different services types in a single package is convenient for the customer and typically a competitive advantage for the provider. But communications tax complexities can make these tricky. From combining different tax types to highly complicated calculations and recordkeeping, businesses new to communications taxes can quickly find themselves in over their heads and at increased risk.

Marketing challenges — One often overlooked reason for communications tax complexity is the lack of coordination among internal teams, especially marketing. For example, if a certain terminology is used when promoting new offerings, there is a real risk that the content could trigger a communications tax audit. Believe it or not, something as simple as incorporating “voice calls” or “video conferencing” into website copy can render the business subject to the complexities of communications taxation for the first time, even if the technology might not really not be taxable.

Business complexities — As a growing number of companies explore new and innovative ways to deliver voice, information services, high-speed data and IoT, business relationships are expanding. Consider the auto manufacturer that enters a relationship with a wireless company to provide telematics and voice service: Who will be responsible for collecting and remitting communications tax? Will those taxes be charged early on in the supply chain, or will they be eventually passed on to the end consumer?

companies in the study already use a SaaS solutionNearly half (47 percent) of the top 20 percent performing companies in the study already use a SaaS solution for calculating tax, compared with merely a third (38 percent) of the lower 80 percent of companies.Source: Aberdeen Study

Preparing for 2020 and Beyond

Maintaining compliance in this ever-evolving tax landscape requires several critical components that all businesses — even those not currently responsible for communications tax — should be aware of. The more a company plans ahead for the implications of communications taxes, the better businesses will be able to reduce errors and minimize audit liabilities.

  • Analyze new offerings at a basic level: By breaking down the fundamental components of a new offering, it becomes easier to understand when a product or service may be taxable — or at least know which questions to ask to make that determination.
  • Stay up to date on the latest technology changes: Every department needs to understand how each new technology could be affected by communications taxation. This includes remaining aware of the latest key communications tax and regulatory laws.
  • Collaboration is key, especially for companies new to the space: Networking with colleagues to see how they manage risk can be the best way to stay ahead of tax complexities. In some cases, businesses are finding that communications tax can become highly complicated, extremely quickly, and that it pays to have a specialized advisor on hand to help keep costly penalties and fines at bay.

The Future Is Here

This is an exciting time for business growth, and the opportunities for expansion will only continue to multiply. In the midst of all this change, it pays to keep the auditor in mind. The more a company prepares for the potential communications tax effects of 5G and related innovations, the better prepared it will be to maximize every opportunity — minus the risk of a financial shock. And that is a competitive edge worth pursuing.

Steve Lacoff is general manager of the communications business unit at Avalara. Visit www.avalara.com.

 -
Business

Women of NATE Profile: Marianna Kramarikova

Career lessons that Marianna Kramarikova learned and that she would pass along to you are: Live your own life. Don’t be afraid of failure. And do that thing you always wanted to do.

Marianna Kramarikova joined the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) in 2006. After leaving for three years to work for a private-sector company and focus on sales and marketing, she returned to the association in 2011. Her current role is as senior director of standards and program development.

Marianna KramarikovaMarianna KramarikovaKramarikova has extensive knowledge of the development of voluntary, consensus-based industry standards for a variety of information and communications technology (ICT) segments. In addition, her substantial background in marketing and sales enabled her to quadruple active member participation within the key technologies she is involved in at TIA.

Tell us something about yourself that would surprise people.

Some may know me as the standards girl at TIA, yet it was not until 2006 that I gained an understanding of the word “standard.” That is when TIA hired me, and the word “standard” was added to my dictionary. It only took me few months to understand the value of industry standards. While listening to stories of those who dedicated time to draft and manage them, I gained and understanding of and respect for the meaningful work of technical experts, and the numerous hours, days and weeks the dedicated team of professionals spend on tweaking each sentence to ensure our standards are solid and products built based on the ICT standards are safe and reliable for people to use.

In addition to being obsessed with standards, in my free time, I also like playing classical guitar behind my head.

