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David Salway

FCC Wants to Reduce Pole Fees to Stimulate Broadband Expansion

By April 7, 2011

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nullAs it stands now, telecommunication companies wanting to build broadband infrastructure need to use power company poles to carry their fiber and equipment through neighborhoods, and eventually to homes and businesses they want to service.† With something as ubiquitous as electricity, poles extend to areas where broadband service would love to go. †Power companies charge telephone and cable companies a fee for attaching equipment and wires to their poles, and these fees generate a large amount of revenue for power companies.¬† The FCC wants to regulate how much power companies charge as a "pole attachment fee".

The FCC is likely to vote this week on a proposal to lower these fees. Zachary Katz, advisor to Chairman Julius Genachowski, said:

"Genachowski has set top priorities for the agency: unleashing spectrum, reforming and modernizing the Universal Service Fund, accelerating broadband deployment and promoting competition.† This is a strong and balanced order that will significantly reduce barriers to both wired and wireless broadband deployment."

Pole attachments amount to approximately 20% of the total cost to deploy broadband, and these costs are currently unregulated.† The FCC does not have the authority over all pole attachments. In fact, the FCC only has jurisdiction over 50 million of 134 million poles.† The remaining poles are regulated by state government, or are exempt because localities or nonutility companies own them.

The FCC move is facing resistance from the power companies. They claim that computing fees for pole attachments is a complicated process.† They claim that many conditions such as threat of traffic, the weight of the equipment being placed on the pole, and weather conditions can all affect performance and reliability.† They cite numerous†technical and legal considerations that make this issue more complicated than simply universally lowering the rates.

Nevertheless, the broadband industry states this is an important issue, and lowering pole attachment fees will increase broadband deployment.


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