ACA: Higher Pole Rates Is One Potential Title II Hit

Says FCC Should Harmonize Rates as NCTA Has Requested
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The American Cable Association has another reason not to like Title II: the price of the poles.

In a letter to the FCC this week, ACA President Matt Polka said that if the FCC does reclassify broadband access under Title II regulations, which ACA opposes, that should not translate into higher pole-attachment rates, especially for the smaller and medium-sized operators that ACA represents.

If not, ISPs will start having to pay the higher telecom rate, which Polka points out would raise rates the cost of broadband to consumers and discourage investment, two things the FCC does not want to do as it promotes universal adoption of broadband.

Polka associated himself with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association effort to resolve the issue by lowering the pole attachment rate for telecoms to the cable rate. The FCC voted in 2011 to harmonize the rates, but there remained at least the opportunity for pole owners to charge higher rates under some circumstances and NCTA, along with Comptel and others, sought to resolve that in a petition for reconsideration filed back in 2011.(

"This action would, among other things, continue to compensate pole owners fairly, eliminate competitively significant distortions created by the FCC’s bifurcated pole attachment regulatory structure and encourage providers to put their risk capital to work for a better broadband experience for consumers, particularly those located in rural areas," he said.

At a Senate hearing on network neutrality legislation Wednesday (Jan. 21), Tom Simmons, SVP of public policy for Midcontenent Communications, told the Senators that an increased pole attachment rate would be a "great burden" on smaller operators, particularly in rural areas where they would need a lot of attachments. It is hard to go underground through the granite of the Black Hills, he said. He conceded operators could, at least for a while, blame increased costs to consumers on government, but that might ultimately cost them in customer good will.

That is actually not the only pole-attachment related argument in the net neutrality debate

Cable operators have told the FCC that Google Fiber does not need Title II reclassification of Internet Access Service to get nondiscriminatory access to poles and other conduits.

Section 224 of Title II already gives telecoms and traditional cable system operators nondiscriminatory pole attachment rights, though at different rates. But nontraditional operators like Google Fiber, which does not offer its standalone broadband access service on a common carrier basis, do not, says the company.

NCTA agrees with Google that the FCC should not take any action that would interfere with existing pole attachment rights under Sec. 224 (,but argues that Google's desire to be afforded those rights is not a defense of Title II since it argues Google already has access to those rights if it chooses to exercise them.