TowerCos Want FCC to Allow TV Owners to Talk to Each Other, Vendors

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UPDATE Tower companies want TV broadcasters to be able to plan now for their eventual spectrum repack.

Inside Towers has been sorting through FCC files to learn what tower companies think of the FCC’s proposed repack transition plan. We reported American Tower has urged the Commission to make it easier for TV owners to start planning now for their transmission technical needs.

The company says in filed comments the agency should lift the ban that prevents auction participants from communicating with each other. RIO Steel & Tower and Tower Engineering Professionals agree.

“In our interactions with broadcasters since January, it is clear that many are so worried about violating the anti-collusion rules that they just refuse to talk to any vendor about planning for the transition.” At the least, the Commission should make it clear the ban doesn’t apply to regular business activities, like tower maintenance, says Tower Engineering Professionals.

“Likewise, if the FCC reminded broadcasters that this sort of preliminary tower work is a reimbursable expense, potential bottlenecks (like discovering a tower hasn’t been maintained and needs repairs) can be discovered well in advance. We believe it is crucial for broadcasters to obtain structural analysis, tower mapping and other pre-transition services months in advance of the first Phase in order for this plan to be successful,” says the Raleigh, NC-based company. 

RIO Steel & Tower agrees the communications ban should be lifted so it can speak with broadcasters now, providing RIO time to hire and train more staff. “We are ready to ramp up tower climbing capacity and manufacturing (of equipment such as gin poles) for the transition. We want to reiterate that it is imperative that additional crews hired by us or any other broadcast tower service provider are thoroughly trained, and that proper rigging and safety practices are firmly ingrained in the massive workforce that will be required for the repack process.”

At a minimum, broadcasters should be engaging now with companies like RIO to do initial tower mapping and structural analysis to identify any baseline maintenance issues or upgrades that will be needed, says the Alvarado, Texas-based firm. It adds its limited interactions with broadcasters so far has revealed frustration with the communication restriction and misunderstanding about the reimbursement availability for this work.

November 3, 2016

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