The FCC commissioners have voted to streamline and eliminate outdated portions of its Part 17 rules governing tower construction, marking and lighting. The issues were first raised more than nine years ago as new Chairman Wheeler works to reduce a backlog.
Though the commissioners had easier deployment of wireless towers in mind, the changes affect broadcast tower owners and licensees as well.
The order adopted at the FCC’s meeting on Friday will improve lighting outage notification requirements, standardize repair timelines and harmonize FCC requirements to maintain painting with FAA guidelines.
Perhaps the biggest change for broadcasters — tower owners that have “robust, continuous” remote monitoring systems connected to a network operations center staffed 24/7 can apply for a waiver of quarterly physical inspections of tower marking and lighting systems. American Tower has told the FCC that it estimates the company spends approximately $1.7 million/year to conduct required inspections — even though it has a monitoring system.
Owners will be allowed to give tenants antenna structure registration information via mail, email or other electronic methods. The agency removed notification “by telephone or telegraph” from its rules, causing Commissioner Ajit Pai to quip “you know our modernization effort is long overdue,” when using that language.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the agency had already heard from one tower company that the rule changes will reduce costs “significantly by modernizing the way it can notify tenants on its 20,000 towers that its Antenna Structure Registrations have been modified.”
The rules take effect after Federal Register publication.