The Innovators: Bringing the Next Generation of Wireless Service to NYC

By Robert D. Gaudioso, Esq.

On October 26, 2016, the New York State Wireless Association (NYSWA) hosted a Town Hall Meeting at the New York Institute of Technology Auditorium in New York City. I organized the event as Co-Chair of NYSWA’s Regulatory Committee as one if its educational initiatives for 2016.

The day started with NYSWA’s President Chris Fisher welcoming an audience of approximately 150 NYSWA members and guests.  Jane Builder, NYSWA Board Member and T-Mobile Senior Manager, who secured our speakers for the day, then explained the concept of a Town Hall style meeting.  As Co-Chair of the Regulatory Committee, I had the distinct honor of moderating the Town Hall discussion.  Our speakers were Allan Tantillo, T-Mobile Senior National Director of Development and Siting Policy and Alphonso Jenkins, Deputy Commissioner for Telecommunications Planning at the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT).

Mr. Tantillo discussed T-Mobile’s “Learn, Educate & Collaborate” approach to working with municipalities in order to eliminate pain points for both the industry and local municipalities.  Mr. Tantillo stressed that a collaborative approach to siting advocacy was needed to realize the promise of 5G for American cities.  He went on to discuss that communities with 5G will have significant competitive advantages, including the use of smart grids, public safety communications, transportation efficiencies, business development and retention in comparison to cities that lack robust wireless services.  Mr. Tantillo demonstrated various facility design options that ease local siting issues, such as small cells, mini-macros, mid-cells and the still necessary macro sites.  He noted that traffic light, utility pole and even utility line strand mounts would become more ubiquities siting solutions as networks densify.  He further identified the work T-Mobile is doing to educate communities with T-Mobile’s vision of siting advocacy, including T-Mobile’s “” website and brochure, and fact sheets regarding E-911, public health, property values and technology choices.  By addressing municipal pain points that are the catalyst behind wireless opposition, Mr. Tantillo believes that carriers will benefit from expedited facility siting, thereby providing the next generation wireless services to local communities.

Afterwards, Jane Builder keenly observed that “the challenges of working with local municipalities are great, but the opportunities are even greater.”

Dovetailing with the carrier perspective, Alphonso Jenkins explained New York City’s innovative projects that are helping to bring ubiquitous wireless broadband throughout the five boroughs.  Mr. Jenkins explained Mayor de Blasio’s Broadband Initiative that was announced in early 2015.  This initiative has the objective to proliferate universal, affordable broadband services to all New Yorkers, concentrating on underserved areas of the City.  The Mayor has earmarked $70 million in capital investment to proliferate broadband, concentrating on the underserved.  The City’s Broadband Task Force and DoITT’s Telecommunications Planning Division will be leading the City’s efforts.  Mr. Jenkins explained that DoITT negotiates and administers franchises with private companies that use the City’s streets and sidewalks to provide telecommunications services including cable and fiber providers, broadband services, public pay phones, mobile communications and public and park Wi-Fi.  By way of example, Mr. Jenkins touted the City’s great success with LinkNYC.  CityBridge, the consortium of companies behind LinkNYC that includes Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Sidewalk Labs, Control Group, Titan, Intersection, CIVIQ Smartscapes, Qualcomm, and Antenna, has designed and installed LinkNYC kiosks to replace public payphones throughout the City.  The kiosks provide free public Wi-Fi, integrated street lighting, a digital display for advertising and public service announcements, a tablet with touch screen display for use of the internet, and a dedicated 911 call button.  Approximately 485 kiosks have already been installed with plans for approximately 30,000 more over the next eight years.

Mr. Jenkins also discussed the City’s Mobile Telecom Franchise Agreements that allow authorized companies to install equipment on city-owned light poles and privately-owned utility poles.  Compensation is paid to the City based on a zone methodology, whereby the fees are greater in places such as lower Manhattan and less in underserved areas.  As current franchises agreements expire in 2019 the City will be seeking even greater opportunities for use of the City right-of-way including multi-tenant street light poles.  He also noted that the LinkNYC kiosks have the ability to support wireless facilities in the future to further enhance 5G coverage.

Finally, Mr. Jenkins explained the City’s Broadband Strategy.  Mr. Jenkins believes the City must leverage its regulatory authority and contract rights, city agencies and assets, create public projects, public private partnerships, and innovate public policy.  The City hopes to ensure low-cost service where the private market fails and promote competition where the private market can deliver, in order to provide a comprehensive digital platform for New York City.  By way of example, Mr. Jenkins highlighted that the City has dedicated over $100 million for broadband through 2020, and plans to bring broadband to New York City Housing Authority properties by leveraging the City owned assets and rezoning measures.  In late 2016 the City expects to release a Request for Information and Expression of Interest for various broadband projects including Fiber to the Home, Fixed Wireless Services, Managed Wi-Fi Services and other wireless and infrastructure projects throughout the City.

The attendees applauded when Al Jenkins reiterated New York City’s dedication to bringing 5G services to the City residents by stating that siting of wireless facilities must be expedited and made easier.

As noted by NYSWA’s President Chris Fisher in his opening remarks, “NYC is a global capital with over 8.5 million who call it home, with over 3 million units of housing, 500 million square feet of office space, 4.4 million private and public sector jobs, 6300 miles of roads packed into just 300 square miles of land.”  Obviously, the challenges and opportunities for the wireless industry are no bigger than in New York City!

The NYSWA Regulatory Committee would like to thank the sponsors of this great event:  Amato Law Group, Diamond Communications, Cuddy & Feder LLP, Snyder & Snyder, LLP and T-Mobile.  In addition, the event would not have been possible without the hard work of NYSWA Vice President Adrian Berezowksy, the Event’s Committee, Ashley Jackson at WIA and the following volunteers:  Tom Marciano, Greg Lahey, Kimberly Anderson, Leslie Snyder, Regina Beechert, Vincent Reres, Rachel Ventrella, Hector Brown and Samantha Chillemi-Berenz.   Photos of the event are provided by Yulia Nar Photography.

Robert D. Gaudioso is a partner with the law firm of Snyder & Snyder, LLP and the Co-Chair of the New York State Wireless Association Regulatory Committee.

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