Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Guest: MoCo Tower Committee Withholds Report Prior to Wed. Meeting & Vote on Cell Tower Application. End Free Do-Overs on Cell Tower Applications.

 On Wednesday, April 5, 2017, the Montgomery County Transmission Facility Coordinating Group (TFCG) will take up a number of applications, including the one shown below.  Comments from Sue Present concerning this application review process below. 

I ask the Tower Committee to “NOT RECOMMEND” TFCG application 201609-12. I appreciate your very promptly facilitating my request to provide me access to this application. Yet, I am frustrated and disappointed that you have denied me access to the corresponding Tower Coordinator’s Report and Recommendation, which the Committee is scheduled to review at its Wednesday meeting. Perhaps the Tower Coordinator materials, which apparently have been shared with the applicant (per COMCOR 02.58E.01.05.a.3.) would have shed light on why the Tower Coordinator is advising the Tower Committee’s favorable action on this application. However, based upon my examination of the application materials, I make my request that the Tower Committee “NOT RECOMMEND” the application for the following reasons.

1.      The TFCG application is defective.

a.      The application’s attached plans are only drafts. They are identified as “preliminary.” Furthermore, these documents are missing the signature and seal of the professional engineer that prepared them.  As a result, these plans should be disqualified from consideration. Per the Maryland Article - Business Occupations and Professions, §14–103.(a), “All engineering documents prepared in connection with the alteration, construction, design, or repair of a building, structure, building engineering system and its components, machine, equipment, process, works, subsystem, project, public or private utility, or facility in the built or economic environment, including an engineering document prepared at the request of the State or a political subdivision of the State, where the skills of a professional engineer are required, shall be signed, sealed, and dated by the professional engineer who prepared or approved the documents.” (emphasis added)

b.      The application documents are inaccurate, contradictory, and deceptive.

                                          i.     The application form says that the applicant will install equipment as an “attachment to the existing steel light pole.” The supporting application materials contradict the application statement. Sheet T-1, in the Project Description, says the pole is an “existing concrete light pole.” The Pole Elevation on Sheet EV-1, a Plumbing Diagram note on Sheet PL-1, and the Equipment Mounting Details on EQ-2 all say it is a “concrete pole.” However, the County’s DOT website suggests that the material of this existing pole is “spun aluminum.” See https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/DOT-Traffic/Resources/Files/PDF/SLspecs/spun_aluminum_pole.pdf . By the way, this pole is described on the TFCG’s interactive map (for the public) as a “wooden utility pole.”

                                         ii.     The plans reference a separate “structural analysis” (which was not included in the application materials that I was permitted to review). If the structural analysis has relied upon the use of the wrong pole material, such as concrete or steel when spun aluminum would be utilized, then the referenced structural analysis is unreliable.

                                        iii.     The applicant’s photo simulation and diagrams of the equipment attached to the pole. But some are “not to scale” and others are mis-scaled. The equipment has been under-scaled relative to the size of the pole. As a result, this TMNC/Mobilitie application deceptively diminishes the adverse visual impact of this equipment, most of which is significantly wider than the existing tapered pole. (The afore-referenced MC-DOT specs state, “The spun aluminum, tapered streetlight pole shall have a round, circular, cross-section with an outside base diameter of seven (7) inches, and with a uniform taper decreasing from the base at a rate of 0.1 inch (minimum) to 0.14 inch (maximum) inches per foot of height.”)
Here is an example of actual Mobilitie attachments on a light pole. However, this example does not include the 13”w x 19”h meter proposed in the TFCG application. Source:http://wireless.blog.law/2016/05/27/anatomy-mobilitie-site-sprint/

c.      The application, as proposed, may accommodate two carriers. See page 21 of 33, which provides information on the Radio Specifications: Number of LTE Carriers – 2.  If the expectation would be for one or more future co-locators to add equipment to the facility, then information should be included in the application to simulate the fully loaded facility.

2.      Coverage statements in the TFCG application are problematic.

a.      There is no wireless carrier serving as a co-applicant. The information in the attached “Memo in Response to RFT SENT ON 01.31.17” does not sufficiently clarify/resolve this issue.  It can be factually accurate that Sprint is a Mobilitie, LLC client, and it can also be accurate that Mobilitie is aware that Sprint has transmission needs (or wishes) in this geographic vicinity. Regardless, however, there is no evidence that Sprint has retained TMNC/Mobilitie to act on Sprint’s behalf to pursue transmission needs at this location. Thus, perhaps TMNC/Mobilitie is doing nothing more than speculating to attract the business of Sprint and/or other carriers, and to support its own business model. Acquiring and occuping any wireless space for that purpose – especially a public space -- should not be “recommended” by the Tower Committee.

