Recognizing What the NII is, What it Needs, and How to Get it
Statement of the Problem
The national information infrastructure (NII) offers to strengthen the U.S. economy and promote social and educational development, but those contributions depend on its deployment. In turn, the ability of wireless providers to deploy the facilities necessary to provide the wireless component of the NII depends on the government's recognizingat all levelsthat restrictions on deployment also restrict these benefits. The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) has urged policymakers to adopt policies that will promote deployment of the NII. These policies include (1) an Executive Order from the President directing federal agencies to make available federal lands and sites for telecommunications facilities; (2) an affirmation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the primacy of the national technical standards applying to radio frequency (RF) emissions over local standars; and (3) an affirmation by the FCC of the primacy of national telecommunications policy over local policies that are hostile to competition.
Wireless telecommunications is making great contributions to the deployment of the NII. It has already met the mobile needs of over 25 million consumers in the United States. Wireless services are meeting the need for wireless in-building services as well, and their potential is phenomenal. For example, the ability of our schools to offer students a rich experience and access to a broader information base often runs up against the fact that most schools are not currently wired for telecommunications and computing, and that wiring these schools may pose the risk of exposure to asbestos or the expense of extensive renovation and removal operations. Wireless telecommunications and computing offer, in these cases, more cost-effective and efficient alternatives to wired systems 1.
Wireless telecommunications is successful because it flourishes in an environment of competition in lieu of government regulation. This wireless paradigm has resulted in more than 200,000 new jobs over the past 10 years, and almost $19 billion in private-sector investment 2. In spite of these gains, and the promise of as many as 1 million new jobs and another $50 billion in investment over the next 10 years, there are impediments to total success 3. Wireless service is dependent on the deployment of antenna facilitiescell sitesand the ability of wireless companies to deploy the facilities for new systems, greater capacity, and broader coverage is at risk. Some local jurisdictions are preventing the deployment of antennas, either through outright bans, extensive delays, or application of unscientific "local technical standards" to radio frequency emissions. CTIA has called for action to redress these problems and to permit wireless to assume its full effective and efficient role in the NII.
Much of the discussion of the NII has focused on wired technologiespredominantly fiber opticsas the core of the NII. That focus fails to recognize that wireless technologies already make up a significant part of the
national telecommunications network. Wireless already reaches across the United States, with hundreds of wireless companies competing to offer voice and data services, innovative applications, and value to millions of consumers. These hundreds of wireless service providers have been developing, funding, and deploying a wireless NII for over 10 years, since the first cellular system began operating in October 1983.
For all of that, wireless has almost been the secret success storyperhaps because it is the success of private enterprise. Over the past 12 months, there have been 19,043 references to the NII or the information superhighway in the media 4. Of those stories, only 2,139 mentioned wireless or cellular. Of course, the reality is sinking in that the NIIor the information superhighwayis and must be more than a high-fiber diet (of fiber optic cable and other hard-wired systems). The reality is that people are mobile, and mobility implies being wireless. But being fixed does not necessarily mean being wired. Indeed in many environmentsurban and ruralfixed services are better delivered by wireless technology than by wired technology.
CTIA, as the industry association for wireless providersranging from cellular to enhanced specialized mobile radio (ESMR), satellite, and personal communication services (PCS)has been relentless in pressing this message. CTIA and its members also have been relentless in making it a reality. Indeed, the CTIA Foundation for Wireless Telecommunications has cosponsored and cofunded wireless education and wireless medical projects across the country (Box 1 gives two examples) 5.
Increasingly, wireless is being recognized as a vital part of the NII. This forum is one example of that recognition. Last year the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Committee on Applications and Technology requestedand receivedcomment on the demand for an NII, and on the role of wireless in the NII 6. The Office of Technology Assessment issued a report on "Wireless Technologies and the NII" in August 1995. This recognition, however, is only the beginning of the battle.
BOX 1 Examples of CTIA-sponsored Wireless Projects
Wireless at Work in Education
On May 2, 1995, the CTIA Foundation, Bell Atlantic Mobile, and Cellular One donated state-of-the-art wireless telecommunications systems to two elementary schools in the District of Columbia. The ClassLinkSM initiative intends to improve education by bringing wireless telecommunications and information to now-isolated classrooms, allowing schools to link with the Internet via wireless modems.
Wireless at Work in Medicine
The CTIA Foundation is funding a project at New York's Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center where wireless is providing a system of coordinated care to tuberculosis patients. The project, done in conjunction with the New York City Department of Health and the Visiting Nurse Services of New York City, enables visiting nurses equipped with laptop computers and wireless modems to treat patients in their homes.
