A few weeks ago, we wrote about several recent cases where tower owners were fined for not having their towers lights working in the manner that was required by their licenses. In another case released this week, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau decided that a $20,000 fine was appropriate for a tower owner in Alaska whose lights were not working when the FCC inspected the facility (and the FAA had not been notified of the outage). The FCC rejected arguments that the fine should be lower as efforts were immediately made to fix the lighting issues after the FCC notified the owner of the issue – finding that such post-notice efforts come too late to justify a fine reduction. The Bureau also said that, as the tower owner was a large company, an upward adjustment of the fine, doubling a $10,000 base fine, was appropriate. The decision found that, for the large telecommunications company that owned the tower, a smaller penalty would not be a deterrent to future bad conduct. The decision warned other large companies that enhanced penalties should be expected so that the fines are not just a “cost of doing business.”
The decision should serve as a reminder of the seriousness with which the FCC views potential safety issues, and also a warning to large companies that their actions may result in larger than expected fines for violations of FCC rules that are discovered in the future.