NATE Goes to Washington-Spring 2018
Several representatives of the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) came to Washington, D.C. in late April to lobby Congress, the FCC and various government agencies. Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief Leslie Stimson met with six members of their lobbying team:
- NATE Board Director John Paul Jones
- Board Chairman Jim Tracy
- Secretary/Treasurer Kevin Dougherty
- Board Director Jimmy Miller
- Executive Director Todd Schlekeway
- Director of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Jim Goldwater
In Part Four, the final installment of our series, we cover workforce development and the broadcast repack.
IT: What were some of the most productive meetings you had?
Dougherty: I really enjoyed the workforce development outreach that we did — the diversity groups we met with, like the NAACP [the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People].
Goldwater: We met with a man named Hilary Shelton, who’s the Director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Policy. He’s one of the most impressive, passionate, engaged people I’ve ever met. We’re trying to match up job opportunities with potential workers and he had some helpful suggestions.
Tracy: We’ve worked with LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens. They’re working hand-in-hand with us. In the next few weeks we’re rolling out a Spanish-language version of our tower climber standard. They’re going to work with us to approach the community in a way that they can view tower climbing as the career that it is, rather than just a job. All week we’ve been telling people that tower climbing is a great career – one of the very few that you can start at the top and work your way down.
IT: Who else did you meet with regarding workforce development?
Tracy: We also met with the Urban League and the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council. Our outreach for workforce development looks at classically under-represented people in the wireless industry. And they’re not forgotten, it’s just that we’re a new industry and they don’t know about us. The military community, women and the minority community, for example.
IT: Switching topics, how is the repack going? Any tales to tell?
Tracy: It’s going to take exactly how long it’s going to take and the market is going to determine that. The market will determine really every aspect of it. Our ‘how’s it going’? We need to be safe. We need to get all of our people home every night.
IT: At all the hearings on this, the wireless industry persistently asks regulators to remind broadcasters they only have 39 months for the transition. You guys are in the middle of both groups.
Tracy: We’re not in the middle. We’re alongside.
Schlekeway: Jim testified at the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology hearing on the repack last September. He represented NATE’s views that haven’t changed. We are here to be a resource for both the wireless community and broadcast community. We have the resources and the standards to make sure this process is done safely. We don’t need to have a position on the timeline because the market will dictate that. We continue to double down on the resources we have available to make sure this is done safely and as efficiently as possible.
IT: We know the repack is slated to last three years. What about 5G — densifying the networks, building on 4G. How long will that take?
Tracy: We still haven’t rolled out 4G LTE across North America and there are a lot of places in the United States where there’s no cell coverage yet. We’re going to work on ubiquitous coverage, getting 4G LTE in place and the 5G rollout. Realistically, they’re talking about 2019 maybe 2020 just to get it started. Of all of us, in terms of NATE members, have great skill sets for densification, for DAS, small cell — all the things that are being required, we already do.
Jones: There’s hundreds of thousands of antennas that have to be replaced.
Schlekeway: So it’s good for the industry. It’s good for America.
Tracy: And all those antennas hanging out in the weather, they have to be taken care of. We’re the people who take care of them. Somebody up on the hill asked what NATE people actually do. We erect the towers in the beginning. We maintain them through their lifecycle. We accelerate their service in terms of enhancing or upgrading all of the sites. And we restore them when they break down or during an emergency. Then we decommission them when their service life is complete so everybody stays safe.
Jones: And NATE engineering firms are the ones that are designing structures.
IT: You recently released a video with highlights of NATE UNITE 2018. Who’s the narrator?
Schlekeway: Ryan Van Duzer has done work for the Travel Channel, National Geographic and others. He resonates with our demographic. He does our Climber Connection videos and we added a companion series of Climber Conversation videos. The intent of those videos is workforce development. We are elevating and raising awareness of the professional opportunities available through those videos and we’re targeting the millennial demographic, who make up a majority of our workers.
Jones: We had a meeting with the Helicopter Association International. We’re going to be partnering with them on another climber connection video specifically focusing on helicopter installations in the tower and telecommunications industry. We’ve got a few locations picked out. As far as the repack goes, helicopters are a component with respect to sites that we can’t get traditional equipment into, or sometimes we can do it faster with a helicopter.
IT: Where there’s congested parking or no place to put materials…
Jones: Yes, sites like that or remote locations, so we use the largest heavy-lift helicopters in the United States to do that work.
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief
May 9, 2018