Cell Tower Training Bill Introduced

WASHINGTON—House Energy & Commerce Committee member Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) has introduced a bill, the Communications Jobs Training Act of 2019, that would boost training for cell tower workers.

That comes as the FCC, over the objections of various local government officials, has taken various steps to pave the way for swifter and easier deployment of such towers with the avowed goal of closing the rural digital divide and winning the race to 5G service that will make wireless broadband a stronger competitor to wired.

The bill (HR 1848) would instruct the FCC to administer a grant program establishing and/or expanding job training for tower "service, construction and maintenance."

FCC Commissioner Brenda Carr—who has motormanned FCC efforts to ease rights of way and impose shot clocks on local government tower siting decisions and said that would translate to savings of billions of dollars in "red tape"—praised the bill.

“To ensure that America wins the race to 5G, we need to double the number of tower crews that are building this next-generation infrastructure," said Carr. "There is demand for up to 20,000 more tower workers. These are good-paying, 5G jobs. And as I’ve seen firsthand, America’s tower crews are unmatched in their skill, professionalism and dedication. ... By creating a pipeline of talented tower crews, we can help extend America’s global leadership in wireless.”

The FCC has been getting pushback from local governments who see the tower-siting moves as a threat to home rule and an overreach by the federal government into their zoning and environmental impact and historic preservation reviews. For example, according to the Daily Freeman, the Town Board of Saugerties, N.Y. (a Rolling Stone's throw from Woodstock), last week formally objected to the FCC's tower siting streamlining.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio WorldTV TechTV FaxThis Week in Consumer ElectronicsVariety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.