By Leslie Stimson , Washington Bureau Chief, Inside Towers
By a unanimous vote, the FCC took action to exempt most so-called “twilight towers” from routine historic preservation review Thursday. They couldn’t accept co-location because either they were built without historic preservation review or don’t have documentation that such a review occurred.
Some 4,000 of these structures, built from 2001 to 2005, will now be available for co-location for wireless antennas, Inside Towers reported. The notice the Commission approved, requests input on whether to formally ask the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to adopt a document to allow the co-locations. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai hopes to have the process wrapped up by the middle of next year.
In 2013, as Acting Chair of the FCC, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said yesterday, she saw how important it would be to “release” these towers from what she and other Commissioners called “regulatory purgatory.” Indeed, Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said the decision will add more towers for FirstNet, and now these tower owners can accept co-locating partners, adding a possible 6,500 antennas. “We must operate in the present with the facts as they are, not as they want them to be,” he said of the 10 years the item languished. “Most of these towers are not subject to complaint,” he said.
The Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) applauded the action. WIA President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein called it “an historic win for the wireless industry” that “opens up more wireless infrastructure and strengthens mobile networks so that the industry can provide greater service to consumers.”
“There is no reason to believe Twilight Towers are any different than towers that were built during any other time period,” Adelstein said. “No formal complaints were filed by a Tribe or a Tribal Historic Preservation Office claiming a tower has had an adverse effect on their cultural preservation efforts. In fact, opening up Twilight Towers will actually reduce the number of new towers and therefore reduce the amount of ground disturbance that comes with new construction.”
WIA and CTIA both worked with the FCC on the issue. CTIA VP for Regulatory Affairs Scott Bergman lauded the agency for its common sense approach which will allow certain cell towers to be used for the next generation of wireless infrastructure. “We look forward to working with all interested parties to finalize this approach, which will enable consumers to benefit from faster and broader mobile broadband networks.”
The National Association of Tower Erectors, too, praised the move, saying it frees up structures for wireless co-location deployment activities. “NATE member companies are on the front lines building, deploying and maintaining wireless infrastructure in the United States and today’s action by the FCC is yet another positive development for our membership as we continue to lead the way on the road to 5G,” NATE Executive Director Todd Schlekeway told Inside Towers.
Published December 15, 2017