EEI, UTC oppose FCC pole attachment proposals

Washington, D.C., August 18, 2010 — The latest pole attachment proposals threaten worker safety by unreasonably expediting the pole attachment process, according to the Edision Electric Institute and the Utilities Telecom Council.

According to these organizations, the proposals would subsidize the communications industry at the expense of electric customers and would undermine the safety and reliability of the nation’s electric grid.

That is what UTC and EEI said in joint comments, which oppose the Federal Communications Commission’s latest proposals regarding access and rates for pole attachments.

Specifically, UTC and EEI opposed proposals for timelines for make ready, use of third party contractors for make ready, a pole attachment database, compensatory damages and rates for telecommunications attachments.

UTC and EEI explained that these proposals will not advance the goal of broadband access and that the FCC generally lacks authority to implement many of these proposals.

The FCC’s authority to regulate pole attachments is limited and extends only to review complaints on a case-by-case basis; it does not authorize the FCC to supersede utility engineering standards and to subject utilities to compensatory damages like a court of law.

The comments further explained that as a practical matter, many of these proposals are inflexible and unworkable; and that many of these proposals would threaten the safety and reliability of electric distribution poles, ducts and conduit.

For example, the FCC proposal to require the use of third party contractors for make ready would undermine a utility’s control over its infrastructure; and the proposal to create a pole attachment database would raise security concerns and would require utilities to devote substantial effort and resources while providing little if any tangible benefit to expedite the pole attachment process.

William R. Moroney, President and CEO of UTC, stated that, “The FCC’s latest pole attachment proposals are unsafe and a subsidy for the communications industry. They override utility discretion to deny access for reasons of safety, reliability, insufficient capacity and generally applicable engineering practices. In addition, the FCC unreasonably interprets the Pole Attachment Act to limit cost recovery for telecommunications attachments.”

In its recommendations, the FCC has proposed to establish a timeline by which utilities must process and complete “make ready”, which entails altering or replacing poles and the communications attachments thereon in order to accommodate new attachments.

The FCC has also proposed to require utilities to allow attachers to hire third-party contractors to perform make ready if utilities fail to meet these deadlines. In order to further expedite the pole attachment process, the FCC has proposed that utilities publicly post information on their inventory of pole attachments to a centralized database and that attachers be able to recover compensatory damages in pole attachment disputes.

Finally, the FCC has proposed revising the rental rate that applies to telecommunications attachments, such that the minimum rate would exclude the capital costs of pole attachments and only recover the incremental costs of pole attachments.

 

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