At last month’s Broadband Acceleration Initiative workshop, outgoing FCC Chairman Genachowski announced that the FCC would soon release a notice launching an inquiry into pole attachment costs as part of its effort to further reduce barriers to broadband build-out. This announcement followed on the heels of the Chairman’s issuance of the Gigabit Cities Challenge, which urges broadband providers and state and municipal community leaders to establish ultra-fast, affordable broadband connections in at least one community in every state by 2015.

Pole attachment delays and costs routinely have been cited by broadband providers as barriers to swift and ubiquitous deployment of networks. The Congressionally directed National Broadband Plan released in 2010 recognized that the cost of deploying a broadband network depends significantly on the costs that service providers incur to access poles, conduits and rights of way. The FCC sought to address these concerns in its April 2011 order (affirmed by the D.C. Circuit January 2013) lowering rental rates for telecommunications attachments and imposing timeframes on pole owners for processing attachment applications.

However, recent statements by small cable operators and broadband newcomers, including broadband grant recipients and Google, Inc. – that utility pole attachment practices factor into a company’s deployment decisions – appear to have prompted the FCC to take another look at pole attachment related costs and their impact on deployment of gigabit networks. Buford Media attributed its decision to shut down four systems in Arkansas and Texas to high costs for pole attachment fees. We will keep you apprised of any developments in this area, including when the notice initiating the FCC proceeding is released.