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ACA: ‘All Is Not Well’ With Pole Attachment Rules

FCC Has Substantial Opportunity To Speed Broadband Deployment By Reining In Bad Actors That Own Poles

PITTSBURGH, July 17, 2017 - The American Cable Association said the Federal Communications Commission has a real and substantial opportunity to accelerate broadband deployment by addressing the significant concerns its members have raised about their inability to obtain fast and reasonable access to poles.  Contrary to the claims of certain pole owners that the current rules are more than sufficient and even burdensome, too many pole owners continue to stymie broadband providers from attaching expeditiously and at a reasonable cost.  FCC action is thus warranted.

"For four decades, the FCC has battled with pole owners to get them to comply with the Pole Attachment statute and FCC regulations. ACA intends to work diligently to support the FCC's newest efforts to rein in the bad actors and urges the FCC to move promptly to adopt an order including ACA's targeted and reasonable solutions," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.

ACA's backing of the FCC comes with the nation clamoring for accelerated deployment of high-performance broadband service. The stakes today are even larger, and the pole access barriers imposed by pole owners therefore of much greater import. Chairman Pai and the FCC Commissioners should be applauded for initiating this proceeding and committing to address these issues.

Swift FCC action is imperative because ACA  members and other attachers continue to face major problems in obtaining quick and reasonable access to poles.  ACA's proposed remedies address those concerns and are consistent with the safety and reliability interests of utilities and federal, State, and local governments. 

ACA continued its quest for substantial pole attachment reform in reply comments filed July 17 as part of an FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that sought input from stakeholders with proposals designed to accelerate wireline broadband deployment by removing barriers to infrastructure investment.  ACA's initial comments filed on June 15th and the reply comments just filed focused on updating and reforming the FCC's's regulations regarding poles owned or controlled by investor-owned utilities and incumbent telecommunications providers.

ACA explained that the source of pole attachment problems is clear:  Many utilities subject to Section 224 of the Communications Act oppose or otherwise resist government directives requiring them to permit cable, telecommunications, and broadband providers to attach on a just and reasonable basis.

To counter these continued efforts at undermining the effectiveness of federal law, ACA said the FCC needed to take immediate action to ensure that broadband deployment can occur at a pace that rewards risk-taking by firms that is designed to improve the communications service offered to consumers.

Specifically, ACA said the FCC should:

  • Expedite pole attachments by eliminating the need to file applications in certain instances; ensuring attacher access to pole information; and requiring utilities to establish transparent and reasonable application requirements and processes;
  • Shorten the timeline for routine attachments of a limited number of poles;
  • Improve the effectiveness of the make-ready "self-help" remedy;
  • Ensure make-ready charges are just and reasonable; and
  • Increase pole attachment enforcement effectiveness.

ACA noted that the cumulative impact of its recommendations - backed up by such things as a 180-day shot clock to resolve a pole attachment complaint - will remove barriers that materially inhibit the deployment of network infrastructure.  ACA's belief in the effectiveness of its proposal is supported by the accounts of ACA members that attested in declarations that when faced with unreasonable pole attachment delays, costs, and terms and conditions, they have little choice but to postpone or limit their build or not build at all.

Their customers then go without - or are delayed in receiving - adequate, reasonably priced service, harming economic growth, the provision of social services, and public safety.

About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 750 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for nearly 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America.  Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA's members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business.  For more information, visit http://www.americancable.org/

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