New tower notification system


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The FCC has adopted a Tower Construction Notification System that is intended to help guide broadcasters through the often difficult process of determining whether the site selected for a new tower is, in fact, taboo because of any number of historic, cultural or Indian tribal considerations.

The voluntary system facilitates review of proposed tower sites and alerts new tower proponents if their proposed construction might be affected by the site's proximity to sites of historic, cultural or Indian tribal religious significance.

The new system is not intended to supplant the government-to-government consultation process with federally recognized tribes. That process is mandated by the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). Nor does the new process alter the FCC's antenna structure registration process. Rather, the new process provides a tool to assist tower companies (and others, including broadcasters, who find themselves involved in the tower construction process) in ensuring that their proposed construction complies with all applicable federal, state, local and tribal rules. The FCC reviews proposed tower construction under the NHPA.

The system allows anyone proposing to build a tower to submit an electronic notification to the Commission about the proposed construction. The Commission will then provide this information to the relevant entities on a weekly (by e-mail) or monthly (by mail) basis. Those entities may then submit responses back to the Commission, and the Commission will forward those responses back to the notifier. Information regarding any proposed tower construction site nationwide will be sent to every tribe unless a tribe asks the FCC to limit notifications to a specific geographic area. Each State Historic Preservation Office will receive notifications relating to proposed tower construction at locations in their own state and any adjacent states.

More for better

Despite the fact that the FCC is adding — rather than cutting — a middleman, the new system (in theory) should help abbreviate the often lengthy historic preservation review process. The system streamlines the process, providing one-stop shopping for tower proponents: They provide the FCC with the notification, and the Commission then handles the dissemination of that information to organizations that might be affected by the proposed construction. This replaces the alternative, hit-and-miss system in which would-be tower builders attempt to identify and contact all parties that might hold an interest in the historic, religious or cultural value of its proposed site. The FCC's new clearinghouse method should reduce the time committed to review, and broadcasters may therefore reduce the time, effort and money invested in a tower construction project.

Note that this new system is voluntary. You are not required to submit notification of a proposed tower if you don't want to. But whether or not you do provide a notification, you will be required to comply with the NHPA, even if you are not aware of any sites near the proposed tower that might be of any historic or cultural or tribal religious significance. So while the new system is not a free pass around the statutory obligations relating to the protection of certain culturally significant sites, it may help unsuspecting tower proponents avoid the unpleasant surprise of learning that their construction cannot proceed as planned because of NHPA-related concerns.

To use the notification system, turn your browser to http://wireless.fcc.gov/outreach/notification/ and click on the notify button. You will then be prompted to provide an FCC registration number (FRN) and associated password, after which you will be required to provide information about yourself and your proposed tower construction.


Martin is an attorney with Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC., Arlington, VA. E-mail martin@fhhlaw.com.

Dateline:

Radio stations in Michigan and Ohio must file their renewal applications on or before June 1, 2004. Renewals must include the Ownership Report (Form 323 or 323-E) and the EEO Program Report (FCC Form 396).

Also on June 1, stations in Illinois and Wisconsin must begin their pre-filing renewal announcements.



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