The American Cable Association applauded the Federal Communications Commission for moving decisively to establish new rules that will set the stage for more timely and affordable access to utility poles by small cable companies working hard to advance broadband deployment in remote areas of the country.
"ACA applauds the FCC 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," American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.
On May 20, the FCC adopted rules regulating pole attachments along lines recommended in its National Broadband Plan (NBP) for promoting broadband deployment and competition. The FCC said its rules would make broadband more affordable and available by reducing the time and cost to access utility poles, an essential piece of infrastructure.
Additionally, the FCC launched a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) seeking comment on whether to revise pole attachment rates to make them as low and as close to uniform as possible -- in an effort to reduce the disparity between current telecom and cable rates. The FCC said different rates for different entities sharing the same pole space did not make sense when the cost of providing the space is the same to the utility pole owner.
In 1978, Congress first granted the FCC authority to regulate pole attachments for cable television operators, but excluded the Commission from doing so where the owner of the attachment is a railroad, cooperative or government entity, or where attachments are regulated by state.
On April 5, ACA sent a letter to the FCC explaining that in many states, ACA member companies are required to pay excessive pole rates to unregulated electric co-ops and municipal utilities, increasing the cost of broadband deployment in small markets and rural areas and imposing a disproportionately negative impact on rural subscribers. ACA asserted that high pole rates slow the delivery of broadband in sparsely populated rural areas.
"ACA hopes Congress will respond to the FCC's recent pole attachment actions by passing legislation, as recommended by the Commission in its NBP, that would eliminate municipalities and electric co-operatives' exemption under the Pole Attachment Act of 1978 that allows them to charge excessive fees to rural broadband providers," ACA's Polka said.