b.      The application indicates that it would provide coverage over approximately a 0.1 mile radius. It is noteworthy that the pending Crown Castle/Verizon application 201608-28 is within this radius. However, the “RF Propagation for Current Target Area” coverage map, provided in the “revised 09/09/16” version of the subject application, identified as revised 09/09/16 anticipates far greater actual coverage than the 0.1 mile radius. (The map has neither been updated in the most recent edition of the application, nor rescinded, and so I presume it is still relevant.)  This coverage map places six pending Crown Castle/Verizon applications within the subject applicant’s identified coverage area, with the applicant’s site in the approximate center. The Crown Castle/Verizon pending applications are:          1)  201608-20
                              2)  201608-26
                              3)  201608-28
                              4)  201608-37
                              5)  201610-13
                              6)  201610-16
Both TMNC/Mobilitie and Crown Castle have asserted that their facilities could accommodate various carriers. Therefore, without a carrier co-applicant, there is no substantiation that TMNC/Mobilitie is doing anything beyond engaging incompetitive jockeying for transmission space.

3.      The TFCG has an obligation under Sec. 2.58E of the County Code to minimize the adverse impact to citizens.

a.      The application seeks an unnecessary visual intrusion upon the residents and their property owner. As you are aware, Montgomery County has asserted in Comments to the FCC that, in general, visible wireless telecommunications facilities of all types and sizes, including small cell facilities in public rights-of-way, adversely affect residential property values. At the approximate proposed location, where this applicant seeks the attachment of its antennas and equipment, both sides of Crystal Rock Drive have identical County light poles. So does the cross street, Century Boulevard. But Mobilitie has selected a County light pole that abuts a residential use (garden apartments) rather than any of the County light poles that abut the commercial use on the opposite side of the street, or any of the County light poles that are on Century Blvd., which is the cross street where the County light poles in the public right-of-way abut the Montgomery County Police Department. This suggests that the Tower Coordinator has not adequately engaged with this applicant to flesh out “site suitability and co-location options,” per COMCOR 02.58E.01.05.a.3(a).

b.      The dearth of information in this application demonstrating the visual impact of co-locations suggests that the visual impact of co-locations was not considered by the Tower Coordinator when making recommending this application. As mentioned above, if, as it appears, it is the applicant’s intent to accommodate one or more co-locators, then this application is also missing simulations that show the visual effects of the facility, fully loaded. As you are aware, Montgomery County asserted in Comments to the FCC, “it is necessary to presume and consider full utilization of rights granted by virtue of a particular authorization.” Thus, the Tower Committee’s review and vote on whether or not to “Recommend” must consider the impact of any prospective co-location installations.
4.      The contact information for signage in the TFCG application is deceptive.
The Pole Mounted Signs proposed in the application, found on Sheet EQ-2, rather than identifying the true owner, only identify Interstate Transport and Broadband. This is deceptive and represents the kind of subterfuge that the media have reported Mobilitie as engaging in throughout the United States. Any signs should transparently identify this owner, such as “Mobilitie,” “Mobilitie DBA Technology MD Network Company,” or “TMNC/Mobilitie.”
I have herein identified several reasons why the Tower Committee should “NOT RECOMMEND” the application; I urge the Committee to act accordingly. I ask the Tower Committee to take notice that the application includes two revisions to the application and the above-referenced 03-31-17 TFCG memo and Mobilitie replies. And I ask the Committee to recognize that the County has itself provided detailed accounts of the lengthy experiences working with Mobilitie in its March 8, 2017 Comments to the FCC (See pp. 12 – 21,https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/103091020720870/COMMENTS-Montgomery%20County.pdf ). In sum, Montgomery County’s expenditure of resources to review this and other TMNC/Mobilitie small cell applications on the “taxpayers’ dime” have been excessive.

Frankly, I object to the existing process, which uses taxpayer dollars to underwrite the industry’s TFCG application reviews. For the FY-18 budget and beyond, I will urge the County Council to take measures to ensure that all costs associated with TFCG reviews are borne by the applicants, rather than continuing to approve general revenues to support application reviews in the TFCG Budget and through the County Budget as a whole.

But I particularly object to supporting this applicant’s waste and abuse of the TFCG application process. Approximately seven years ago, I heard the announcement about the Tower Committee’s plans to end the free application do-overs. The industry has been on notice for a long time. See ~min. 1:02:15 – 1:04 at http://mncppc.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=505. Therefore, if there would be a decision to postpone action on this application for further corrective measures (initiated by the TFCG or by the applicant), then I ask that the Tower Committee require the application process to start anew with a new application fee. Also, it seems likely that the errors that I have pointed out in this application repeat themselves in other TMNC/Mobilitie applications. As a result, I ask for the same thing – a fresh start, not more free passes -- for any other pending applications where further corrective measures would be needed.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sue Present

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