Trade Group Objects To Increasing Cable Operator Pole Fees Because Higher Fees Will Raise Broadband Costs, Harming Rural Consumers
PITTSBURGH, August 17, 2010 – The American Cable Association applauded the Federal Communications Commission for promoting broadband deployment through revised pole attachment regulations, but strongly opposed any increase in attachment rates that cable operators currently pay for providing commingled video and Internet services.
“To maintain leadership in deploying broadband in rural America, ACA members need to access poles at low and stable prices in order for the price of high-speed Internet access to remain affordable for all consumers. An increase in pole fees will have a financially punishing and disproportionate impact on rural broadband providers, which rely on poles far more than urban providers and have fewer subscribers to absorb the impact of rising fees,” ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.
In comments filed Aug. 16, ACA explained that pole attachments fees, both current and projected, heavily influence broadband deployment schedules in rural markets. If the FCC permits pole fees to rise, the economic case for driving broadband facilities deeper into rural markets is harmed, leaving those consumers without access to the fast Internet transmission speeds that are commonly available in big cities.
Under a 1978 federal law, cable operators have a right to attach their wires to utility poles at regulated rates that fully compensate pole owners. In recent years, pole owners have urged the FCC to require cable operators providing new services to pay higher fees under a compensation formula that applies to traditional telecommunications companies. Application of the higher telecommunications rate could cause pole fees to jump by 400% for some ACA members, causing retail broadband rates to rise.
“While ACA supports the FCC’s effort to ensure that pole attachment rates are as low and close to uniform as possible, ACA strongly opposes any increase in the current cable rate. ACA urges the FCC to retain the existing cable rate for cable operators providing commingled video and Internet services,” Polka said.
In other comments, ACA endorsed the FCC’s proposal to implement a five-step process governing the conduct of pole owners that need to prepare poles for cable attachments. An FCC-enforced timeline intended to reduce deployment delays will benefit consumers and prevent unresponsive pole owners from putting ACA members at a competitive disadvantage.
ACA supported the FCC’s proposal to allow pole attachers to use contractors to perform surveys and make-ready work if a utility has failed to perform its obligations within the FCC’s proposed timeline. ACA also backed an FCC policy that would allow the payment of make-ready work in stages to prevent foot-dragging by pole owners.
ACA’s comments also endorsed FCC proposals to enumerate the remedies available to an attacher that proves a utility has unlawfully delayed or denied access to its poles, and to declare that compensatory damages may be awarded where an unlawful denial or delay of access is established, or a rate, term, or condition is found to be unjust or unreasonable.
ACA called on the FCC preserve the “sign and sue” rule, which allows a cable attacher to execute a pole attachment agreement with a utility, and then later file a complaint
challenging the lawfulness of a provision of that agreement. This rule, ACA explained, limits the ability of a monopoly utility from taking advantage of a small cable company that cannot afford to be delayed by protracted negotiations or litigation before the FCC.
About the American Cable Association
Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 900 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for more than 7.6 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America. Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA’s members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business. For more information, visit https://acaconnects.org/