What advice would you give to women coming into the industry?

Listen, learn and be respectful, yet know what you want, and go for it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to gain an understanding and expand your knowledge, and don’t be afraid to speak out and share how you can contribute to the industry.

Have healthy goals, and don’t limit yourself. No one can ever stop you from accomplishing what you want, other than your own doubts.

And if you are reading this: Welcome! You are among extraordinary women in a great industry. The world is at your feet, so go accomplish your dreams. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help or seek a mentor, because everyone I know in our group Women of NATE is willing to help you.

What’s your motto?

I don’t have a specific motto that drives me, because there are too many great ones to choose from. Yet, what guides me is my belief in family values, my culture and faith in finding the best in each person.

What is the most beautiful place you have ever visited?

For me, places are connected with people. I am grateful to so many amazing people who came into my life, left a positive mark and made so many places beautiful because of their presence. To name a place: My hometown, Trencin, Slovakia, will forever be the most beautiful place for me, because it has great people, food, culture and history. Do check out our castle and the Roman inscription.

What are three career lessons you’ve learned thus far?

Live your own life. Our time is too precious to want to be someone else. We are unique in who we are and what we can bring to this world. So let’s enforce it.

Don’t be afraid of failure. To fail, learn from it, get a fresh new start and continue with the experience you gained is a great thing.

Remember that one thing you always wanted to do? Do it! There is no need to wait to have the dream job you wanted, to start a project, to do what is right. Just do it.

What is the one thing you can’t live without?

Without a doubt I would say my sister Mirka, even though she is not a “thing,” which makes me expand into the “things” world. Hmmm — so, if nature is considered a thing, I guess understanding the silence and benefits of being in the wild would be the one thing I could not live without, in addition to one human I could not live without — my sister.

What are some causes that you care about?

I care about our industry and all the valuable, committed people supporting it. If standards can assist all of you brave women and men to perform your work safer, my cause is complete. Outside of work, I enjoy helping those in need who are willing to accept help. Next year, my family with the Operation Walk Chicago will serve in Vietnam with hip and knee replacement surgeries on patients suffering from joint diseases.

Who is someone that you admire, and why?

My parents. I admire their ability to stay focused on our family and its values during challenging times, not ever allowing what happened outside to affect our family relationships. What is your favorite thing to do when you have time away from work? Reading industry telecom standards. (Smirk.) Yet, hiking the Glacier National Park while having a good standard in my backpack also sounds good.

What is the one thing that you are most proud of achieving in your career?

To be a foreigner, a non-engineer and a woman with a dream gaining respect in the American engineer male-dominant industry. It only took 10 years. Also, to have a major fear of heights, yet with help of NATE and supportive technical experts, climbing a tower in Virginia, which gave me even more admiration for workers who climb towers.

Source: NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association

A technician on an aerial platform performs maintenance on a cell tower. -
A technician on an aerial platform performs maintenance on a cell tower.
Maintenance

New Technology Changes How Telecoms Schedule Maintenance Works

How to achieve new efficiencies and cost savings when managing multi-location projects.

The need for speed and the growth of 5G wireless communications are undoubtedly having a profound effect on the demand for distributed antenna system (DAS) networks and small cells.

In fact, the increasing number of smart phones, rising wireless data usage and the requirement to meet greater bandwidth has led to an expected 11 percent annual increase in the DAS market from $6.67 billion in 2018 to $13.9 billion by 2025, according to a market research report from Grand View Research.1

It is welcome news for telecom companies, but with it comes the need for more streamlined and well-orchestrated installation and servicing programs to ensure maximum profitability during this growth period. Telecom equipment installers and repairers are some of the most important workers in the industry charged with setting up and maintaining the equipment that carries communications signals, such as high-speed internet routers and telephone lines.

