The Federal Communications Commission plans to vote on rules, including cost-sharing, regarding utility pole attachments at its December meeting.
The Federal Communications Commission wants to revise its rules about attaching equipment to poles to speed up broadband deployment. Utility and telecom companies are in disagreement about who should shell out the money for pole attachments needed to run fiber, for example.
“The Commission will consider rules to make the pole attachment process faster, more transparent, and more cost-effective,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a note outlining next month’s open meeting agenda.
Historically, the “lack of reliable, timely, and affordable access to physical infrastructure,” like utility poles, has been a barrier for “deploying wireline and wireless services,” according to the FCC. The unclear and varying standards around maintenance and equipment installation timelines, pole owner compliance and enforcement, and disparity in pole rental rates are all obstacles stalling high-speed internet access to more areas.
The FCC wants to establish clear and consistent standards to ensure an efficient pole attachment process with the goal of getting high-speed internet access to more people.
During a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event last month, Brett Kilbourne, general counsel at the utility company trade group Utilities Technology Council argued that utility companies “would not have incurred these costs but for the third-party attachment” and that replacement costs should lie with telecom companies.
In 2022, Spectrum argued that utility pole replacement funds should be sponsored by the states. In this case, states might have to dip into funds, like the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, that could be applied elsewhere.
“[I]f the government is just spending broadband dollars without streamlining infrastructure rules, then it’s just stepping on the gas and brakes at the same time,” Commissioner Brendan Carr said last year when the FCC sought comment on pole replacement rules.
Rosenworcel said December’s meeting will also address further crackdowns on illegal robotexts, protecting consumer data and local programming, smartphone accessibility for users with hearing loss, junk fees, telehealth improvements, and more.