In what appears to be the highest fine ever levied against a tower owner, the Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau announced a $620,500 settlement with General Communication, Inc. (GCI), parent company of The Alaska Wireless Network, for failing to register numerous communications towers through the agency’s Antenna Structure Registration system.
Prior to constructing or upon acquiring these towers, the Alaska-based company did not register 118 cellular communications facilities and failed to properly light three of them to comply with flight safety rules.
“Unregistered and unlit towers pose unacceptable risks to air and public safety,” said Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau. “It is essential that communications towers are properly registered prior to construction, as well as properly lighted, to ensure that air traffic is aware of tower locations.”
The FCC’s Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) system operates in concert with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations to ensure that communications towers do not present hazards to air navigation. The registration rules generally require owners of communications towers to register with the FCC any tower that is taller than 200 feet or that may interfere with the flight path of a nearby airport.
The tower owner must obtain lighting specifications from the FAA and include those specifications in its registration prior to construction. Through the ASR system, the FCC fulfills its statutory responsibility to require the lighting of communications towers that may pose a hazard to air navigation.
In early 2014, the company self-reported to the FCC that it had discovered numerous apparent violations of the tower registration requirements, including for many towers which they had recently acquired.
The Enforcement Bureau’s subsequent investigation revealed that approximately 118 GCI-owned communications towers had not been registered in the ASR system prior to construction or upon acquiring them. The investigation also found that three towers were not properly lighted. The FCC worked with the company to settle the investigation and secure a plan to ensure towers are appropriately registered and lit.
As a condition of the settlement, GCI agrees to pay the $620,500 and committed to review its tower inventory to ensure that all of its towers are compliant with tower registration and lighting rules.
In addition, GCI said it would ensure that all of its towers are compliant with the Commission’s environmental and historic review requirements.
The consent agreement can be seen here.