Looks Matter When It Comes to Smart City Infrastructure

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Speaking at the NEDAS D.C. event last Thursday, Neptuno USA President/CEO Leticia Latino talked about the emergence of, “‘Towers and the Growth of Smart Cities.’ Infrastructure is the big elephant in the room,” she said, meaning deployment. “I come from the tower business so I want towers everywhere.”

But she cautioned, “We need to find solutions that make cities look the best way they can.” She suggested cities begin by having a master plan and a clear vision, “so they can avoid visual pollution.” The federal and local governments must produce new zoning and smart city-related guidelines.

Her company’s vision is a product called “SmartTechPort,” which she calls, “tech wrapped in art.” Solutions should for smart deployment should include street furniture that does more, she said, noting, “We need those antennas in urban areas.”  

INCOMPAS CEO Chip Pickering and Wireless Infrastructure Association President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein spoke during: “Fireside Chat: Where Wireline and Wireless Meet.” They spoke of their days working on Capitol Hill when the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was being debated and finally passed. “None of us who worked on the ‘96 Act could have imagined the world we now live in,” said Pickering. “Back then, the markets were all monopolies,” he said referring to cable as an example. “Wireless was just emerging. Wireline was dominated by the regional bells.” The policy foundation laid down in the Act: “is important to all of the business people in this room are doing,” Pickering added.  

Adelstein said: “Many of the people in this room wouldn’t be here if not for changes implemented in ’96. You can see where Chip and I worked in the Capitol,” he said, gesturing to the window behind him. “In those days, we were thinking, ‘how can we create competition to drive investment?’ That we don’t just have one ‘Ma Bell’ running the show is a testament to development,” Adelstein added.

WIA and INCOMPAS work together to lobby on various policies as some of their membership overlaps. “We like to say ‘Antennas are us.’ We like to put antennas everywhere,” said Adelstein.

INCOMPAS used to be called Comptel and changed its name to reflect broader membership that includes content companies like Google and Facebook, as well as fiber companies like C-Spire and Rocket Fiber.

Moderator NEDAS President Illissa Miller said, “Why does regulation matter? Because at the end of the day, it’s about being able to complete that sale.”

Adelstein said the associations are getting cooperation from the FCC and the administration on infrastructure deployment issues, but, “not so much at the local level,” were some municipalities’ are imposing “ridiculous, time-consuming and costly burdens,” which means more red tape for companies to navigate. “The less money that’s spent on compliance means the more there is for CapX.”

Pickering pointed to “one-touch, make-ready” pole attachment updates as an example of one issue the associations worked on together. It includes reasonable fees at the state and city level and shot clocks, “so there’s some kind of certainty when you deploy infrastructure.”

They both cited the shortage of a trained workforce as a big challenge to deployment and discussed several programs to turn around that situation. All in all, Pickering called the current times, ‘the golden age of fiber.” 

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

November 25, 2019

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