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One Touch Make Ready Passes-Limitations Still Exist PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 07 August 2018 12:24

The Federal Communications Commission continued its efforts to promote broadband deployment and competition on August 2 by speeding the process and reducing the costs of attaching new network facilities to utility poles.

To enable broadband providers to enter new markets and deploy high-speed networks, access to poles must be swift, predictable, safe, and affordable. Pole access also is essential in the race to deploy fast 5G wireless service, which relies on small cells and wireline backhaul.

The Commission fundamentally reformed the federal framework governing pole attachments by adopting a process in which the new “attacher” moves existing attachments and performs all other work required to make the pole ready for a new attachment. Called “one-touch, makeready,” this process speeds and reduces the cost of broadband deployment by allowing the party with the strongest incentive—the new attacher—to prepare the pole quickly, rather than spreading the work across multiple parties.

By some estimates, one-touch, make-ready alone could result in approximately 8.3 million incremental premises passed with fiber and about $12.6 billion in incremental fiber capital expenditures. The process will not apply to more complicated attachments, or above the “communications space” of a pole, where safety and reliability risks are greater, but the Order improves current processes for attachments in these spaces.

The Commission also addressed two forms of state and local regulatory barriers to the deployment of wireline and wireless facilities. The Report and Order makes clear that the FCC will preempt, on a case-by-case basis, state and local laws that inhibit the rebuilding or restoration of broadband infrastructure after a disaster. And in a Declaratory Ruling, the FCC made clear that blanket state and local moratoria on telecommunications services and facilities deployment are barred by the Communications Act because they, in the language of Section 253(a), “prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the ability of any entity to provide any interstate or intrastate telecommunications service.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai noted that startups are unnecessarily delayed when they have to wait for incumbent ISPs before hanging wires.

Pai said, “For a competitive entrant, especially a small company, breaking into the market can be hard, if not impossible, if your business plan relies on other entities to make room for you on those poles. Today, a broadband provider that wants to attach fiber or other equipment to a pole first must wait for, and pay for, each existing attacher to sequentially move existing equipment and wires. This can take months, and the bill for multiple truck rolls adds up. For companies of any size, pole-attachment problems represent one of the biggest barriers to broadband deployment.”

The FCC changes won't solve the problem of slow deployment everywhere. FCC pole-attachment rules apply only to privately owned poles, as opposed to poles owned by municipalities and cooperatives. The FCC rules also don't apply in states that have opted out of the federal regime in order to use their own methods of regulating pole attachments. Twenty states and Washington, DC, have previously opted out of the federal pole-attachment rules, while pole attachments in the other 30 states are governed by FCC rules.

The FCC is adopting One Touch Make Ready only for "simple attachments."  A shortened version of the old process will apply to attachments that are "complex," meaning they are likely to cause outages or damages. A shortened version of the old process will also apply on the upper parts of a pole, where high-voltage electrical equipment is kept.

Republican Commissioner Michael O'Rielly blamed cities and towns for "outrageous practice[s]" that prevent broadband deployment. "Every ounce of Congressional authority provided to the Commission must be used as a counterforce against moratoriums, which is just another word for 'mindless delay' or 'extortion attempts to generate some local officials' wish list,'" O'Rielly said.

As an example, O'Rielly criticized cities and towns for requiring telecom providers to contribute to "digital inclusion funds" that boost residents' access to technology. O'Rielly said these are "political slush funds and raise the cost of service for consumers." Austin Texas wants to use the fund to assist illegal immigrants. Hard to understand how that promotes broadband for legal citizens…