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In Regard to Wireless Deployments, City Leaders Offer Advice to Strengthen Local Government Authority

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Screenshot of Thomas Robinson, CEO of CBG Communications

September 15, 2020 — Don’t talk to Portland, Oregon, about what it’s like to challenge the federal government.

They’ve also been a pioneer of taking on the Federal Communication Commission in advocating for local governments in the deployment of small cell technology.

The city sued the FCC over its 2018 wireless facilities order. In August 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of appeals upheld major portions of that ruling.

See “Ninth Circuit Upholds FCC’s Small Cell Deployment Order Designed to Promote 5G,” Broadband Breakfast, August 12, 2020.

Representatives from Portland joined with a city official from Lincoln, Nebraska, at the conference of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors on September 3, 2020.

The two cities, which AT&T claimed charged exorbitant fees that kept the telecom giant from installing wireless technology, spoke on a panel about rewriting local telecom policies.

“Legal changes in wireless have impacted local authority in zoning and rights of way regulations,” said Maja Haium, deputy city attorney for the city of Portland.

Portland wants and needs local authority over deployment of wireless technologies

Haium detailed how the city of Portland set itself up for success to maintain local authority over the deployment of wireless technology.

“Almost all downtown poles are owned by the city,” said Haium.

“Portland, Oregon enjoys strong home rule authority,” detailed Haium, saying the city benefits from having no state franchising or wireless laws to navigate or reckon with.

Haium, who has worked on efforts to repeal preemptive state statutes that benefit incumbent carriers and led efforts to move several Oregon cities from individually-negotiated franchises to a right-of-way ordinance that applies to all utilities in the right of way, said that Portland benefits from an engaged and united city council.

The council understands the issues at hand, and said, and is willing to dedicate time and resources to the topic and participate in all aspects of rulemaking and litigation.

Hauim said cities could use advance in local zoning and right of way battles with carriers.

“When dealing with installing wireless infrastructure on private property, don’t assume applicants understand shot clocks,” said Haium, adding that she believes it is crucial to have clear application checklists, current photos and videos of facilities and drawings made to scale.

“Early and repeated coordination among internal bureaus, advisory boards, wireless carriers, and electric utilities is necessary,” said reminded.

Lincoln, Nebraska, created a streamlined process for building wireless facilities

David Young, fiber infrastructure and right of way manager for the city of Lincoln, Nebraska, said his city had created a streamlined process for carriers interested in building in the community.

“Carriers are looking for communities that are flexible,” said Young, saying that streamlining processes and making procedures consistent is crucial.

Young referred audiences to Lincoln’s website, which clearly details standardized procedures for accessing permits, right of way agreements, and more, within the city.

Thomas Robinson, president and CEO of CBG Communications, detailed trends in local telecom policy and what to look out for going forward.

One nationwide trend in local policy he noted to watch for are One-Touch Make Ready laws, or the various statutes and local ordinances passed by local governments and utilities in the United States, which require the owners of utility poles to allow a single construction crew to make changes to multiple utility wires.

“There are twenty states that have their own OTMR laws and have opted out of the federal OTMR,” said Robinson, “Vermont just started putting its OTMR laws into place in an effort to speed deployment.”

Robinson noted that trends in wireless telecom policy at the state and federal level continue to change and work to limit local authority.

“Stay tuned,” warned Robinson, “the landscape is likely to change again.”

Former Assistant Editor Jericho Casper graduated from the University of Virginia studying media policy. She grew up in Newport News in an area heavily impacted by the digital divide. She has a passion for universal access and a vendetta against anyone who stands in the way of her getting better broadband. She is now Associate Broadband Researcher at the Institute for Local Self Reliance's Community Broadband Network Initiative.

Satellite

LEO Satellite Technology Should Be in All Schools, Gigabit Libraries Network Says

Satellites, at the very least, can act as backup connections, webinar heard.

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Don Means from the Gigabit Libraries Network

October 21, 2021 – Low earth orbit satellites, which are expected to help connect a portion of people who live in remote regions of the country, should be available to all libraries – even if it’s just for redundancy, the director of Gigabit Libraries Network said Thursday.

Don Means, the director of the organization that has a deal with SpaceX’s Starlink beta service to connect a “handful” of libraries, said the technology can be used as backup in the event of a disaster.

“We think this should be in every library, even if it’s a place that has a connection – this would be very valuable as a backup because consider any kind of lights out scenario in a community,” Means said. “With this system, it bypasses the local infrastructure, and if you have a power source and you have a [satellite] dish, you’re connected.”

Earlier this month, Means said libraries will need various ways to stay connected and provide access to public Wi-Fi. While the “cheapest, most equitable, most economical way to connect every community with next generation broadband is to run fiber to all of the 17,000 libraries,” Means said previously, other solutions will need to be considered where geography doesn’t allow for a direct fiber connection.

