The FCC recently released a decision granting two waivers of its requirement that any communications tower which has lighting requirements and is registered with the FCC be visually inspected at least quarterly to insure that all of the required lights are working. The waivers were granted to American Tower Corporation and Global Signal, Inc., both operators of thousands of communications towers nationwide. The waivers were based on showings by the companies that the automated systems that they employ to monitor tower lights were sufficiently robust that they could insure that the lights were operational even without visual inspection. The Commission stressed the reliability of the monitoring systems, and the cost savings to the companies, in granting the waivers.
The importance of this decision to other owners of communications towers came in the concluding paragraph of the FCC decision. There, the Commission stated that this decision paved the way for other tower owners to adopt sufficiently reliable systems so that similar waivers could be granted. Thus, for companies with multiple towers, this decision may give them the incentive to install similar systems and seek waivers of the tower inspection rules. For other companies, this decision reminds them of their visual inspection obligations (and the records that should be kept of such inspections to be available in the event of an FCC inspection).