Every manager knows the importance of having the right aerial equipment, carry deck crane or 150-foot boom lift delivered at the right time to ensure a job runs smoothly and cost-effectively. Whether they are installing new equipment, inspecting, testing or adjusting communications equipment, the last thing needed is to have technicians standing idle and waiting — meaning wasted time and money.

Planned Maintenance

One headache in particular is the scheduling of planned maintenance work at different cell sites across a state, or even the entire country. You may need to source the same equipment, such as a scissor lift, with only the date and location changing.

Until recently, to source and procure these rentals for each site would mean placing dozens of calls to numerous suppliers to determine equipment availability and price, based on location in various cities. Using different suppliers also equates to countless different vendor codes, purchase orders, payment due dates and different sets of terms and conditions.

However, with the introduction of new crowdsourcing technology, project managers can now hire equipment for hundreds of different jobs nationwide in one hit — with the click of a button, or just one call or email. Through the use of a single-source supplier, your company can gain instant access to 8,500 yards nationwide.

Here’s how it works: If you have a bulk order, say, of up to 250 equipment rentals in various locations, you simply upload the list to the single-source supplier via a spreadsheet. Using a sophisticated proprietary bulk order system, the supplier will process those requirements — hundreds, accurately inputted and confirmed within as little as 10 minutes. This is a far cry from the older systems, as most suppliers do not have a proprietary bulk order capability and must to input data manually, which is error-prone and could take hours or even days to complete.An industrial crane operating near a cell towerAn industrial crane operating near a cell tower.

Pre-negotiated Rates

With the new technology, the end result is that all your planned maintenance work on cell towers can be met with just one call or email, followed by one purchase order, and more important, no stress, all the while saving time and money. All rates are pre-negotiated in line with industry norms.

In addition, using a single-source supplier with the latest technology allows you to receive automatic updates via text or email on the status of your equipment rental — when it is in transit, the anticipated delivery time and confirmation of arrival, for example. Another benefit for using an automated system is that your entire booking can be completed online through your smartphone, tablet or desktop, all at the swipe of a screen or the touch of a button.

For example, an international telecommunications provider used more than 200 suppliers throughout the United States when it was installing or upgrading its services, software and infrastructure for mobile, broadband, and in the cloud. Its subcontractors procured equipment rentals with suppliers and billed the telecom accordingly. This was problematic for two reasons: The telecom had no visibility into the equipment rental process and pricing, and the accounting department had to manage countless different vendor codes, purchase orders, payment due dates and sets of terms, which was a daunting and inefficient process.

Partnering with a single-source marketplace enabled the telecom to have a greater understanding of the pricing for different pieces of equipment, and therefore, better forecast and control their costs. Over time, this advantage will produce enhanced data and benchmarking. Additionally, working with a vendor that can handle a high volume of rental orders across the nation means simplified procurement and accounting processes.

In another example, a project manager explained he was spending at least five hours a week just procuring rentals, and by switching to a single-source supplier, he saved himself 250 hours annually. Since he made the switch in 2015, he has serviced nearly 700 job sites in 43 states using 97 unique supplier partners across the nation.

Single-source Supplier

The same goes for a company responsible for installing and maintaining tech equipment for pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS. Technicians require aerial equipment for its stores nationwide and would previously have had to source a local supplier in each area where the work was scheduled. A single-source supplier provided them with equipment in 4,000 sites in two years, using 250 suppliers to fulfill the orders in all 50 states, Canada and Columbia. It put an end to their accounting and logistics nightmare.

A great added feature of using a tech-savvy single-source supplier is that clients can access a customer portal and log onto their accounts to place new orders, manage existing rentals, view invoices or report problems.

Apart from the bulk order system, telecom companies or technicians can use the crowdsourcing technology for individual jobs too, or just a few projects at different locations. You can simply go to the website and place orders online 24/7. By entering the equipment required, date and location, you will be automatically streamlined to a check out/cart page. This will show the cost, pickup and delivery times, tax and environment charges and transport fees.

