FCC Likely to Lower Pole-Attachment Rates at April Meeting

The FCC 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. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said
last week that the FCC would consider final rules at its April meeting as
well as open the inquiry into federal, state, and local rights-of-way

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.

Genachowski 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 FCCshould 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 EVP. "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 un-served communities."

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

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.