LBA Group Inc. Formally Asks FCC to Speed Spread of Broadband by Promoting Wireless-AM Collocation

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Telecommunications firm appeals to agency to broaden its broadband strategy.

LBA Group, Inc. has asked the Federal Communications Commission to speed up broadband deployment by promoting wireless antenna collocation on AM radio station towers. Recommended promotions include industry education, regulatory reform—and a 50 percent fee discount.

In a Sept. 30 filing (WC Docket No. 11-59), the North Carolina engineering consultancy drew upon its decades of tower engineering experience in telling FCC commissioners that collocation is a valid engineered response to the shortage of wireless antenna placements. With an estimated ten thousand AM radio station towers across the country, literally thousands of opportunities exist to “economically and reliably affix wireless antennae to AM towers without degrading or altering the radiation power of the AM station,” commissioners were informed.

LBA founder and president Lawrence Behr is a recognized authority on collocation. His company has engineered, patented, and successfully applied collocation technology. Behr chairs a subcommittee of the Wireless Communications Association International that is working on resolving issues between AM and broadband entities.

Yet resistance remains. “There is simply too much embedded ignorance, fear, uncertainty and inertia for the two industries to come together to take a step that would be in their mutual interests,” commissioners were told in the filing.

Therefore, in addition to the financial incentive that AM station owners already have in renting out space on their towers to wireless companies, LBA proposed that the FCC introduce four additional encouragements for station owners and other industry players:

  •     Promote collocation through press releases and workshops, targeting both AM broadcasters and wireless providers. Without actually ordering collocation, the FCC could popularize it as a solution simply by raising general awareness of its utility.
  •     Pre-empt state or local governments from requiring new permits for AM tower modifications so long as the change qualifies as collocation under the Nationwide Programmatic Agreement for the Collocation of Wireless Antennas. If the need for local permitting is sacrosanct, the FCC could require that such review be speedily concluded, perhaps within two weeks. This either would hasten completion of a project or, if a permit were denied, begin the appeals process in a timely way.
  •     Reduce the AM station regulatory fee by 50 percent when station owners allow broadband antennae on their towers. When a subsequent regulatory fee was due, the owner simply would provide a photo of an affixed antenna and be granted the discount.
  •     Streamline the STA process—if even required during a collocation project—by giving expedited approval to the safety assessments during construction, and waiving the STA fee normally collected.

These recommended measures “would have the effect of encouraging and promoting the use of AM towers for broadband transmissions on a scale which has heretofore been unseen. If even a fraction of the ten thousand AM towers are put to this use, the Commission will have taken a presently dormant resource and vitalized it for a new, forward-looking purpose,” LBA concluded in its public filing.

LBA also noted that failure to utilize existing AM towers as a broadband expansion resource makes the public less safe. That is because collocating wireless antennae on existing AM towers would, in many cases, close gaps in the 911 emergency response system, creating a more integrated, effective system.

About LBA Group, Inc.
LBA Group, Inc., has more than 45 years experience in providing support for infrastructure assets of the wireless telecommunications industry. It is comprised of LBA Technology, Inc., a leading manufacturer and integrator of radio frequency systems, components and test equipment for broadcast, industrial and government users worldwide, and the professional consultancy Lawrence Behr Associates, Inc. The companies are based in Greenville, N.C.

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Giles Lambertson
LBA Group Inc.
(252) 235-7813
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