[aprssig] 8 hour Backup Power Rule

Robert Bruninga bruninga at usna.edu
Mon Mar 17 13:21:37 EDT 2008


While doing emergency ham radio planning, conider the magic "8
hour" rule being pushed by the FCC onto the cell phone
companies.  Attached below is more than you want to know about
it, but it suggested to me a thought for Ham radio.

That is, if ham radio is going to "offer services" for emergency
preparedness, then if we made sure that we could offer "8 hours
of black-out" communications, then we are one step ahead of the
nations cellular network...

Just something to use in your quiver.


-----Original Message-----
From: tacos-bounces+bruninga=nadn.navy.mil at amrad.org
[mailto:tacos-bounces+bruninga=nadn.navy.mil at amrad.org] On
Behalf Of Karl W4KRL
Sent: Sunday, March 09, 2008 6:07 PM
To: tacos at amrad.org
Subject: Cell Carriers Fight Backup Power Rule

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - When Hurricane Katrina assaulted the Gulf
Coast in 2005,
wind and flooding knocked out hundreds of cell towers and cell
silencing wireless communication exactly when emergency crews
and victims
needed it.

To avoid similar debacles in the future, the Federal
Commission wants most cell transmitter sites in the U.S. to have
at least
eight hours of backup power in the event main power fails, one
of several
moves regulators say will make the nation's communication system
and more reliable.

Two and a half years after Katrina and eight months after the
regulations were first released, the two sides are still
wrestling with the

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., put those
regulations on hold
last week while it considers an appeal by some in the wireless

Several cell phone companies, while agreeing their networks need
to become
more resilient, have opposed the FCC's backup power regulations,
they were illegally drafted and would present a huge economic
bureaucratic burden.

There are almost 210,000 cell towers and roof-mounted cell sites
across the
country, and carriers have said many would require some
modification. At
least one industry estimate puts the per-site price tag at up to

In a request for the FCC to delay implementing the change,
Sprint Nextel
Corp. wrote that the rules would lead to "staggering and
irreparable harm"
for the company. The cost couldn't be recouped through legal
action or
passed on to consumers, it said.

Jackie McCarthy, director of governmental affairs for PCIA - The
Infrastructure Association, said the government should allow the
industry to
decide how best to keep its networks running, pointing out that
all the
backup power in the world won't help a cell tower destroyed by
wind or

"Our members' position is that the 'one size fits all' approach
to requiring
eight hours of backup power at all cell sites really doesn't
accomplish the
commission's stated purpose of providing reliable wireless
McCarthy said.

The wireless carriers also are claiming the FCC failed to follow
guidelines for creating new mandates and went far beyond its
authority when
it created the eight-hour requirement last summer.

FCC officials have so far stood their ground.

"We find that the benefits of ensuring sufficient emergency
backup power,
especially in times of crisis involving possible loss of life or
outweighs the fact that carriers may have to spend resources,
perhaps even
significant resources, to comply with the rule," the agency said
in a
regulatory filing.

"The need for backup power in the event of emergencies has been
abundantly clear by recent events, and the cost of failing to
have such
power may be measured in lives lost," it said.

A panel of experts appointed by the FCC following Katrina was
critical of
how communications networks performed during and after the
storm. The group
noted that service restoration was "a long and slow process."

Panel members recommended the FCC work with telecommunications
companies to
make their networks more robust. Regulators then created the
mandate, exempting carriers with fewer than 500,000 subscribers.

Wireless companies quickly complained about the regulations,
calling them
arbitrary and saying they would rob them of the flexibility to
target backup
power upgrades at the most important or most vulnerable cell
sites in their

They also said local zoning rules, existing leases and
limitations could make it impossible to add batteries or backup
to cell sites.

Miles Schreiner, director of national operations planning for
T-Mobile, said
it can take 1,500 pounds or more of batteries to provide eight
hours of
backup energy in areas with a lot of cell phone traffic.

"In urban areas, most of the sites are on rooftops and those
sites weren't
built to hold that much weight," Schreiner said.

In regulatory filings, the FCC has said the wireless carriers
chose to put
their equipment in areas that can't be readily expanded.
However, the agency
agreed in October that it would exempt cell sites from the rules
but only if
the wireless carrier provided paperwork proving the exemption
was necessary.

It would give companies six months from when the rules went into
effect to
submit those reports and then another six months to either bring
the sites
into compliance or explain how they would provide backup service
to those
areas through other means, such as portable cellular

CTIA-The Wireless Association and several carriers asked the
U.S. Court of
Appeals in Washington, D.C., to intervene, saying the exemptions
would still
leave wireless companies scrambling to inspect and compile
reports on
thousands of towers.

On Feb. 28, the court granted Sprint Nextel's request to stay
regulations while the case moves forward. Oral arguments are
scheduled for

An FCC spokesman said the agency was disappointed with court's

Not all carriers have joined the fight. Verizon Wireless is not
a party to
the appeal and has a history of installing backup generators and
to its cell sites. Most famously, during a 2003 blackout that
kept much of
the Northeast in the dark for hours, Verizon customers could

AT&T, the nation's largest wireless carrier, would not comment
on the FCC

McCarthy, whose organization represents both the wireless
carriers and
companies that lease space on their own cell towers, said her
members worry
that they will face a high hurdle to get exemptions.

"I don't think it's hyperbole or exaggeration to say if it gets
to that
point with specific sites it could lead to sites being
decommissioned," she
said. "If the ultimate endgame is a site being turned off
because of
noncompliance, the area immediately around that site is going to
have an
immediate negative impact. It's going to hurt public safety from
day one."

By DAVID TWIDDY     AP Business Writer

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