NATE Asks Homeland Security for Special Status During Crisis

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One way the tower construction industry is helping those telecom workers who can still perform their duties during the coronavirus pandemic is easing access to tower and other communications facility sites. The National Association of Tower Erectors says its members are essential service providers and work on critical communications.

NATE asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to send its members letters clarifying this special status. The intent of the letters is to aid engineers and technicians getting to infrastructure (example: towers, generators) to keep the communications infrastructure operational during a crisis, NATE Executive Director Todd Schlekeway told Inside Towers. Many of the association’s telecom and broadcast contractor member companies have received the letters, he confirmed. 

The letter is a courtesy asking local authorities to give consideration to the holder access to maintain communications infrastructure. The local authority still has the final decision on access.

“These critical communications facilities are necessary to ensure first responder, emergency responders, public messaging, and 911 communications providing lifesaving capabilities are functional during this period of National Emergency,” states the travel letter from the DHS Cyber and Infrastructure Security Agency’s National Communications Coordination Branch. “In the course of providing this support, the bearer must be able to travel to and access the infrastructure facilities during curfews and restricted travel periods in order to prevent loss of service or restore of critical communications services.”

A similar letter for fuel access states: “In the course of providing this support, the bearer must obtain fuel to execute restoration activities and for the operation of generators and response fleet vehicles to prevent communications outages until commercial power is restored.” Both letters ask local authorities to maintain the permission through May 28.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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