Utilities, Broadband Providers Split on Pole Attachment Rate Policy: Broadband Breakfast

WASHINGTON, June 7, 2022 — A contentious debate over whether the Federal Communications Commission should force pole-to-point rates to accelerate broadband rollout shows no signs of abating.

During a Broadband Breakfast Live Online conversation on the subject in late April, utility representatives parted ways with representatives of broadband providers and nonprofits, arguing for changes to current FCC policies.

In March, the FCC voted to seek comment on how utilities and pole riggers would share pole replacement costs.

The event, which took place on April 27, examined taxpayer experience in terms of access to the poles, with significant input from the Western Carolina University economics professor. Edward Lopez for he brought his experiences by conducting research on the extent to which, from a quantitative point of view, the current pole policy really serves the public interest.

Lopez pointed out that the lack of competition in pole attachment impeded public welfare, and discovered, through his studies, particular problems with this in North Carolina.

It’s not a lack of investment in pole fixing that’s causing gaps in broadband service, he said. noting considerable focus and funding for broadband through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

“The investment is there,” Lopez said.

According to Lopez, Florida and Kentucky are two of the states where delays like this that prevent the expansion of connectivity create the most pronounced financial losses.

Other panel members, including the vice president of policy at internet service provider Charter Communications Marc-Paul, praised the commission’s efforts to speed up the post attachments.

CEO of the Utilities Technology Council Sheryl Riggs said that to develop an effective policy, broadband subscribers must be involved in discussing the possibilities.

“We need to engage them, educate them, and engage them in conversations so they can provide information and feedback,” Riggs said.

Riggs emphasized the need for all entities involved in policy development, such as his own UTC, to work together with government agencies rather than simply relying on the FCC to resolve all pole-attachment issues. .

She noted that federal law does not require utilities to replace poles that hold fiber lines during ongoing service to expand broadband, but utility companies have done so and will continue to do so. in order to improve service to the public.

Without successful substantive action on pole policy, Riggs warned that project costs could simply float on ratepayers and prevent policymakers from being able to say they are increasing access in unserved areas. and underserved.

“If it comes down to utilities and then it comes down to taxpayers, then have we really solved the problem of rolling out broadband to unserved or underserved areas?” she asked.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesdays at noon ET. Watch the event on Broadband Breakfast or SIGN UP HERE to join the conversation.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022, 12 noon ET – New threads on old posts: Will the FCC change the rules for attachments?

The Federal Communications Commission recently proposed the development of rules to resolve disputes regarding pole replacement and attachment. Several industry groups have long sought such action. Do the FCC’s actions go far enough? What did they do well and what approaches need to be adjusted? Join us for this Broadband Breakfast event as panelists offer their perspectives on this ongoing issue.

Speakers:

  • Sheryl RiggsCEO, Utilities Technology Council
  • Aryeh FishmanAssociate General Counsel, Edison Electric Institute
  • Edward LopezProfessor, Western Carolina University
  • John WindhausenExecutive Director, Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition
  • Marc-PaulVice President, Policy, Charter Communications
  • Drew Clark (presenter and host), editor and publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist Resources:

  • “FCC Seeks Comments on Pole Replacement Rules,” Broadband Breakfast, March 18, 2022
  • “Pole Access Delays Costing Americans Millions A Month, Report Claims”, Broadband Breakfast, December 2, 2021
  • Waiting for broadband access: the schedule for access and replacement of polesConnecting the Future, April 2022
  • Advancing Pole Attachment Policies to Accelerate National Broadband DevelopmentConnecting the future, November 2021
  • Utility Pole Policy: A Cost-Effective Prescription for Full Broadband Access in North CarolinaNCCTA, August 18, 2021
  • FCC FNPRM Pole Attachment Project Gains Industry SupportCommunications Daily, March 9, 2022
  • “The Backbone of Broadband Infrastructure: Understanding the Importance of Utility Poles”, video by Connect the Future

Sheryl Osiene-Riggs was named President and Chief Executive Officer of UTC in June 2020, having previously served as Interim President and Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice President, Finance and Operations. Prior to joining UTC, she worked with organizations in the banking/finance, education, health and social services sectors. Ms. Riggs received her bachelor’s degree from Howard University, and she has also conferred two master’s degrees in accounting and human resource management.

Aryeh Fishman serves as Associate General Counsel, Regulatory Legal Affairs, for the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the trade association representing U.S. investor-owned electric utilities that collectively own and operate large overhead electric systems, including including utility poles, as part of the electrical industry’s mission to provide reliable, safe, secure and efficient electrical power to the public. He has worked on a wide variety of legal and public policy issues impacting the investor-owned power industry, including pole ties, colocation, mid-mile fiber deployments and spectrum.

Edward Lopez is Professor of Economics, BB&T Distinguished Professor of Capitalism and Director of the Center for the Study of Free Enterprise at Western Carolina University. He has taught academic economics for over two decades and is the author of over 60 scholarly publications and two books. He holds a doctorate. in Economics from George Mason University, where his areas of concentration were public economics and industrial organization.

John Windhausen is the Executive Director of the SHLB Coalition, a 501(c)(3) public interest nonprofit organization working to bridge the digital divide by promoting open, affordable, high-quality broadband for anchor institutions and their communities. He founded the coalition in 2009 with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It spearheads SHLB’s membership growth and shapes its broadband policy recommendations.

Marc-Paul is Vice President, Policy and External Affairs at Charter Communications. During his career, Mr. Paul has served as legal counsel to a commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, lead counsel to a United States Senator, and legal counsel to two private law firms. Mr. Paul holds a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and a BA from Cornell University.

Drew Clark is the editor and publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings together experts and practitioners to advance the benefits offered by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he spearheaded a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also president of the Congress of Rural Telecommunications.

Photo by Nicolás Gutierrez londoño from Image used with permission

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