FCC Enhances Tower Construction Notification System

The FCC has made it easier for applicants to identify potential tower sites that would require communication with federally recognized Indian Tribes, including Alaska Native Villages and Native Hawaiian Organizations (NHOs) and with State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs) before being used. Recent enhancements to the Tower Construction Notification System (TCNS) introduced in February 2004 allow Tribes, NHOs, and SHPOs to more narrowly specify their areas of concern, eliminating unnecessary communications. Before the enhancement, areas could only be specified by state, county or radius from a geographic point. A new field allows the Tribes, NHOs and SHPOs to add exclusionary text to narrow the area.

Another enhancement allows Tribes, NHOs and SHPOs to copy themselves and the FCC on messages they send to tower constructors through TCNS.

According toFCC Public Notice DA-05-45, the TCNS "is an interactive, login and password-protected system that depends on information voluntarily provided by Tribes, NHOs, SHPOs and by entities proposing to construct towers. On a global basis, Tribes, NHOs and SHPOs enter into the system geographic areas in which they are interested in receiving notices, as well as the means by which they prefer to receive notice--e-mail and/or regular mail--and their contact information. Entities proposing to construct towers then enter case-by-case information about the sites where they propose to construct facilities and the types of facilities they propose to construct. The TCNS automatically forwards these notifications to Tribes, NHOs, and SHPOs who have expressed an interest in the relevant geographic area. The TCNS also provides Tribes, NHOs, and SHPOs with the means to respond to notifications and with search utilities." The system was developed in consultation with several tribal historic preservation and inter-tribal organizations.

The FCC emphasized that, "the TCNS is a tool to facilitate Section 106 communications. The TCNS is NOT to be used in place of Section 106 consultation, or for any otherwise illegal or improper search for Tribal traditional cultural properties."

The FCC also made it easier for applicants to meet one of its obligations set forth in the Nationwide Programmatic Agreement (NPA) that will go into effect March 7, 2005. The FCC has established a special e-mail address for applicants to use when sending the FCC informational copies of its initial contacts with Tribes and NHOs.

"Under Section IV.E of the NPA, if an applicant does not have a pre-existing relationship with an Indian tribe or NHO, initial contact with the Tribe or NHO shall be made through the Commission. Unless the Tribe or NHO has indicated otherwise, the Commission may make this initial contact through the TCNS. An applicant that has a pre-existing relationship with a Tribe or NHO shall make initial contact in the manner that is customary to that relationship or in such other manner as may be accepted by the Tribe or NHO. An applicant shall copy the Commission on any initial written or electronic direct contact with a Tribe or NHO, unless the Tribe or NHO has agreed through a best practices agreement or otherwise that such copying is not necessary," according to the FCC Public Notice.

The special e-mail address is available immediately for applicants to copy the FCC with its initial contacts with Tribes or NHOs. After March 7, 2005, an e-mail to that address will satisfy applicant's obligations under Section IV.E of the NPA. Written copies of correspondence should be sent to: Federal Communications Commission, 1270 Fairfield Road, Gettysburg, PA 17325.