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Blog Posts by Roger Sherman

Standing Down for Tower Climber Safety

May 15, 2015 - 05:11 PM

Over the past two weeks, millions of workers across the country have participated in a National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction.  This voluntary annual event, coordinated by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), is an opportunity to take time out of busy work schedules for training to ensure the safety of those that work at heights and to prevent hazardous falls. 

In this year’s Safety Stand-Down, companies involved in tower climbing work across the country, from Texas to South Dakota, Michigan to Maine, New Jersey to New York and Pennsylvania to Florida, used the Safety Stand-Down as an opportunity to have dedicated training on safety.  We applaud the companies that participated and we encourage the entire tower climbing industry to refocus on safety given what is at stake. 

To put this in perspective, let’s take a look at the numbers.  According to OSHA, there were 12 fatalities in 2014 involving work on communications towers, following 14 fatalities in 2013.  Although the trend line in fatalities is currently declining, one fatality is one fatality too many. 

For our part, the FCC has been working with a variety of parties to improve tower climber safety.  Last October, the FCC and OSHA jointly hosted a widely attended workshop at FCC Headquarters focused on tower climber safety, and announced the formation of a working group to encourage best practice adoption throughout the industry.  Our working group is continuing to work with stakeholders on publicizing practices that improve safety.

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Looking for the Best Approach to Preserve the Open Internet

October 27, 2014 - 04:21 PM

Earlier this month, the Commission held the last in its series of six Open Internet Roundtables.  At each one of these roundtables—totaling over 20 hours— panelists with diverse viewpoints dove into many of the thorniest issues in this proceeding, responding to questions from the public, FCC moderators, and the Chairman.  The Chairman, Commissioners, and stakeholders have also engaged in vigorous discussions of these issues at events around the country.  All for the purpose identified by the Commission in its Open Internet NPRM:  to find the best approach to protect and promote Internet openness.

We listened and we learned.  With specific regard to the Roundtables, here are some key takeaways.  

We heard economists debating harms to Internet openness, including but not limited to broadband providers’ incentives and ability to engage in anti-competitive behavior.  We heard engineers describing Internet technologies, including current techniques for managing today’s networks.  And we heard enforcement experts discussing how to design an enforcement process for open Internet rules that balances certainty, flexibility, and access for all stakeholders. 

Each of us also personally moderated panels about the Commission’s legal authority and policy choices for fixed and mobile broadband services. 

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Our Role in Expanding Inflight Mobile Wireless Services

December 5, 2013 - 04:00 PM

The Federal Communications Commission’s proposal on inflight mobile wireless services on airplanes is consistent with the Commission’s role as an expert agency. We would like to offer additional information about why the Commission is taking this action now and provide a little more insight into what the proposal entails.

The FCC is an independent agency that is charged with overseeing the communications industry and communications technology, including technical, legal, economic, and policy-oriented issues.  The agency was created in 1934 to oversee the networks of telephony and broadcast and, eventually, cable and wireless carriers.  In fulfilling its legal obligations, the FCC must act consistently with the public interest, convenience, and necessity.  As the expert agency on communications, it is the FCC’s role to re-examine our rules in light of new technology and to eliminate unnecessary regulations when appropriate.

Under the proposal, which will be put out for public comment, the default will still be (and in fact will more clearly be) that the use of mobile wireless services is prohibited, absent specialized onboard equipment.  If the new technology isn’t installed, the prohibition remains.  If the new technology is installed, airlineswould still have the ultimate say on whether and how to provide service – including the ability to program the system not to handle voice calls (while allowing text, email, and web browsing).  In addition, systems can also be turned off if necessary for safety announcements and emergencies.

It’s important to note this proposal is, indeed, only a proposal and that it asks many questions. Like all our rulemakings, the public has the opportunity to comment on the proposal over a period of months once a proposal is voted by the full Commission. We will not make a final decision before carefully reviewing those public comments.

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The FCC and Inflight Mobile Wireless Services

by Roger Sherman, Acting Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
November 22, 2013 - 04:13 PM

There has been great deal of public discussion since the Commission announced yesterday that it would consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would seek comment on revisions to the Commission’s rules on mobile wireless services onboard aircraft. I want to clarify what adoption of the draft notice will really mean for consumers.

Without question, much of the response to the announcement was focused on the possibility that the draft proposal would open the door to allowing passengers to make voice calls in-flight. Many are concerned that consideration of this proposal will lead to unbearable situations for airline passengers stuck next to loud, one-sided phone conversations. I empathize with that sentiment completely.   

Under the FCC’s proposal, however, it is the airlines that have the ultimate say as to whether and how to provide additional wireless services – supplementing the Wi-Fi services they may already offer – onboard their aircraft while flying above 10,000 feet. If an airline chooses to provide this service, it could improve access to wireless data services while flying, facilitate the use of in-flight texting, or even bring competition – and potentially lower prices – to a new market for in-flight broadband. 

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