As you can see it is not just the telecom industry that is using new technology to provide faster results for clients, even the hiring of huge pieces of equipment such as aerial lifts is being vastly improved by single-source suppliers.

Reference

  1. www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/distributed-antenna-systems-das-market.

Jim Arabia is vice president of marketing at BigRentz, the nation’s largest online construction rental equipment network serving telecoms companies across the United States. Visit www.bigrentz.com.

 -
Business

Thinking About Selling Your Tower Site? Be careful. Plan ahead.

It is far easier for a tower owner wishing to sell to modify land leases, easements and tenant agreements before going to market.

After participating in nearly 500 tower sales transactions, I have found that the most critical hurdle on the journey from Letter of Intent to closing is third-party consents. First, I will provide real-world anecdotal examples, and then I will suggest the best way to avoid the potential for extortion.

Ordinarily, a number of third-party consents are required to complete the sale of tower site assets. The buyer’s lender usually requires the assignment (and in some cases the extension of term) for land lease, access, use and utility easements. Land and tenant lease terms and assignments require validation with a document called an estoppel. Estoppel is a legal principle that prevents by law someone from arguing something or asserting a right that contradicts what they previously said or agreed to. It is meant to prevent people from being unjustly wronged by the inconsistencies of another person's words or actions. In some cases, the lender may require a standard non-disturbance agreement (SNDA). Obtaining consent on poorly worded right of first refusal (ROFRs) has also been a problem.

Sophisticated decision-makers realize that their consent is necessary for the seller to complete the transaction and, in most cases, receive a large profit. Some see this as an opportunity to share in that profit. The unsophisticated decision-makers typically do not fully understand the ramification of the assignment, SNDA and estoppel. Thus, many immediately consult an attorney.

A few examples of egregious extortion:

  • A single tower transaction that stands out had a short term remaining on the land lease and a provision that required landlord approval to transfer (assign). The seller asked the landlord if he would be willing to extend and assign and received a positive response. Shortly before closing, when the landlord was asked to sign the assignment and lease extension, he demanded 50 percent of the purchase price for his signature. The assignment could not be “unreasonably withheld,” but the required extension was the basis for his demand.
  • An aging widow wanted to sell her tower assets. The landlord for one of the sites with three years remaining on the land lease refused to sell the property at three times market value or a lease transfer and extension at any value. He eventually told the seller he intended to keep the tower and tenants upon expiration of the current lease term.
  • A small rancher stalled a transaction for six months by continually requesting more information about the buyer and the transaction, including tax returns and financial statements from a multibillion-dollar company. Finally, he agreed to sign when the seller offered attorney’s fees and signing bonus.
  • Another seller had carved a 6-mile road to the top of a mountain that barely touched the property of eight other landowners. After he had used the road for nearly 20 years, when it came time to sell, two of those formerly friendly neighbors asked for fees in excess of $250,000 to allow the new owner to use the road.

Not all third-party signers demand monetary compensation; some are just too busy or angry with the existing seller. In some cases, the land lease landlord or the tower tenant may not want the change to happen. In some cases, the decision-maker may have passed away, may be out of the country or cannot be found. On a number of occasions, the tower tenant or landlord who originally signed the agreement sold or transferred their asset, and the new landlord, tower tenant or both do not have a sufficient paper trail documenting the transfer.

Solutions

The seller, his broker, transaction advisor or attorney should review the due diligence documentation before taking a site to market. The task is best left to a professional with significant tower transaction experience who knows the due diligence and closing requirements of most of the current tower consolidators.

Upon review, the responsible party should provide a defect list, which includes a list of third-party consents, due diligence documentation deficiencies and other potential impediments to closing. Most of these matters can be dealt with during the transaction process.

However, it is best to minimize third-party problems prior to public awareness that the assets are being sold. Leases should be amended to include a minimally acceptable term, estoppel provisions and non-obstructive assignment language. Most new leases used in the industry now contain estoppel provision language. A simple lease amendment extending the term, simplifying assignment language and adding an estoppel provision in exchange of a fair rate increase is easier to accomplish when the potential seller is not pressured by deadlines.

