Charter, NCTA, ACA urge FCC to bring utilities to heel on pole attachments

Google Fiber pole attachment screencap
Charter, NCTA, ACA urge FCC to bring utilities to heel on pole attachments.

The cable industry’s top lobbying groups filed comments this week related to an April NPRM intended to spur deployment of fiber wireline services. 

“Attachers face problems in obtaining access to poles, ducts, and conduit for two primary reasons. First, many utilities oppose mandated access to these facilities and have little, if any, incentive to provide access on a reasonable basis,” said the American Cable Association. 

“The second problem attachers face is that the Commission’s complaint process has proven to be of little value to attachers, especially smaller entities, in addressing all but the most serious and substantial attachment problems,” ACA added. 

Charter Communications also rhetorically weighed in, saying, “Charter is committed to expanding the reach of its high-speed broadband network including to rural communities. In the last year alone we have taken steps to deploy high-speed broadband to unconnected homes  and businesses across the country, including in Wisconsin, California and Massachusetts. We look forward to working with the Commission on solutions that protect consumers from service disruptions and duplicative fees which can make broadband less accessible for consumers.”

NCTA said that utilities are artificially extending FCC deadlines for handling pole-attachment applications, and that cable operators are being charged fees already incurred in their pole rentals. 

On April 20, the FCC established the notice of proposed rulemaking, “In the Matter of Accelerating Wireline Broadband Deployment by Removing Barrier to Infrastructure Investment,” which is intended to help operators build new networks.

Understandably, cable lobbyists are eager to chime in with suggestions. 

The ACA, for example, is asking FCC to simplify hoops operators endure when they overlash and install drops to existing customers. The group wants to enable operators to receive compensatory damages and recoup legal fees when utilities cause unreasonable delays on pole attachments. ACA also wants symmetrical indemnification provisions between attachers and utilities, and it wants to limit penalties for unauthorized attachments to “an amount no greater than that provided under the recent Oregon Public Utility Commissions ruling.”

"The declarations of ACA members—who are investing in network upgrades and new deployments—provide abundant evidence that they continue to face hurdles in obtaining fair and reasonable access to poles and that the FCC needs to act in its Wireline Infrastructure rulemaking to remedy them,” said ACA President and CEO Matthew Polka, in a statement. 

“By removing barriers to infrastructure investment and reforming rules that increase costs and slow network deployment as ACA details in its comments, the FCC will make the pole attachment process work better for attachers and utilities alike and foster the expansion of high-performance broadband service, including to rural and unserved areas,” Polka added.