CWA Slams Potential Expansion of ‘One-Touch’ Pole Attachments

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(Image credit: Communications Workers of America)

Faced with the prospect of Connecticut expanding the state’s one-touch, make-ready (OTMR) policy for communications buildouts, the Communications Workers of America is pushing back, filing comments with the state's Public Utility Regulatory Authority arguing that OTMR threatens public safety and worker security.

In August 2018 the FCC voted unanimously, with one partial dissent by current acting chair Jessica Rosenworcel, to adopt a one-touch, make-ready (OTMR) policy for new broadband attachments on utility poles.

The idea behind OTMR is to speed broadband deployments while ensuring the pole work is done safely. For example, complex connections or ones where the safety risks are greater, such as high up on a pole, will still be subject to multi-touches.

At the time of the vote, then-FCC chairman Ajit Pai said pole attachments were one of the biggest barriers to broadband deployment, and that OTMR promises to ”substantially“ lower costs and reduce the time to attach. He likened the lack of OTMR to making separate round trips to the grocery store for each item on a shopping list.

CWA argues the “done safely” part is missing from the regime, as well as skilled CWA members when the make-ready is done by non-union workers.

“OTMR would allow telecommunication companies that want to put new equipment on utility poles to move existing equipment themselves without sufficient oversight from safety inspectors or the owners of the utility pole,” the union in its comments. “Meanwhile, these companies often use untrained third-party contractors for this work, undermining the collective bargaining agreements of the skilled telecom employees who originally installed the equipment.”

The union included photos of what it said was faulty contract work “throughout Connecticut,” including “hanging fiber cables, disconnected from the strands that hold them in the air; damaged utility poles; fiber cables left on public sidewalks and in snowbanks; lack of warning signs or cones when work is being conducted on public streets; poles improperly secured; and more.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.