These changes to land leases, easements and tenant agreements should be considered whether the owner plans to sell soon or years in the future. It is far easier to do it before the other party to the agreement realizes that his or her consent is necessary for the seller to make a large profit from the sale of the tower site assets.

If possible, most new land leases and tenant agreements should be patterned after the standard lease agreements (SLAs) used by the major tower consolidators. Those agreements have been “lawyered to death” and protect the tower site owner. They are acceptable to most buyers.

Stock sales, as opposed to asset sales, are usually exempt from consent requirements, but because of the tax consequences and liability issues, they are far less common in the wireless infrastructure sector.

Tom Engel is a partner in Strategic Tower Advisors. During is his nearly half-century of experience in cable TV, publishing, broadcasting and broadband communications, he has participated in hundreds of transactions, prepared numerous appraisals, provided expert witness testimony, authored numerous articles and spoken at many conferences. Visit www.sta.online.

 -
Business

The Leadership Cornucopia

Succeed with an abundance mentality. Encourage collaboration and promote teamwork. Seek creative solutions that can directly affect the bottom line.

Have you ever worked with someone who had a scarcity mentality? In other words, they believed that if someone else was successful, then there was less opportunity for them? Their whole belief system was one of winning at all costs even at the expense of friends, colleagues, customers and even family members. They had a win-lose outlook on business and life in general.

Typically, this sort of approach is less successful in the long run because it is not conducive to building long-term relationships. Other people become turned off by this compulsive will to win regardless of who loses in the process. It is far more productive all around if, as a leader, you can promote an abundance mentality in the workplace. This helps you and others find creative solutions to problem solving, is far more motivational for employees and ultimately leads to business growth. How do you do this? Try adopting the following four simple steps in your business.

Become a coach and mentorBecome a coach and mentor.

Don’t be so quick to criticize members of your team if they get something wrong or fail at a particular task, but rather view it as a coaching opportunity. If you can become more of a coach and mentor instead of a task-oriented leader, you create an opportunity to grow your people and let them learn from their mistakes. This also makes the team of people working for you more self-sufficient and stronger, thus enabling you to focus on other strategic priorities.

Seek creative solutionsSeek creative solutions.

Encourage your people to come up with creative solutions to business issues. This will empower them to discover new and better ways of doing things that can directly affect the bottom line.

As an example, Peter, a long-time owner of a car dealership, was amazed at how much money was saved when his employees offered to paint the white lines that marked out the 500 car spaces that they had on site. Normally, this simple task would have cost thousands of dollars each year by employing outside contractors to come and paint the lines every six months. However, with his own employees doing the job, not only was it done for half the cost, but also they also did a far better job because they had more pride in the task and cared about the work.

Encourage risk-takingEncourage risk-taking.

Encourage your team to take calculated risks and learn from their mistakes. By doing this you send a signal that you want them to think bigger and help to grow the business rather than just sticking with the status quo.

Not only can this deliver results, it also creates a culture where looking for new and better ways of doing things is not only encouraged but also rewarded.

You must remember that the first attempt at doing this may not necessarily result in the best solution, but this approach does encourage outside-the-box thinking rather than worrying about being right and playing it safe. Allow time for both the leader and the team to get accustomed to this approach.

Give praise and recognitionGive praise and recognition.

It is amazing how something as simple as giving regular praise and recognition can be so effective as a strategy for growing your business. What is even more amazing is how few organizations do this well.

Bob was the general manager for a large and successful retail store, and he had more than 50 salespeople working for him. He maintained that his team was more motivated by winning “Salesperson of the Month” not because of the financial bonus they received, but because of the peer recognition and praise they received from their managers and colleagues. “It is a huge motivator for our team,” Bob said. “I am sure that they would like it to be ‘Salesperson of the Week’ so that they could get more recognition. I can’t understand why anyone with a team of people working for them wouldn’t do something like this to recognize their top performers.”

