New "One Touch Make-Ready" Regime Proposed with Shortened Timeframes and Revised Terms for Completing Pole Attachments Draft Declaratory Ruling Would Prohibit State and Local Moratoria on Wireline and Wireless Deployment

Last spring, largely responding to claims by Google Fiber that existing attachers and sequential make-ready costs and delays were impeding broadband deployment, the FCC circulated a proposal for substantial changes to its pole attachment make-ready rules and associated timelines to accelerate the deployment of new networks and attachments to utility poles. A few jurisdictions around the country also adopted new accelerated make-ready policies with mixed success. Now, in a draft Third Report and Order and Declaratory Ruling scheduled for an August 2 vote, the FCC has proposed its own "one touch make-ready" ("OTMR") process to speed up attachments for both wireline and wireless attachments to utility poles. The draft order would allow new attachers to use their own utility-approved or qualified contractors to perform "simple" make-ready on existing attachments in the communications space. It would also create a "self-help" remedy authorizing new attachers to directly hire utility-approved contractors to do "complex" communications make-ready and work above the communications space, including in the power supply space, depending on the extent to which the pole owner and incumbent attachers do not meet the new accelerated timelines.

In addition to OTMR, the draft Order substantially shortens timeframes for all make-ready work and codifies existing rules prohibiting advance approval for overlashing and imposing limits on advance overlashing notice requirements. The draft Order also expressly prohibits pole owners from charging new attachers or overlashers for correcting pre-existing safety violations or using such non-compliance to delay attachment or overlashing and requires all make-ready estimates and final invoices to be detailed and itemized.

In a separate declaratory ruling designed to help speed the deployment of competitive facilities and services, the draft also proposes to preempt any state or local government express or de facto moratoria on processing telecommunications facilities deployment as a violation of Section 253 of the Communications Act. If adopted, this Declaratory Ruling would be a significant victory for companies seeking to deploy communications facilities in local rights of way.

Read the full analysis here.