The FCC voted to start revising regulations concerning pole attachment, with the aim of reducing and normalizing fees charged.
The revisions are consistent with its goal of promoting U.S. broadband availability and usage. The FCC and the industries it regulates are in agreement that fees should be low and uniform for all competitors because that will encourage broadband competition.
The Commission is trying to move forward with those elements of its National Broadband Plan for which it has unambiguous authority. The FCC’s overall authority to regulate broadband services themselves was undermined in a recent court decision in a case brought against the FCC by Comcast.
Small cable operators have been complaining that they are frequently the victims of discriminatorily high pole attachment fees. Following the FCC decision to visit the issue, American Cable Association President Matthew Polka released the following statement: “The American Cable Association applauds the Federal Communications Commission for responding to small cable operators by adopting rules that will simultaneously speed access to utility poles and help expedite the rollout of broadband facilities in rural America. The ACA hopes Congress will follow suit by passing legislation, as recommended by the Commission in its National Broadband Plan, that would eliminate municipalities and electric cooperatives’ exemption under the Pole Attachment Act of 1978 that allows them to charge excessive fees to rural broadband providers.”
NCTA President and CEO Kyle McSlarrow said: “We strongly support the Commission for moving forward on the recommendations in the National Broadband Plan to ensure reasonable and timely access to utility poles. Establishing a low uniform rate will lower the cost of broadband deployment and enable more Americans to be connected to this vital service. We look forward to working with the Commission to quickly adopt new rules that will achieve these key national objectives.”
The move was cheered by the wireless industry, as well. CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent said: “CTIA appreciates the efforts of Chairman Genachowski and the Commissioners to advance the non-discriminatory access to pole attachments for the wireless industry. Access to spectrum and the ability to site our infrastructure are absolutely necessary to the deployment of wireless service. The Commission recognized this when it adopted the Wireless Facilities Declaratory Ruling last fall and announced in the National Broadband Plan its focus on bringing additional spectrum to market.
“Today’s order and FNPRM are the next steps in facilitating wireless providers’ access rights to existing, usable electric utility poles while ensuring attachments are done in a safe manner. CTIA further applauds the Commission’s action to develop a record on a timeline for the attachment of wireless equipment and establish low, non-discriminatory rental rates for attachers.”