UPDATE While voting last week to make it easier for wireless infrastructure providers to upgrade existing tower sites, outgoing FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said he appreciated helping to resolve the compound expansion issue. But as his days at the Commission become numbered, he expressed regret the agency has not brought the twilight towers issue to a close.
Twilight towers have been at the top of his “to-do” list the longest, O’Rielly said. Nearly 5,000 towers, some nearly two decades old, are available for co-location.
These are towers built between March 16, 2001, and March 7, 2005. They can’t accept additional antennas because either they were built without historic preservation review or don’t have documentation that such a review occurred. Hence, they’ve remained in what O’Rielly and prior Acting Chair Mignon Clyburn, have called, “regulatory purgatory.”
In December 2017, the FCC voted to treat these towers similarly to older towers that are already excluded from the routine historic review process. The agency sought input from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP). This October, ACHP said it needs more time to work out a resolution with the FCC. It called the Commission proposal “substantially deficient.” ACHP urged the agency to consider a streamlined process for reviewing twilight towers rather than an outright exemption from routine historic preservation review, Inside Towers reported.
O’Rielly last week said the FCC has a plan to resolve the issues, because its rules were not clear and that uncertainty prevented co-location on the towers.
He takes issue with the ACHP decision, saying: “It is hard to believe that some would take an action that would hinder network deployment, especially at a time when everyone is relying on telecommunications services to keep in touch with loved ones, attend school, visit their doctors, and do their jobs. There is plenty of leadership blame to go around on this issue, but let’s be clear: the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation must reverse its nonsensical decision on this matter immediately.”
The ACHP said in October it agrees a resolution is more important than ever; however what the Commission proposed didn’t address the problem.
Twilight towers remain a top issue for wireless infrastructure trade associations. The Wireless Infrastructure Association, National Association of Tower Erectors and CTIA all lobbied the Commission about it.
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief
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