Most of the wireless components of the NIIcellular, ESMR, and PCSrequire the deployment of cell sites as their basic building blocks. These sites comprise antennas and towers, as well as base station equipment. The cellular industry alone, composed of two carriers per market, constructed almost 15,000 cell sites between 1983 and 1994. By the end of 1994, almost 18,000 cell sites had been constructed (Figure 1).
As Figure 2 indicates, cell sites have traditionally supported service to between 1,000 and 1,200 users per site. As the number of subscribers increases, the number of cell sites must likewise increase in order to meet demand and preserve service quality.
Another 15,000 cell sites may be required for cellular systems alone in the next 10 years, based on the projections of Barry Goodstadt of EDS Management Consulting that cellular might achieve subscriber levels between 38.2 million and 55.1 million by 2006 7. (Although the deployment of digital technology might reduce the absolute number of additional cell sites required to meet demand because of capacity restrictions, the number of cell sites required must still increase in order to improve geographic coverage. Thus, the precise number of such cell sites is a matter of speculation and is not definitively predetermined by subscribership.)
The construction of Nextel Communications' ESMR network demonstrates that the need for such sites is not limited to cellular systems. By late 1994, Nextel was constructing 2,000 cell sites for its ESMR network, and it had over 130 cell sites in Los Angeles alone. As of year-end 1994, Nextel planned to construct 4,000 cell sites over the next 5 years to complete its network 8.
With the deployment of PCS, the number of cell sites will increase dramatically. During the FCC's PCS proceeding, would-be licensees estimated that they would have to construct between four and seven cell sites in order to provide coverage identical to that of one cellular cell site 9. The adoption of higher base station power limits will facilitate the use of wide-area cells in some areas, thereby permitting a one-to-one relationship for PCS and cellular cell sites in those limited areas. However, the need to deploy micro- and picocells in order to provide capacity and coverage in other environments (e.g., urban settings) means that the number of cell sites will still increase many times.
Indeed, the rules contemplate six licensees per service area, with 5-year deadlines obliging three PCS licensees (each holding 30 MHz) to construct systems covering one-third of their service area population, and three PCS licensees (each holding 10 MHz) to construct systems covering one-quarter of their service area population over that period. Thus, the number of cell sites required will necessarily be some multiple of a figure based upon a single cellular licensee's systemas PCS licensees must either build out their systems or forfeit their licenses.
Analysis and Forecast: What Build-Out Will PCS Require?
As previously noted, the FCC has imposed build-out requirements for both major trading area (MTA) and basic trading area (BTA) PCS licenses, such that three licensees will be required to cover one-third of their population in 5 years, and three licensees will be required to cover one-quarter of their population in 5 years. This means that, even starting with a static model, and assuming that the size of the population to be covered is established by 1994 population figures, the equivalent of three nationwide carriers will be obligated to build out
systems so that each covers 86.5 million people, and the equivalent of three more nationwide carriers will be obligated to build out systems so that each covers 65 million people.
The number of cell sites required to provide coverage for current cellular systems may be used to form the basis for extrapolating PCS system build-out. Using the midyear 1994 number of cellular sitesover 15,000we may calculate that as many as 22,500 cell sites may be required to provide coverage for the equivalent of one hypothetical nationwide PCS system 10. Since there are, in fact, six PCS systems to be licensed, including both the MTA- and BTA-based systems, the numbers of such sites may be as much as six times that base figure. (On the other hand, the number of sites may be lower if operators obtain multiple licenses in a single market, such that an MTA licensee also holds a BTA license in each of its component markets and thereby simply increases its available spectrum resource to 40 MHz across its service area.)
Assuming that the MTA and BTA licensees' coverage requirement can be used to derive a ratio for cell site construction, we can make the following projections:
Thus, the broadband PCS licensees could build about 39,275 cell sites over the next 5 years. Including cellular, ESMR, and PCS, wireless licensees could require as many as 58,275 new cell sites within the next 5 years. (This assumes build-out of multiple PCS systems, build-out of Nextel's system in the projected time frame, and cellular build-out in line with recent growth rates.) In fact, this may be a gross underestimate of the number of antenna sites required, in light of projections by Paul Kagan Associates (Figure 3) and other analysts that over 124 million peoplealmost 45 percent of the U.S. populationwill subscribe to wireless services in the next 10 years 11.
Indeed, the number of new cell sites may range as high as 100,000 or more for the complete build-out of all these licensees, if the equivalent of four nationwide PCS systems are deployed 12.
What's the Problem?
