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Communications, Conservation Groups Propose Interim Tower Processing Standards

Proposals are part of negotiations in the migratory bird vs. tower siting issue

There’s a new agreement among some participants in the FCC to adopt it as an interim standard while it moves towards adopting final rules that promote the communications network while complying with environmental laws.

After lengthy negotiations, the National Association of Broadcasters and other industry groups entered into a “Memorandum of Understanding” with several conservation groups including the National Audubon Society, Defenders of Wildlife and the American Bird Conservancy, regarding the Federal Communication Commission’s tower registration program.

Two years ago, the federal appeals court in Washington ordered the commission to change its Antenna Structure Registration program and give public notice before granting tower applications.

At the FCC’s urging, the negotiations were held between NAB and industry infrastructure coalition members and the conservation groups, to develop interim standards for “ASR.”

The other industry participants in the negotiations were CTIA-The Wireless Association, PCIA-The Wireless Infrastructure Association and the National Association of Tower Erectors.

The conservation groups wanted the FCC to adopt an aggressive set of policies and procedures, including environment assessments for all towers. NAB said those proposals would have slowed tower approval grants from overnight to more than a year. In addition, many of their suggestions would have impeded the approval of taller towers, according to the broadcast group.

The agreement covers towers for which an ASR is required to be filed, depending upon the height of the proposed tower or the specifications of a replacement tower. In addition, it calls on the FCC to adopt and use a preferred lighting scheme for changes to existing towers that might minimize potential adverse consequences.

NAB says it is optimistic that the commission will endorse the agreement, and says it protects a significant percentage of broadcast towers from having to submit to an environmental assessment at the time of application/public notice.

Additionally, replacement towers would be excluded from the assessment process. Finally, while some towers would be placed on public notice (per court order), others, such as shorter towers, replacement towers or repaired towers, could be exempt from the process.

The coalition delivered its memorandum (PDF) to the FCC last week.