TR Daily FAA Bill Would Grant Industry Tower Marking Relief
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Monday, September 24, 2018

FAA Bill Would Grant Industry Tower Marking Relief

A Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that the House is scheduled to consider Wednesday would grant the wireless industry relief from tower marking regulations included in FAA legislation that became law in 2016. The bill would also ban the use of cellphones for voice communications on scheduled passenger flights and include multiple spectrum provisions.

House and Senate leaders on Saturday released the text of the measure (HR 302), which includes the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 as well as other legislation.

Since the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 became law, industry entities such as the Wireless Infrastructure Association have complained about the burdens of having to comply with the marking requirements for towers between 50 and 200 feet.

Under HR 302, towers between 50 feet and 200 feet would not have to comply with the marking mandates as long as they are registered with the FCC and are determined by the FAA administrator “to pose no hazard to air navigation” or have “already mitigated any hazard to aviation safety in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration guidance or as otherwise approved by the Administrator.” However, not all towers under 200 feet are registered under the FCC’s Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) program. They also would be exempt from the marking obligations if they are included in a database that the FAA administrator would have to use.

“This is exactly what we were looking for. I think it’s a fair resolution of the issue. It makes sure that there’s not … unnecessary spending for an issue that really won’t impact safety,” Jonathan Adelstein, president and chief executive officer of WIA, told TR Daily today.

He said that Congress originally adopted an “overbroad” definition of towers subject to the marking rules in response to concerns that crop dust pilots had with temporary meteorological towers, which are subject to the marking regulations under the bill unveiled Saturday. Industry estimates that the cost of the marking requirements to the wireless telecommunications and broadcast tower sectors was about $500 million, Mr. Adelstein said.

Matt Mandel, WIA’s head-legislative affairs, stressed that the bill focuses on towers in rural areas, where most wireless towers are not located.

“Some will be in the ASR, some will go to the database, many already have no-hazard determinations. It’s nice to have the options,” Mr. Adelstein said.

CTIA also said it was pleased with the tower marking language.

“The bill provides an important clarification that removes undue regulatory burdens while ensuring the safety of wireless and aviation industry workers. We look forward to its swift passage,” Kelly Cole, CTIA’s senior vice president-government affairs, said in a statement.

HR 302 also would require the Transportation secretary to issue rules banning individuals on scheduled passenger flights from using their mobile devices for voice communications during flights, with members of flight crews, flight attendants, and federal law enforcement officers exempt.

The Association of Flight Attendants praised the ban.

“The traveling public and crew members do not want voice calls on planes,” said AFA International President Sara Nelson. “It would jeopardize safety, security, increase conflict and exponentially raise the annoyance level of everyone in the cabin. This is the only sensible, safe and secure course of action. It’s another reason for Congress to enact this legislation, which AFA fully supports. Flight Attendants are calling members of Congress right now to encourage passage.”

The measure would also express the sense of Congress “that the SENSR Program of the FAA should continue its assessment of the feasibility of making the 1300-1350 megahertz band of electromagnetic spectrum available for non-Federal use.”

HR 302 also would require the FAA administrator, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the FCC to submit within 270 days a report “(1) on whether unmanned aircraft systems operations should be permitted, but not required, to operate on spectrum that was recommended for allocation for AM(R)S [aeronautical mobile route services] and control links for UAS by the World Radio Conferences in 2007 (L-band, 960-1164 MHz) and 2012 (C-band, 5030-5091 MHz), on an unlicensed, shared, or exclusive basis, for operations within the UTM [UAS traffic management] system or outside of such a system; (2) that addresses any technological, statutory, regulatory, and operational barriers to the use of such spectrum; and (3) that, if it is determined that some spectrum frequencies are not suitable for beyond-visual-line-of sight operations by unmanned aircraft systems, includes recommendations of other spectrum frequencies that may be appropriate for such operations.”

The bill said the report “does not prohibit or delay use of any licensed spectrum to satisfy control links, tracking, diagnostics, payload communications, collision avoidance, and other functions for unmanned aircraft systems operations.”- Paul Kirby, [email protected]

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