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FCC’s New Utility-pole Guidelines Aim to Bolster Broadband

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski

In an effort to boost broadband expansion, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski has proposed lowering the fees telecommunications firms traditionally have to pay to use electric companies’ utility poles.

When a telecom attaches equipment to a utility pole — what POLITICO described as those “ugly sticks in the ground” — it faces an attachment fee, which ends up being about 20 percent of the total cost of deploying fiber optic cable needed for broadband networks, according to FCC estimates, FierceTelecom reports.

New agency regulations aim to take on the  attachments fees to reduce the uncertainty that deters investment in broadband networks, FCC conjectures.

FCC’s new rules would:

  • Set a general maximum time frame of 148 days for utility companies to allow pole attachments in the communications space
  • Set the rate for attachments by telecommunications companies at or near the rate paid by cable companies

However, the new rules are likely to set up a fight between telecoms and utility companies. While telecoms generally enthused about the new rules, not so the power companies.

“It shifts the cost to the electricity consumer from the ones who want to attach to the pole,” Aryeh Fishman, Edison Electric Institute’s regulatory legal affairs director, told POLITICO.

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