Pole Owners That Misuse Their Power Delay Broadband Infrastructure Deployment
PITTSBURGH, January 19, 2018 – Broadband deployment in all areas of the country would be expedited and more expansive if the Federal Communications Commission codified its longstanding, well-established precedent prohibiting pole-owing utilities from imposing unreasonable conditions and demanding fees on broadband providers that want to tie additional cables and related equipment to the cables that are already attached to a utility pole, a practice known as overlashing.
In comments filed with the FCC (attached), the American Cable Association provided examples of its members confronting unreasonable overlashing barriers as a result of unlawful conduct by pole owners. For instance, an ACA member in Iowa reported that a utility in its territory required all overlashing projects to go through the full pole attachment application process lasting 35 to 40 days, regardless of size or complexity – even though current FCC rules say this isn’t required.
Another ACA member remarked that in addition to a full application requirement, it must pay the utility fees as high as $1,000 per pole after completing the project – even though the FCC has said pole owners have already been sufficiently compensated based on fees derived for existing attachments.
ACA, therefore, urged the FCC to act promptly to codify existing law, which permits an attacher or third party to overlash, consistent with generally accepted engineering practices, without needing to obtain utility approvals or pay additional charges. By adopting clear overlashing rules, the FCC will ensure overlashers receive timely and cost-effective pole access, spurring broadband deployment.
“The law is clear that overlashing is not subject to application requirements, prior utility approvals, or unrelated or otherwise unwarranted charges. Yet, far too often, utilities hinder or even thwart overlashing activities that are consistent with generally accepted engineering practices. Accordingly, the FCC should step in and codify existing law permitting overlashing without needing utility approvals or paying additional charges,” ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.
The FCC has these pole attachment issues teed up in a pending Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPR). FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stressed the importance of these issues by observing at the outset of this FNPR: “[W]ithout rules that keep costs low and encourage deployment,” small and midsized broadband service providers like ACA’s members “won’t get off the ground – and consumers will never benefit from the competition they’re trying to bring to the broadband marketplace.”
For decades, the FCC has determined that overlashing does not require a pole attachment application or a utility’s permission or consent, and that overlashing consistent with generally accepted engineering practices should not incur any additional charge. These decisions have enabled cable operators and other broadband providers to expeditiously add capacity to their networks to deliver the high-performance services consumers demand.
About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 750 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for nearly 7 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 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/