Feeds

The most dangerous job in America: Keeping iPhones connected

AT&T blamed for deaths of cell-tower climbers

3 Big data security analytics techniques

An investigation into the deaths of workers putting up cell towers has shown how US network operators distance themselves from those taking the risks, with AT&T's dash to provide iPhone connectivity allegedly killing more than most.

The investigation was carried out by ProPublica and (US TV show) Frontline, which have spent the last couple of years disentangling the chains of subcontracting subcontractors to pin every cell tower death on a specific network operator. The investigation alleged that AT&T's drive to deploy 3G and integrating the recently acquired Cingular's infrastructure cost the lives of 15 climbers since 2003.

That number is greater than the number of deaths estimated by the investigation for Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile combined (one, two and five respectively), though they weren't pushing out so aggressively and thus were less likely to put pressure on the subcontractors.

The head of the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration said in 2008 that climbing towers was the most dangerous job in America, for which those involved receive around $10 an hour. But more importantly, the investigation revealed, they're routinely required to break safety regulations in order to meet unrealistic deadlines which are passed down through chains of contractors – ensuring that the network operator is well clear of any responsibility or liability. That includes working at night to avoid disrupting customers, and free-climbing across towers to save time.

As one example, cited by the investigation, AT&T pays $187 to have a new radio head fitted to a mast, but by the time the invoice has made its way though the chain, the company actually putting up the kit apparently gets only $93, and (by accident or design) AT&T won't be on site to ensure that company policies on health and safety are respected.

The only exception, it seems, is Verizon, which generally deals directly with contractors and is described by one contributor to the programme as "a golden ticket", proving that it can be done if the operators desire it to be so.

But dealing with subcontractors is simpler, and in a statement AT&T is adamant that "Our contracts with these companies require strict compliance with state and federal laws and regulations". The operator also points out that things are improving, with zero fatalities in 2011.

That may be down to improved safety procedures, or perhaps the fact that 3G is adequately deployed and the world's economy is tanking at the moment. Smaller radios, requiring less power, might be a feature too, but we'll not find out until 4G deployments start in earnest next year and the steel monkeys put their lives back on the line to keep us connected. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
From corporate bod to startup star: The 10-month gig that changed everything
What I learned as a techie in my time away from globo firms
Facebook snubbed Google's Silicon Valley wage-strangle pact, Sheryl Sandberg claims
Report details letter COO wrote to court addressing 'no-compete deal' lawsuit
Another day, another nasty Android vuln
Memory corruption mess can brick your mobe
Barclays warns freelance techies of DOUBLE DIGIT rate cut
'IT was a car crash before, so this isn't going to get any better' - sources
VMware announces compulsory bi-ennial VCP recertification
Downside: more time and money; Upside: VMware hints at two-yearly release cycle
Sysadmins and devs: Do these job descriptions make any sense?
Industry lobby group defines skills used in 25 common IT jobs
Who earns '$7k a month' but can't even legally drink? A tech intern!
Glassdoor reveals astonishing salaries of Silicon Valley undergrads
Your CIO is now a venture capitalist and you work at their startup
This just happened without you changing job, by the way
Turnover at the top in Oz telco-land as AAPT, Huawei, Optus, lose top brass
Move along, nothing to see here but orderly transitions
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.