The FCC’s May 20, 2010 open meeting is expected to bring the next agency order on pole attachments, accompanied by a further notice of proposed rulemaking asking for additional comments about how the regulations should be revised.  The FCC will have its choice of subjects to tackle when it comes to pole attachments, as there are many proposed changes before the Commission in this area spanning thousands of pages of industry input. 

As we originally advised in 2007, the FCC’s original NPRM on pole attachments asked various questions, including: 

(1) If and how the different rate formulas for cable and telecom attachments should be changed,

(2) Whether ILECs should have the same rights as other communications providers under Section 224,

(3) What new rules for the attachment of wireless antennas to poles should be adopted, and

(4) Should regulations be adopted to enforce stricter application and make-ready timing requirements for communications providers wishing to attach equipment to poles. 

In August of 2009, a group of electric utilities filed a declaratory ruling petition asking the FCC to impose the higher telecom rate on all pole attachments used to provide VoIP. The FCC solicited comments on the petitions and again received thorough feedback. This was followed by months of regular lobbying concerning both the declaratory ruling petition and the NPRM. 

As discussed in our analysis of the Broadband Plan, to promote the national goals of expanding broadband deployment and adoption, the FCC has since indicated preferences for lowering the telecom rate to bring it closer to the cable rate, and for quicker pole access for communications providers, contrary to the proposals of pole owners.  Given this, the May 20 order and FNPRM will likely follow suit, although which of the above issues the FCC will resolve in its order and which it will push to the next round of notice and comment rulemaking remains an unanswered question. 

The Broadband Law Advisor is following these issues closely and will post updates when significant developments occur.