—The Federal Communications Commission voted to streamline and eliminate outdated portions of its Part 17
rules governing tower construction, marking and lighting. The issues
were first raised more than nine years ago and addressed as current Chairman Tom Wheeler works
to reduce a backlog.
Though the commissioners had easier deployment of wireless towers in
mind, the changes affect broadcast tower owners and licensees as well.
The order adopted at the FCC’s meeting on Friday will improve
lighting outage notification requirements, standardize repair timelines
and harmonize FCC requirements to maintain painting with FAA guidelines.
Perhaps the biggest change for broadcasters — tower owners that have
“robust, continuous” remote monitoring systems connected to a network
operations center staffed 24/7 can apply for a waiver of quarterly
physical inspections of tower marking and lighting systems. American
Tower has told the FCC that it estimates the company spends
approximately $1.7 million/year to conduct required inspections — even
though it has a monitoring system.
Owners will be allowed to give tenants antenna structure registration
information via mail, email or other electronic methods. The agency
removed notification “by telephone or telegraph” from its rules, causing
Commissioner Ajit Pai to quip “you know our modernization effort is
long overdue,” when using that language.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the agency had already heard from one
tower company that the rule changes will reduce costs “significantly by
modernizing the way it can notify tenants on its 20,000 towers that its
Antenna Structure Registrations have been modified.”
The rules take effect after Federal Register publication.