So ask yourself what you can do to find ways to give genuine praise and recognition to your own people?

The Bottom Line

A CEO of a multibillion-dollar software company based out of Chicago put it best when asked about the many things that his organization had achieved during the past 10 years. He was quick to praise his management team and said, “We take it as a given that you need to have the skills and the experience to come and work as part of our team. Then we look to hire those who have a positive outlook and an attitude of abundance. This is what helped us to grow revenue and profit even during the tough times of the recent economic downturn.”

These four steps are simple, yet can have a profound effect on your business when you apply them consistently.

If you can lead in a way that encourages collaboration then you will build an abundance mentality that promotes teamwork and what is best for the organization and its customers. More creative ways of doing things are discovered and a win-win philosophy becomes the norm.

So how about you? Are you leading with an abundance mentality?

Richard J. Bryan is an international speaker, executive coach and author of Being Frank: Real Life Lessons to Grow Your Business and Yourself. Through his experiences as the fourth-generation CEO in a family-owned business, Bryan gained a wealth of knowledge and developed from a micro-manager into a confident leader. He uses creative strategies to help organizations make powerful transformations by hiring the right people and forging dynamic teams to dramatically improve performance. Visit richardjbryan.com.

 

Product Showcase

Camouflage & Concealment

Blockwasher

Bondwasher

Our 2 hole lug washer line now includes the NEW BLOCKWASHER. Like the famous 2 hole Bondwasher, our new washer is used for the installation of a ground lug to the buss bar. The only difference is Blockwasher has 2 tabs, one on each end, and is installed on the bolt head side of the buss bar opposite of the Bondwasher, the "Tabs" keep the bolt from turning just as the lock washer keeps the nut from turning. Using both the Bondwasher and Blockwasher as a system ensures the integrity of the ground lug to buss bar connection.

An additional bonus of using the Bondwasher System is easier and faster installation, as the Blockwasher Tabs act as a tool to hold the bolt head while tightening the nut with a wrench.

www.bondwasher.com

Strand Mount Bracket

Charles Industries

Charles Industries’ CRSM strand mount bracket allows for deployment of low power Small Cell radios on an aerial strand (1/4” to 7/16” diameter) between poles and meets the FCC Micro Wireless Facility dimensional requirements. Up to two radios and four-panel antennas can be deployed per bracket. Multiple brackets can be used on either side of the pole.

www.charlesindustries.com

CityPole® Small Cell Concealment Poles

Comptek Technologies

Comptek designs, engineers and manufactures CityPole®, a flexible smart pole system. Since 2016 the CityPole® has been deployed by major wireless operators, utility providers and municipalities. The system is deployed across multiple states and jurisdictions, on campuses, and in private developments and public rights-of-way.

www.comptektechnologies.com

Comptek 5G Modular Shroud

Comptek Technologies

Comptek’s 5G modular shroud is designed for maximum flexibility. Deploy as a single module, bi-sector, or tri-sector array. With an integrated bracket design, each modular shroud can be strapped to existing vertical infrastructure including light poles, small-cell poles, wood poles, and traffic signal poles. In compliance with GR-487 thermal performance requirements, the 5G modular shroud manages airflow through Comptek’s patent-pending airflow duct system.

www.comptektechnologies.com

5G Modular Shroud

ConcealFab

ConcealFab continues to innovate and pivot our 5G product development. ConcealFab’s 5G Modular Shroud is one of our flagship 5G products. This single cone design conceals the heat sink and cables of mmWave radios. These shrouds include our trademarked clearWave® material, which is color-matched to provide seamless color from the concealment to the radio. It also replaces the need for applying mmWave vinyl wrap to the front of the radio and simplifies radio maintenance. You can rely on ConcealFab for your mmWave wireless needs.

www.concealfab.com

A Full Line of Concealment Products

Ehresmann Engineering, Inc.

