FCC Approves One-Touch Pole Attachments

The FCC has voted unanimously, though with one partial dissent, to adopt a one-touch, make-ready (OTMR) policy for new broadband attachments on utility poles.

The third Report & Order and declaratory ruling allows new attachers -- like cable broadband providers and Google Fiber -- to perform all the "simple" work of preparing and attaching the wires.

The ruling also declares in no uncertain terms that states and localities are prohibited from imposing moratoria on broadband buildouts.

The item codifies that new wires can overlash existing attachments to maximize the space available and regularizes the rate incumbents pay for attachments vs. cable and telco attachers.

Related: Cable Ops Push for Codified Overlashing Rules

The idea is to speed broadband deployments while ensuring the pole work is done safely. Fox 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.

Ajit Pai, FCC chair, 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.

Related: FCC Proposes to Ease Path to Next-Gen Nets

He said nothing in the record supported requiring stronger indemnification for incumbent attachers, a potential negative impact on jobs, or arguments that existing attachers should be determining which attachments are simple vs. complex. Pai cited Google Fiber's opposition to all of those.

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who cast the partial dissent, said while she agreed with speeding attachment, she believes the FCC had rushed the item and run roughshod over important details, accepting too much ambiguity in definitions and processes. She said that would slow, rather than speed, deployment. She said the FCC could and should do more to protect jobs and safety, and provide more guidance to both attachers and the utility pole owners.

Commissioner Michael O'Rielly focused his comments like a laser, or more like a howitzer, on the moratoria.

Read More | MCN's Coverage of Pole Attachment Issues

He said there was universal agreement that broadband should be available to all Americans, but that a select group of states and localities were slowing the process to feed their ego, or increase their power or to collect "shakedown" bounties.

O'Rielly said he did not buy the argument that more time and cooperation was needed.

He said states had been on notice for decades that Congress did not like moratori, which he called an outrageous practice.

He said he knew the FCC's assertion of preemption, which the FCC said would be targeted and on a case-by-case basis, would be challenged in court, but he called those moratoria mindless delays and extortion, including digital inclusion funds that he called slush funds that raise costs to consumers.

Pai said there may be reasonable ways for states and localities to regulate buildouts, but blocking buildouts was not one. 

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.