The fact of the matter is that in order to create the wireless component of the NII, these towers and antennas must be deployed. Wireless service is dependent on their existence. But the ability of service providers to bring these services to the public is handicapped by (1) the lack of a process, in some jurisdictions, for granting the necessary permits to build these facilities; (2) a process, in some jurisdictions, that actually hampers deployment by imposing unnecessary delays and transaction costs; and (3) some shortsighted actors who, in some jurisdictions, actually seek to prohibit competition or restrict the build-out of wireless services by imposing unscientific "local technical standards" on RF emissions.
It is important to note that these jurisdictions have failed to recognize that national policy puts competition to work for their own citizens' interests 13. Other jurisdictions have erred by applying local "technical" standards that conflict with the national RF standards adopted by ANSI and accepted by the FCC 14. Indeed, some of these decisions go beyond what even their own technical experts recognize as valid 15.
We are not singling out a specific level of government as the culprit. Federal, state, and local governments can help or hamper the creation of the NII. In fact, state governments like those of Maryland and Connecticut have demonstrated a clear understanding of the benefits of promoting deploymentand have moved
to help extend the wireless superhighway. Maryland, for example, has solicited Requests for Proposals and has issued a list of state government-owned antenna sites that the state will make available to applicants for suitable fees 16. The state of Connecticut has essentially established a statewide standard and process applicable to antenna siting, under the auspices of the Connecticut Siting Council.
What Should be Done?
CTIA is not advocating a national zoning policy. CTIA is advocating that consumers be helped and not hampered by government at all levels.
Zoning rules that act as a direct bar to entrysuch as moratoria on tower or antenna sitingdo not help consumers because they obstruct competition and actually reduce the quality of service available to consumers. Fortunately, such rules are properly preempted under Section 332(c) of the Communications Act. Likewise, zoning rules that indirectly bar entryrunning counter to the build-out requirements established by the FCCalso are properly preempted under the Communications Act. Since such unreasonable zoning and land use regulations that directly or indirectly bar entry are so clearly inconsistent with the consumer interest, the sole problem is ensuring that they are recognized as inconsistent with national telecommunications policy. Fundamentally, whether those issues are resolved at the federal or state level is immaterial.
Of course, the reality is that the national telecommunications policywhich puts competition to work for the consumermust be recognized as paramount and must be implemented. Otherwise, the NII will simply be a grand illusion and never a real producer of jobs, education, or security.
CTIA has acted to make the NII a reality. Indeed, cellular companies have been building the wireless lanes and on- and off-ramps of the NII for over a decade. Now, when the means of making the information superhighway are debated, the role of wireless must be recognizedand the needs of consumers given full measure. CTIA has pressed for action to ensure that consumers have access to what they want, when they want it.
On October 27, 1994, Thomas E. Wheeler, president and chief executive officer of CTIA, wrote to FCC Chairman Reed Hundt, warning that
Ubiquitous wireless serviceincluding wireless service to schools,libraries, and public safetyagenciesrequires ubiquitous cell sites. Too often the process ofbuilding the wireless network is
thwarted or delayed by "not in my backyard" activists seeking to block the construction of the national wireless pathway for parochial or ill-informed reasons. 17
On December 22, 1994, CTIA filed a petition for rulemaking, requesting preemption of state and local regulation of tower siting for commercial mobile service providers 18. CTIA also supports, through the Electromagnetic Energy Association, rules preempting state and local oversight of exposure to RF emissions from FCC-authorized transmitters 19.
On March 22, 1995, Thomas E. Wheeler wrote to President Clinton, urging him to issue an Executive Order "directing federal agencies to expeditiously facilitate the location of wireless antennas on property over which they have control" 20. Such an Executive Order would take a "giant step in reinventing government as a force to encourage innovation in competitive telecommunications services"fostering hundreds of thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in private capital investment, facilitating the deployment of the NII, and generating revenues for the Treasury by leasing access to federal properties 21.
The states have been called the laboratories of democracybut the interest of consumers, and the interest of the national economy, are not limited by state boundaries. As House Speaker Newt Gingrich has said,
We have to look seriously at those areas where the national economyrequires preemption. The reasonwe went from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution was to allowpreemption wherenecessary. As a general rule, I want to decentralize decisions as much as Ican, but clearly, for example,when you are in a cellular system you ought to be able to be in any cellularsystem in America and haveit work. You cannot suddenly arrive in a dead space that has been created by alocal politician forcronies who happen to own an obsolete investment. 22
1. See "Gingrich Praises Entrepreneurship in Bringing Technology to Schools," BNA Daily Report for Executives, May 2, 1995, p. A84. See also "CTIA Foundation, Bell Atlantic Mobile, Cellular One Donate New Wireless Systems to Bring State-of-Art Communications to D.C. Public Schools," CTIA Foundation for Wireless Telecommunications press release, May 1, 1995. See also "Southwestern Bell's ClassLinkSM Wireless Phone Concept Improves Life at a Texas School,'' Southwestern Bell Mobile Systems press release, February 1, 1995.