We have a full line of concealment products. We are one of the few manufacturers that fabricated the concealment and the steel structures. This allows us to control the quality process from start to finish. We have received Patents for our monopine branches and our Canisters. Asks us how our Vented Canister solution can help you reduce your temperatures inside your canister. Our products are American Made. Contact us to see how our solutions can work for you. 

www.ehresmannengineering.com

RF Transparent Concealment Film Products

Obscure Technologies, LLC

Specializing in antenna concealment solutions for the wireless industry! Obscure Tech utilizes the highest quality RF-transparent 3M concealment film available, from color and surface matching to the reflective concealment film. Our products can mimic any surface and surroundings, in any location. Water and soil resistant, maintenance-free, and RF tested from 600MHz to 100GHz.

www.obscuretechllc.com

Custom Shelters and Enclosures

Peabody Engineering

You see us everywhere and yet... you don’t! There are estimated to be over 4.78 billion cell phone users worldwide which equates to a LOT of antennas both big and small. We have a unique fabrication process and proprietary FiberScreen™ and PolyScreen™ products, which allow us to create unique and custom shelters and enclosures for each specific location. Our cell site enclosures are fully engineered, modular, bolt in-place assemblies that save thousands of dollars in labor and ensure a predictable, high-quality installation. The concealments seamlessly blend in with the existing architecture, adding value and beauty for many years to come.

www.4peabody.com

Stealth Concealment Line

Raycap

Raycap develops innovative connectivity, surge protection & monitoring, and concealment solutions that support and protect the world’s critical telecommunications, energy and transportation infrastructure. Our STEALTH Concealment product line covers the entire wireless industry with the most extensive variety of macro site, DAS, small cell and custom concealment structures made to be both solidly engineered and aesthetically pleasing. We streamline 5G deployment through our APELIO equipment enclosures and our STEALTH integrated small cell poles and complementary solutions such as our patent-pending InvisiWave solution, which effectively conceals 5G mmWave technology.

www.raycap.com

Concealment Products and Services

Solar Communications International (SCI)

Solar Communications International (SCI) has been concealing your sites for over 20 years, leading the way in product design and innovation. Count on SCI to deliver the products and services you need to satisfy even the toughest critics. From rooftop to mountain top, from parking lot to playground— technology doesn’t have to be intrusive.

www.rftransparent.com

All Types of Wireless Camouflage

Valmont-Larson

Valmont-Larson is the industry leader in all types of wireless camouflage, including architectural and rooftop structures. Our custom designs are RF friendly, and our newest flat-panel system offers an economical, lightweight concealment option. Whether developing sites in natural landscape environments, high traffic urban areas, or rural settings, Valmont-Larson designs, engineers and produces site camouflage solutions that provide optimal performance and blend seamlessly into their surroundings. Popular form factors include parapet walls, chimneys, smokestacks, cupolas, steeples, wall boxes, and more!

www.valmontlarson.com
 

Company Showcase

Tower Manufacturing

Allstate Tower, Inc.

Proven excellence in tanks, communication towers, and support systems.

Comptek Technologies

Comptek Technologies, an Aero Wireless Group company and developer of CityPole®, designs and manufactures innovative aesthetically‐pleasing 4G/5G concealment poles, shrouds, and mounts. Comptek solutions integrate smart infrastructure systems engineered to the technical and aesthetic standards of wireless operators, utility providers and municipalities.

Eastpointe Industries, LLC

Eastpointe has been a tower and structural components manufacturer since 1997. With competitive pricing and industry-leading turnaround times, Eastpointe is an AISC-certified fabricator for tower builds and modification material needs. Professional staff of AWS-certified welders, CWIs, and industry-experienced staff assure compliance to current stringent engineering specifications. Visit us at www.ep-ind.com .

