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Item in The Northwest Current, 1/24/01

Feds fine American Tower for 'willful' safety gaffes

Elizabeth Wiener

The Federal Communications Commission this month fined the American Tower Corp. for multiple violations at its antennas around the country, including the controversial tower which the city is trying to block in Tenleytown.

Boston-based American Tower was fined $212,000 for 36 separate violations involving antenna registration and safety. The federal commission, in a press release, reported that it had cited the firm for "willful and repeated" violations and ordered a more thorough investigation of the company's practices.

Specifically, the Tenleytown tower was cited Oct. 12 "for not having proper lighting during construction," a requirement related to airplane safety, said John Winston of the commission's enforcement bureau.

In a brief interview Friday, American Tower vice president Robert Morgan said the citation was unfair, because the company was preparing to install lights when the city stopped work on the tower Oct. 10.

"We completely agree it should have lights," Morgan said. "We had permanent lights at the site, and the lights would have been put on. We were uncomfortable when the District put the handcuffs on."

He said the half-built tower now has temporary lights, as well as a huge American flag, to make it visible.

Winston, however, said the tower was "still bound by the regulations. It should have had lights up already."

Other violations involved failure to register antennas, post registration on antenna structures or notify the commission of ownership changes. The various regulations ensure that tower owners can be contacted if safety problems arise, the charging documents state, and violations are "serious [because] unlit and unmarked antenna structures can pose a threat to air safety."

The commission cited several other smaller tower firms in its Jan. 16 release, but American Tower got the bulk of the penalties. Commissioners expressed concern that the firm "continues to violate our rules despite both oral and written warnings."

Morgan said American Tower was singled out for criticism, since "we're one of the bigger tower companies," with 14,000 antennas nationwide.

The commission's Winston agreed the number of violations reflect in part the size of the company. "The question is what are they going to do about it. We're going to stay on top of these," Winston said.

See also:

FCC order in Acrobat and plain text formats
FCC Daily Digest

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