Rural Internet Deployment Is Still Being Delayed Over Telephone Pole Attachments





Crowded Telephone Poles with Tangled Lines Representing Old Technology

Slow telephone pole attachment approvals are still limiting how quickly people can get high-speed internet access.

Rural areas of Loudoun County, Virginia, were set to have 620 miles of fiber-optic cable constructed by July, but the project is far behind schedule and funding is set to expire in 2026, according to The Loudoun Times-Mirror.

Internet service provider All Points Broadband and utility company Dominion Energy are responsible for the project’s construction, but the telephone pole “make-ready and attachment process remain the greatest challenge to the project schedule,” according to the report.

The tie-up in Virginia offers a glimpse of a problem seen all over the country, and is one of the little-talked about hurdles to getting more internet service deployed to more people. In many communities, old utility poles are often at the center of arguments between internet service providers and utility companies. The entities frequently disagree over how much replacement work will cost and who will foot the bill.

Utility companies argue that they wouldn’t incur the costs without the cable company’s attachments. Cable companies say states should dip into funds like Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, which are intended to be applied elsewhere.

In December, the Federal Communications Commission set up a unit that would help resolve disputes between cable providers and utility companies. The Rapid Broadband Assessment Team, or RBAT, is comprised of staff from the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau and Wireline Competition Bureau. 

In the meantime, Loudoun County officials say the project is “on track” to be completed by July, but stakeholders are skeptical since construction still hasn’t started, according to the report.

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