Neptuno USA

Neptuno is out-of-the-box engineering, outstanding product quality, expedited deployment, and responsive service all wrapped around a solid reputation. Neptuno leverages it's 50 years in the industry to propel innovation and technology. It was recently a finalist at the WBENC WeInnovate! Awards.

Peak Industries, Inc.

Peak Industries, Inc. the industry leader in hydraulic operated tower for wind loading and weight capacity. Build to suit trailers and equipment for surveillance, public events, telecommunications sites, and more. Contact us for a quote today.

Trylon

Manufacture of Towers, Monopoles, and an expanded offering of Small Cell poles. Supported by our Engineering Services team and customer-centric service. Trylon is your source for vertical structures! Street Poles customizable in height, design, and to cabinet requirements. Available in colors to meet municipal or project guidelines. Call Trylon!

In This Issue  
 -
Environment

Vertical Bridge Takes Step Forward for Tower Industry by Becoming Carbon-Neutral-Certified

Vertical Bridge REIT, the largest private owner and operator of communications infrastructure in the United States, has realized its goal to become 100 percent carbon-neutral. In announcing what it ca...

 -
5G FCC

FCC Adopts 5G Upgrade Order on Party-line Vote

On June 9, the FCC took action to facilitate the deployment of 5G wireless communications networks across the United States by clarifying and seeking comment on the agency’s rules regarding state and ...

 -
FCC

FCC Authorizes More Than $7.4 Million for Rural Broadband

An action taken by the FCC on June 12 will expand deployment to 11,852 rural locations, including on Native American tribal lands. The agency authorized more than $7.4 million in funding to be spent o...

A FirstNet flying COW. - Source: AT&T
5G FirstNet

FirstNet Authority Board Approves Network Investments for 5G, On-Demand Coverage

In an action taken on June 17, the First Responder Network Authority Board approved the first set of investments for enhancing FirstNet, the nationwide public safety broadband network. The board appro...

Raycap's integrated streetlight pole design. - Source: Raycap
5G Concealment

Concealment: New Opportunities to Camouflage 5G mmWave Small Cell Sites

As the pace of 5G deployment in the United States quickens, carriers, infrastructure providers, utilities and municipalities are compelled to collaborate on where to locate the requisite small-cell in...

 -
COVID-19 Safety

Revised OSHA Enforcement Guidance for Inspections and Record-keeping of COVID-19 Cases

The following guidance explains whether there is a requirement to report to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration COVID-19 positive cases or to record them on the OSHA 300 log.

Enforcement...

 -
Conferences

American Tower Executive Speaks of Technology, Social and Corporate Responsibility

In delivering a keynote speech on May 19 during the Connectivity Expo, also known as Connect (X), the president and CEO of American Tower, Tom Bartlett, addressed a worldwide audience through the spon...

 -
Business

Wireless Industry Transformation Can Lead to Unforeseen Communications Tax Complications

When you pause to consider everything that has changed in recent years, it is astounding just how drastically the communications industry has been reshaped. From the slow death of wireline to fast-fad...

 -
Business

Women of NATE Profile: Marianna Kramarikova

Marianna Kramarikova joined the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) in 2006. After leaving for three years to work for a private-sector company and focus on sales and marketing, she returned...

A technician on an aerial platform performs maintenance on a cell tower. -
Maintenance

New Technology Changes How Telecoms Schedule Maintenance Works

The need for speed and the growth of 5G wireless communications are undoubtedly having a profound effect on the demand for distributed antenna system (DAS) networks and small cells.

In fact, the incre...

 -
Business

Thinking About Selling Your Tower Site? Be careful. Plan ahead.

After participating in nearly 500 tower sales transactions, I have found that the most critical hurdle on the journey from Letter of Intent to closing is third-party consents. First, I will provide re...

 -
Business

The Leadership Cornucopia

Have you ever worked with someone who had a scarcity mentality? In other words, they believed that if someone else was successful, then there was less opportunity for them? Their whole belief system w...