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Telecom Alert – Spectrum Sharing, Tower Siting, and Other FCC Issues, Vol. X Issue 35

Date: Aug 26, 2013

Spectrum Sharing With Canada

Last week, the FCC and Industry Canada agreed to interim spectrum sharing arrangements in three bands along the U.S. and Canadian border.  The first agreement covers fixed services in the millimeter wave bands (71-76 GHz, 81-86 GHz, and 92-95 GHz).  The Commission’s goal with this arrangement is to promote mobile broadband networks, high-speed wireless local area networks, and broadband internet access over high bandwidth point-to-point links.  The second agreement covers air-to-ground services in a portion of the UHF band (454.6625-454.9875 and 459.6625-459.9875 MHz).  The final agreement covers Specialized Mobile Radio Services (SMR) in the 896-901 and 935-940 MHz band.  The new SMR agreement will make additional spectrum available on a secondary basis to new licensees while protecting incumbent users.  Please contact Greg Kunkle (kunkle@khlaw.com; 202.434.4178) for more information.

FCC Revises Tower Siting Rules

Last week, the FCC released a Third Report and Order and Second Order on Reconsideration revising its rules governing tower construction and modification near AM tower arrays.  Depending on tower height and location, tower owners must provide notice to potentially impacted AM station licensees 30 days prior to constructing a new tower or significantly modifying an existing tower.  Part 90 of the Commission’s rules, which regulates private land mobile radio systems, previously did not include a provision requiring licensees to protect existing AM stations from nearby tower construction.  The Commission’s recent Order modifies this scheme to include all radio services.  

Narrowband Enforcement

The FCC is considering various enforcement options against operators of wideband systems who failed to comply with the agency’s January 1, 2013, narrowbanding deadline.  Private land mobile VHF (150-174 MHz) and UHF (421-470 MHz) systems were required to transition from wideband operation (25 kHz channels) to narrowband operations (12.5 kHz channels) at the beginning of the year.  According to the Commission’s licensing database, approximately 85 percent of licensees met the narrowbanding deadline or secured extensions of the deadline.  The Commission is currently reviewing its options with respect to the non-compliant licensees.  Please contact Wes Wright (wright@khlaw.com; 202.434.4296) with questions.

Annual FCC Regulatory Fees

Earlier this month, the FCC released a Report and Order announcing regulatory fees for fiscal year 2013.  Licensees of certain facilities, such as Satellite Earth Stations, are required to make annual regulatory fee payments which are due by September 20, 2013.  For many licensed facilities, such as private microwave and land mobile systems, the regulatory fees are paid as part of the application fee at the time an application for new or renewed authority is submitted to the Commission.  The regulatory fees for Land Mobile licenses will remain the same, but licensees holding 470-512 MHz, 800 MHz or 900 MHz licenses will notice a slight increase. 

OSHA Investigating Increase in Tower-Related Deaths

Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an article attributing a recent spike in deaths among tower workers to a race among commercial carriers to build out advanced cellular networks.  The article noted that at least 10 works have died in falls from communication towers so far this year, and three more were seriously injured.  OSHA is investigating the accidents and exploring a broad new approach to policing the tower-climbing business, including taking a closer look at the role cell carriers may play in accidents.  The agency also is examining contracts and exploring how deadline pressure may contribute to the fatalities.  Please contact David Sarvadi (202.434.4343; sarvadi@khlaw.com) with questions.

Register Today – Quarterly K&H Webinar on CII Telecom Issues

Keller and Heckman LLP attorneys will host a complimentary webinar for clients and friends of the firm at noon Eastern on September 25, 2013, to discuss key telecom issues facing the Critical Infrastructure industries. This webinar is the third in a series addressing current events at the FCC of particular interest to CII companies, including wireless spectrum issues, licensing and enforcement trends, network services, pole attachments, and cybersecurity.  

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Keller and Heckman LLP's Telecom Business Alert is a complimentary weekly electronic update created by the Telecommunications and the Business Counseling and Transactional practice groups of Keller and Heckman LLP.

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