FCC Issues Clarification on Pole-Attachment Cost Shifting

Exterior of the FCC building in Washington, D.C.
(Image credit: FCC)

In a partial victory for cable operators, the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau has clarified that utility pole owners cannot charge the entire replacement cost for a pole when the party requesting to attach to that pole is not the sole cause for that replacement.

That came in a declaratory ruling that stemmed from its decision, also announced Tuesday (Jan. 19), to deny a petition by NCTA-the Internet & Television Association.

Also Read: FCC Seeks Comment on Pole Request

In July of last year, NCTA asked that the FCC clarify that in unserved areas, it was unjust and unreasonable for utility pole owners to charge new attackers the entire replacement costs. The bureau, in denying that declaration, said it was more appropriately handled in a rulemaking proceeding, which would allow for more tailored regulations.

But it also said that in response to the record prompted by the NCTA petition, it found that some utilities might be delaying replacements until they got a request for a new attachment, at which time it charged the entire price of the pole to that new attacher.

In order to try and put an end to that, it came out with the declaration about not shifting the entire cost to the new attacher when there were already other reasons for replacement.

Also Read: FCC Defends Pole Attachment Dereg

“Today’s ruling will help promote broadband deployment by providing additional clarity regarding pole attachment arrangements and we look forward to a future proceeding to consider these issues more fully so as to unleash as much broadband investment as possible," said NCTA-The Internet & Television Association of the partial victory.

ACA Connects commends the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau for issuing a Declaratory Ruling that begins to clarify the obligations of investor-owned utilities, who are subject to the federal pole attachment statute, to allocate pole replacement costs in a just and reasonable manner," said association President Matt Polka. "The Bureau appropriately ruled that investor-owned utilities may not charge new attachers for pole replacements if they are not the sole cause for the pole replacement."

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.