Industry groups, ISPs weigh in on FCC pole attachment proposal

As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gets ready to vote on pole attachment reforms this week, industry groups and ISPs submitted a fresh round of comments weighing in on what changes need to be made.

The FCC has had an open proceeding on pole attachments since 2017, but it has yet to adopt new rules. Last month, the Commission published a 91-page proposal that aims to address cost sharing between pole owners and attachers, pole attachment disputes, among other issues.

NCTA – The Internet & Television Association requested the FCC include “stronger language” and additional examples in its Declaratory Ruling “to help ensure that pole owners are not able to shift the entire cost of pole replacements to attachers when the pole replacement is not ‘necessitated solely’ by the new attachment.”

Regarding the FCC’s Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on bulk orders, self-help rules and contractor availability, NCTA suggested the Commission move those sections to the Draft Order of the proposal.

It also urged the FCC to clarify pole owners are required to process their first 3,000 pole requests per the Commission’s timeline, so that pole owners are considered to “negotiate in good faith.”

Charter, which also filed comments last week, expressed support for the NCTA’s suggestions, which can help “remove some of the most egregious infrastructure impediments to broadband deployment.”

The operator said for years it’s been “the proverbial canary in the coal mine when it comes to broadband deployment, having witnessed first-hand the tremendously detrimental effects that the pole attachment process can have on getting high-speed internet to consumers.”

USTelecom asked the FCC to remove a reference in the Draft Order about depreciated poles, arguing just because a pole is “fully depreciated,” it doesn’t mean the pole “already requires replacement at the time an attachment request is made.”

Instead, the trade group encouraged the Commission to “promote the continued use of structurally stable, fully depreciated poles,” noting they can help reduce pole replacement costs as well as the rental rates attachers pay.

USTelecom also said it agreed with the FCC’s proposal to deny additional financial disclosures from pole owners, but it urged the agency to clarify its existing financial disclosure rules apply before a complaint is filed.

Verizon, which in the past year has voiced opposition to pole attachment reforms, said it “endorsed the views set out in the recent USTelecom advocacy.”

The carrier said it appreciates the Commission’s effort to “ultimately strike an appropriate balance,” while urging the FCC to “reject calls to change the allocation of pole-replacement costs that is contemplated in the existing rules and in the draft order.”

“The rules should not force broadband providers that own poles to subsidize the builds of their competitors by bearing the costs to replace poles to accommodate competitors’ deployments,” Verizon added.