2. See "Reinventing Competition: The Wireless Paradigm and the Information Age," CTIA Monograph Series, 1995, p. 2.
4. Lexis/Nexis search of the "current news" database for references to the NII or information superhighway, May 9, 1995.
5. See, for example, Note  above. See also, "NYNEX Teams Up with Thirteen.WNET to Provide On-Line Anytime, Anywhere Math Education," Business Wire, January 10, 1995. Wireless carriers around the country are also contributing resources to support medical applications of wireless telecommunications. For example, CommNet Cellular Inc. has supported rural medical services in the form of airtime contributions to the Sioux Valley Hospital Outreach Program of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
6. See letter dated December 23, 1994, from Randall S. Coleman, Vice President for Regulatory Policy and Law, CTIA, to Arati Prabhakar, Chair, Committee on Applications and Technology, NIST.
7. See "Evaluating PCS Markets," PCS News, January 20, 1994, p. 4. See also Roche, Robert F. 1994. "PCS Predictions and Prescriptions: Highlights from 32 Studies and Reports on the Prospects for PCS," filed in GEN Docket No. 90-314, April 13, p. 12.
8. See "Nextel Installs All-Digital Integrated Wireless Communications Network in Los Angeles," RBOC Update, September, 1994. See also Harmon, Amy. 1994. "Nextel Launches New Wireless Service in State," Los Angeles Times, September 23, p. D3.
9. See, for example, "US WEST Petition for Expedited Partial Reconsideration and for Clarification," filed December 8, 1993, in GEN Docket No. 90-314, pp. 7–12 (arguing for higher power limits to facilitate competition between cellular and PCS).
10. This assumes that PCS companies must deploy approximately three cell sites for every cellular cell site in order to achieve comparable coverage and that a hypothetical single nationwide cellular company would have deployed 7,500 cell sites to provide coverage.
11. Paul Kagan Associates. 1994. Wireless Telecom Investor, October 20, p. 9.
12. This assumes that cellular companies will roughly double the number of cell sites they had deployed as of midyear 1994 in order to improve coverage and capacity, and that Nextel will build out its 4,000 sites. The equivalent of four 30-MHz PCS systems would require a theoretical total of 90,000 cell sites (4 × 22,500 = 90,000). In fact, the number of antennas may be higher regardless of the number of service providers, simply to ensure adequate coverage and service quality.
13. See, for example, "Blairstown Township Zoning Board of Adjustment Resolution Memorializing the Denial of a Certain Use or 'Special Reasons' Variance Sought Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:55D–70(d)(1) to the Application of Pennsylvania Cellular Telephone Corporation Seeking Approval for the Erection of a Cellular Telephone Tower on Block 2003, Lot 14.01, on the Blairstown Township Tax Map Application ZB-2-94," pp. 23–24 (dated October 25, 1994; revised November 3, 1994).
14. See, for example, "Village of Wilmette Resolution 93-R-34." See also zoning ordinances of Jefferson County, Colorado, and the City of Stamford, Connecticut, which provide that more stringent state or county standards may supplant the 1992 ANSI standard. See Jefferson County Reg. Section 2, P(1)(a), and City of Stamford Ordinance No. 527 Supplemental.
15. See Ryser, Rob. 1994. "Tarrytown Extends Ban on Installation of New Cellular Antennas," Gannett Suburban Newspapers, December 6, p. 3A: "We have been surprised by the board's action from the beginning. The expert that Tarrytown hired to study (antenna transmissions) came back and found our cellular installation safe."
16. See Cody, Michael. 1995. "Bay Bridge Is Potential Antenna Site," The Capital, March 30, p. A1.
17. Letter dated October 27, 1994, from Thomas E. Wheeler, President and Chief Executive Officer, CTIA, to Reed Hundt, Chairman, FCC, p. 2.
18. See "CTIA Petition for Rulemaking," RM-8577, filed December 22, 1994.
19. See "Reply Comments of CTIA," RM-8577, filed March 6, 1995, p. 7 (referring to "Petition for Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in ET Docket No. 93-62, filed by EEA on December 22, 1994).
20. Letter dated March 22, 1995, from Thomas E. Wheeler, President and Chief Executive Officer, CTIA, to President William J. Clinton, p. 1.
22. Speech of House Speaker Newt Gingrich at Wireless '95, New Orleans, February 1, 1995.