Carr Supports Using Funds in Infrastructure Bill for Tower Tech Training

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FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr would like to see support for the nation’s tower crews in the next funding package being debated in Congress. He said on a webinar from NATE, the Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association, and Tessco on Tuesday that such funding was not part of initial COVID relief measures. It would be great, “if we can use infrastructure funding to help stand up more tower technician training,” he said, referring to President Biden’s $2 trillion measure that contains $200 billion for broadband deployment.

Carr, long supportive of tower tech training programs, mentioned a recent trip with MillerCo in Gulfport, MS. The community college there is thinking of starting a tower tech training program, he explained. “We’ve got one in Sioux Falls, SD; Raleigh, NC” and another one in Oklahoma, he said. “We’re trying to expand [those] regionally,” to be able to offer the training to more people, he said on the webinar titled: “Industry Insights: A Virtual Event with NATE & Tessco.” Carr is hopeful there will be a new tower technician training program in Mississippi “before too long.” 

Carr would also like to see more government money in general going towards infrastructure builds. Carr was asked what happens to the millions of dollars, and recently billions in the C-band auction, raised in FCC spectrum auctions. It goes directly into the U.S. Treasury, he explained. However, he supports a bill in Congress that would devote a portion of such auction proceeds for broadband deployment. “If we can recycle those funds and put it back into infrastructure builds, that’s a win-win. It’d be good to take a portion of auction proceeds and put it right back into the ground,” Carr said.

Concerning the FCC’s efforts to improve its broadband location maps, Carr reiterated his call for speeding that effort. “Our mechanism is outdated,” he said, emphasizing the data collected from providers. “We need to get the maps done this fall, not next year. My proposal is for targeted maps,” he said, referring to the agency’s new task force for improving the maps. He and some Republicans in Congress fear the FCC’s efforts will be too slow under the new administration, Inside Towers reported.

Fellow panelist Jessica Cobb, owner of telecom contractor MDTS, noted that the industry’s builds in 2020 have been impacted by COVID, however “maps will be crucial” for builds in 2021, she said.

Tessco CTO Thad Lowe, also a panelist, asked Carr to discuss how the Commission balances aesthetics and environmental concerns when promulgating telecom rules. Carr said he’s heard “loud and clear” from local officials who told him: ‘If an ugly cell site goes up, I’m the one they approach in the grocery store.’ That’s why, when the agency promulgated the small cell siting rules, “we said, ‘local reasonable aesthetics are something to be considered at the local level. Carriers and contractors, all want this to work smoothly.’”

The event continues through today. Panel discussions and presentations will be facilitated by Tessco, NATE, subject matter experts, and industry-leading suppliers. Register here.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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