FCC Likely To Lower Pole-Attachment Rates At April Meeting

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The Federal Communications Commission will tackle reforms of pole attachment rules and will seek input on improving rights-of-way policies at an April meeting focused on boosting broadband deployment by wired and wireless carriers.

That is according to a tentative agenda for the April 7 public meeting.

The FCC said last May in launching the pole access reform process that the goal was to set pole-attachment rental rates "as low and close to uniform as possible" while speeding the process of attaching to those poles. Both are seen as a way to stimulate broadband deployment and competition. The FCC made pole attachment reform a part of the national broadband plan and one of its first action items.

Also on the list for FCC action are rules on data roaming and otherwise boosting wireless broadband coverage.

There is also an inquiry into existing reliability standards for networks, broadband and otherwise, to avoid disruptions during disasters.

The FCC already has an open proceeding on revising rules on access to utility poles and chairman Julius Genachowski said last week that the commission would consider final rules at its April meeting as well as open the inquiry into federal, state, and local rights-of-way regulations.

The goal is to remove impediments to broadband deployment, and while the FCC is increasingly focused on wireless broadband, with cable operators still having done much of that deployment, they stand to benefit from speeding of the right-of-way and pole attachment processes.

The chairman has said that the faster it can resolve rights-of-way issues including pole attachments, ducts, tower citing (wireless) and one-dig initiatives, the faster and deeper it can achieve broadband deployment. "We must insure that the process for deploying infrastructure is as efficient and streamlined as possible," he said.

While utilities have wanted the FCC to raise the cable attachment rate to the higher telecom rate, arguing that VoIP is the functional equivalent, cable operators have long argued that the FCC should lower others to its rate to help boost broadband deployment.

"We commend  chairman Genachowski for moving forward on the important issue of wireless data roaming," said James Assey, National Cable & Telecommunications Association executive vice president. " As new entrants look to expand consumer choice for wireless Internet access service using licensed spectrum, enforceable roaming rights enable competitors to offer a nationwide service and compete with incumbent providers. We also support the Chairman's efforts to establish appropriate and more uniform pole attachment rates that will provide much-needed regulatory certainty and will encourage providers to extend broadband networks to unserved communities."

Assey is the interim chief of NCTA as president Kyle McSlarrow preps for his move to Comcast/NBCU. His successor, Michael Powell, takes over April 25.

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