The Federal Communications Commission new regulations on pole attachments are designed to get mobile broadband services to market more quickly, but are already meeting resistance from the utility industry.
The agency released details of the order, which among other things sets a maximum timeframes for utility companies to approve pole attachments. Utilities have 148 days to approve pole attachments in the communications sector; 178 days to approve wireless antennas on pole tops and another 60 days for “large orders.”
The rules also aim to get more parity in the rates between cable operators and telecom companies, and demands that wireless providers get the same rate as other telecom operators. The FCC said that while cable companies pay an average of $7 per foot per year to attach to a utility pole, telecom operators can pay around $20 per foot per year for the same attachment. Further, if utility companies reject a pole attachment, they must specify why – citing capacity, safety, reliability or engineering concerns.
PCIA, which has been working with the FCC on the proceeding since 2007, said the ruling should get vital infrastructure needed for wireless broadband access and other emerging technologies to market faster. “Today’s order removes significant barriers that DAS and other wireless providers have faced when deploying antennas on utility poles. Non-discriminatory access to pole tops, regulated rates, and timely access to utility poles are important to wireless providers and critical to DAS providers. DAS is an important wireless network strategy that provides crucial capacity, precise coverage, and spectral efficiency, thereby greatly enhancing the reliability and quality of the wireless network. Accordingly, the ultimate beneficiaries of today’s decision are the hundreds millions of wireless subscribers who depend on robust wireless services.”
Not surprisingly, the Utilities Telecom Council came out against the regulations, saying they will promote the profits of big broadband companies at the expense of electric utility customers and threaten the safety of critical infrastructure.
“The new rules reduce the already subsidized rates that carriers pay for pole attachments, and they impose additional access requirements that cut corners on safety. While the FCC claims that these rules will promote broadband deployment, as a practical matter they won’t promote access for pole attachments into unserved areas and they won’t necessarily reduce the rates that consumers pay for broadband services,” UTC said in a prepared statement.
“Utilities support broadband deployment but not at the expense of electric consumers and the safety of critical infrastructure. Unfortunately, the FCC rules adopted today perpetuate rate subsidies for the cable industry and extend them to carriers that provide broadband services,” said UTC CEO and President William Moroney. “Moreover, the new rules impose additional access requirements that threaten to run roughshod over utility safety and engineering practices. These new access requirements, such as make ready deadlines, won’t do anything to promote broadband deployment in underserved areas as a practical matter. In unserved areas, make ready is not a barrier to deployment; make ready is primarily needed on poles that are fully loaded – and hence in areas that are already served. The FCC’s claims about promoting broadband deployment through pole attachment reforms don’t stand up to even the slightest scrutiny. This is a bailout for the communications industry that won’t benefit broadband consumers and will harm electric consumers.”