The LEO constellation is unique compared to other kinds of satellites because it hovers closer to earth, theoretically meaning it provides better connectivity and lower latency, or the time it takes for the devices to communicate with the network.

The House is waiting to vote on an infrastructure bill that will pour billions into broadband. People have debated what kinds of technology the money should go toward, with some arguing for hard wiring and others saying wireless technologies have a space at the table.

Despite having a deal with Starlink, Means said he encourages LEO satellite technology in general and not just Starlink in particular.

“We’re not advocates or agents for Starlink,” Means said, “it’s just they’re the first ones out there with this technology. There are others coming…this is a new thing, a burgeoning thing.”

Starlink said this summer it had shipped 100,000 terminals to customers.

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5G

Google, Reliant On Success of 5G, Says It Wants Government-Funded Test Beds for Open RAN

Company says that the next generation of its products depend on 5G progress.

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Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai

WASHINGTON, October 20, 2021 — Google made its case for regulators to make room for greater public-private collaboration in the wake of 5G and more research into open radio access network technologies.

Speaking at the Federal Communications Bar Association’s “What’s New and Next in Wireless” session on Tuesday, Michael Purdy from Google’s product and policy team emphasized Google’s interest in the emerging 5G landscape, but wants a “collaborative environment” for innovation.

“5G is exciting because of Google’s products depend on 5G,” he said. “[Our] products can’t come to market without it.” Google’s recent product launches include smart-home technologies. Purdy says their products’ benefits are enhanced as 5G is deployed.

Google, like the technology sector at large, is building on the innovation that the “app economy” produced using existing 4G technology and plans to expand their software capabilities with 5G. “The app economy benefited consumers,” Purdy says. “Our lifestyles are going to depend on 5G.” For telehealth, “real time medical advice needs low latency [and] high speeds.”

However, Google hopes for better regulatory conditions during 5G deployment. “We haven’t been as focused on the FCC [for guidance] . . . we want stability to determine spectrum policy.”

Purdy said the company hopes to work collaboratively with government to find solutions for wider 5G deployment. “[We] want to know what position the government takes in creating an open RAN environment.”

The company said it wants government funded-test beds for open RAN, research into development to ensure that “the downside costs are defrayed.” In overcoming these challenges to 5G deployment, Purdy said Google wants the government to foster a “collaborative environment” to develop open RAN. “We don’t want government picking winners and losers in the innovation process” he said.

Purdy added that spectrum sharing between licensed and unlicensed users “can be good for consumers and for industry.”

The Federal Communications Commission has pushed for ways to develop open RAN to minimize network security risk, as the movement has gained significant momentum. FCC Acting Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has described open RAN as having “extraordinary potential for our economy and national security.”

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5G

Huawei Avoids Network Security Questions, Pushes 5G Innovation

Huawei’s CTO avoided questions about concerns over its network infrastructure security as countries ban its products.

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Huawei carrier business CTO Paul Scanlan.

WASHINGTON, October 19, 2021 — Huawei’s chief technology officer did not address questions Monday about the company’s network security practices during a session on how 5G drives economic growth, but said the focus should be on the evolutionary technology instead.

Paul Scanlan, Huawei’s CTO in the carrier business group, focused his presentation at the Economist Impact Innovation@Work conference on the promise of 5G technology and ignored concerns about network safety.

“We can service more customers with 5G” to start bridging the digital divide, he said. The pandemic has given the company an insight into customer behavior to better channel its data traffic needs. “5G performs better for the types of services we use now” he says, such as video streaming and user-generated content.

Scanlan avoided specific questions about his company’s technology and steered the conversation toward providing faster speeds for the health care industry. “Give me some use instances where the company has introduced 5G and helped companies be efficient” asked the moderator, Ludwig Siegele. “I’d like to stick on the health care sector, that’s more topical as you can imagine,” Scanlan responded.

“People are missing [innovation in 5G] because of geopolitical issues around the world,” said Scanlan. “Being able to collect the data and analyze it is where the business benefit lies . . . 5G adoption through the [standardized network] ecosystem is very important and we see this with 5G” for interoperability with other companies and providers.

Huawei’s promotion of their telecommunications products continues as the U.S. maintains national security sanctions against the tech giant. The impact of U.S. sanctions results a drop in sales for the company in 2021. The FCC has also recommended that Huawei’s equipment be listed as “high risk” to U.S. network security. Huawei told the FCC it cannot show the company’s equipment is a threat to U.S. networks.

Huawei’s global head of cybersecurity said this summer that President Joe Biden‘s executive order banning investments in Chinese companies is a “policy misstep” that will not only lose the U.S. a huge market, but will just make the company more self-sufficient.

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