WASHINGTON – The Federal Communications Commission last week approved streamlined antenna structure registration procedures that make owners rather than licensees primarily responsible for complying with construction, painting and lighting requirements.

At the same time, the FCC revised antenna painting and lighting rules to conform to Federal Aviation Administration specifications.

The changes are strongly supported by the wireless telecommunications industry, which in recent years has seen the FCC levy fines on multiple licensees that occupy the same antenna structure but otherwise have nothing to do with the facility.

“Today’s action will increase the safety of air navigation by designating a single point of contact with whom the FAA and FCC may communicate when there are emergency situations or incidents of non-compliance with the lighting and painting specifications for antenna structures,” the FCC stated.

Registration with the FCC of existing antenna towers that require FAA notification will occur over a two-year period, beginning July 1 and running through June 30, 1998.

“We’re going to continue to push to have the licensee removed from any responsibility,” said Jay Kitchen, president of the Personal Communications Industry Association.

The FCC in recent years has adopted a get-tough policy with regard to enforcing antenna lighting and painting rules. Last year, the FCC assessed a $3 million fine against a Centel Cellular Co. cellular system in Greensboro, N.C. The agency is reviewing the firm’s request to reconsider the penalty.

In 1990, Centel agreed to pay $1 million after being cited by the FCC for transmitter marking and lighting violations in connection with a helicopter crash in Coinjock, N.C., that killed two emergency medical workers.

In other action at its Nov. 28 meeting, the FCC adopted rules that could enable American wireless firms to acquire greater funding overseas than what the law previously permitted.

The liberalization of foreign investment rules, which until now limited foreign firms to acquiring a 25 percent interest in U.S. carriers, has major implications for entities interested in buying personal communications services licenses and building the capital-intensive systems.

The FCC, among other things, will examine whether entry barriers exist in countries whose firms want to do business in the United States.

The reciprocal approach to foreign entry is included in telecommunications reform legislation moving through Congress that President Clinton has threatened to veto.

National security, law enforcement, foreign policy and trade considerations may be factored into FCC decision-making as well.

“This approach will promote competition in U.S. communications markets and enable U.S. consumers to enjoy expanded service offerings, innovative technology and lower prices,” the FCC said.

Commissioner Andrew Barrett, however, expressed concern that the new policy might achieve the opposite result. “I hope the message conveyed here to foreign governments is clear and not viewed as a barrier to U.S. market entry by foreign telecommunications players,” he stated.


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