“We need as much spectrum as we can get, as fast as we can get it,” said Wireless Infrastructure Association President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein to lawmakers on the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet Thursday. He was speaking about maintaining U.S. leadership in 5G.
The hearing concerned implementing Sen. John Thune’s (R-SD) Mobile Now Act.
“We have a saying at WIA that without infrastructure, spectrum is just theoretical,” Adelstein said. Mobile Now included several steps forward to streamline and expedite wireless infrastructure siting on federal lands. These steps are helping boost deployment of broadband networks, especially in rural areas, according to the telecom association executive.
Adelstein chaired the FCC’s Streamlining Federal Siting Working Group, an offshoot of the agency’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee. He testified the group identified 10 challenges network builders face when deploying on federal lands, and Mobile Now addresses many of them.
“It can take anywhere from 18 months to never for a federal agency to act on an application. Among the most significant provisions, Mobile Now requires agencies to approve or deny applications within 270 days, and they would have to explain any denial in writing,” Adelstein explained.
Federal agencies are already beginning to harmonize their telecommunications infrastructure siting applications, a result of the Act. “The Navy is working to implement policies to streamline the process of siting on naval bases. The Air Force is following suit, and we hope to see progress on their siting procedures soon,” he said. The Forest Service recently began a process, as required by the 2018 Farm Bill, to streamline infrastructure siting procedures. The proposed Forest Service rule included many of the same provisions that were part of Mobile Now, including the 270-day shot clock.
Adelstein spoke of workforce development as a related issue. WIA is the national sponsor of the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP), a multi-employer, nationwide apprenticeship program credentialed by the Department of Labor to support wireless workforce development. More than 2,000 apprentices have enrolled, with 28 participating employers.
TIRAP is collaborating to develop curricula that can be implemented into community and technical colleges to provide academic support to apprentices. WIA and the Power and Communication Contractors Association (PCCA) are partnering to expand training initiatives into these colleges, according to Adelstein. PCCA has developed successful utility technician training programs that WIA will enhance with wireless curricula, including those it’s developed through its Technology and Education Center, to teach workers skills they need for 5G deployment.
December 6, 2019