The FCC’s solution for so-called “twilight towers” has been circulated among all five Commissioners for a vote. If approved, the change could open up thousands of towers for wireless broadband deployment. The item will be on the agenda for the agency’s December 14 meeting.
The towers in question were built between 2001 and 2005 and did not necessarily go through review under the National Historic Preservation Act because back then, the FCC had not yet provided clear guidance on how to comply with that provision. Those towers cannot accept co-locations. Now, newest FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr announced yesterday, that if approved, the Commission’s approach means the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation would adopt a “Program Comment” document to exclude co-locations on twilight towers from routine historic preservation review.
These towers would be treated similarly to older towers that are already excluded from the historic review process, according to Carr. The FCC would also make clear it would not take enforcement action “based on the good faith deployment of these Twilight Towers,” said Carr.
The FCC and industry have debated the issue for more than a decade. Fellow Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, who’s been working on the issue “for years,” is hopeful the draft is “sufficiently robust to allow co-locations on towers that have been unnecessarily stuck in regulatory purgatory.”
National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) Executive Director Todd Schlekeway told Inside Towers that NATE is a “relentless advocate for streamlining the process of deployment as it relates to wireless infrastructure.” He applauded the Chairman and his fellow Commissioners for working towards a solution. “For too long, the regulatory status of twilight towers has placed the industry in limbo and an affirmative vote by FCC Commissioners to exclude co-locations on these structures from routine historic preservation reviews is common sense policy. Moving forward in this manner would open up thousands of more communication towers for NATE member companies to deploy wireless equipment on and ultimately be another positive development on the road to a 5G future.”
Zac Champ, Director of Government Affairs for the Wireless Infrastructure Association, said its members are encouraged that the FCC is addressing the issue so the industry can move forward with the widespread deployment of wireless broadband networks and support FirstNet. ‘Twilight Towers’ have remained in regulatory limbo for far too long, limiting co-location and the efficient use of existing infrastructure.”
By Leslie Stimson, Washington Bureau Chief, Inside Towers
November 22, 2017