Former senator Tom Daschle kicked off the South Wireless Summit sessions by explaining the three policy areas that need attention to fulfill the industry’s aspirations and potential. These are, modernizing the regulatory framework at all levels of government, making a commitment to infrastructure and focusing on the workforce. Jonathan Adelstein, CEO and president of the Wireless Infrastructure Association, reiterated his former boss’ points with a detailed look into the wireless endeavors happening in Washington.
The omnibus appropriations bill that passed last week was a ‘breakthrough’ and included important items “we’ve been working on for a long time,” Adelstein said. Provisions of the Mobile Now Act that reduce regulatory obstacles to network buildout, the Sandy Act, which improves response time to restoring wireless, broadband and telecom services during natural disasters, and $600M in federal funding dedicated to rural broadband deployment, were all part of the jam-packed bill.
Congress is keeping busy with wireless via the Thune-Schatz bill, the SPEED Act and net neutrality reaction. The WIA also went to work against an FAA reauthorization bill, saving the wireless industry $250 million. The bill required all 50-200 foot communications towers in rural areas be lit and marked.
At the FCC, “we’re seeing unprecedented support for getting things done,” Adelstein said. Last week, the FCC adopted an order addressing the delays and excessive fees associated with tribal reviews and federal laws as they apply to small cells, as Inside Towers reported. The FCC is also making progress on the 4,000 “twilight towers.” The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation needs to finalize the motion, as the last step towards allowing co-location, which Adelstein anticipates happening, “hopefully very soon.”
The work being done isn’t just on the federal level. “We’re working around the clock in the states to get the industry’s interest represented.” A model bill has been developed and advocated at state capitols. It encourages the streamlining of small cell deployment, providing greater access to rights-of-way, accelerating timelines and regulating rates for attachments in rights-of-way and offers parameters to fix bills. Bills have been enacted in 15 states and 10 are pending.
The big challenge ahead? Keeping up. As Tom Daschle mentioned in his keynote, there are more devices than people in the world and policy lags technology. “How do we keep up when mobile data traffic is expected to grow fivefold in the next five years?” Adelstein asked rhetorically. Three ways. Adelstein suggested that spectrum, technology and infrastructure need to be ramped up – with an emphasis on infrastructure.
To build out the level of equipment required, a skilled workforce needs to fill approximately 850,000 jobs. Adelstein said we need, “some new blood in the industry.” WIA created the Telecommunications Education Center, a learning portal devoted to improving safety and quality within the telecommunications industry. It also sponsors Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (“TIRAP”), which develops DoL-credentialed apprenticeship programs available to qualified employers for career development of the telecommunications workforce.
Adelstein, who also plays keyboard and harmonica, will be with the Wireless Band, opening up for award-winning country artist and charity concert headliner, Lee Brice at WIA’s ConnectX event in May. A long list of reputable speakers including FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is available for viewing here. Register today.
By Megan Reed, Inside Towers
March 28, 2018