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FCC Order Grants NCTA/COMPTEL Pole-Attachment Petition

According to sources inside and outside the FCC, an order circulated by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler grants "across the board" the petition by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and COMPTEL to regularize the pole attachment rates for cable and telecoms.

That is the rates charged cable and telecom providers to attach their wires to utility poles.

The source said the item has not yet been voted.

The chairman circulated the order in response to thepetition, which sought to insure the FCC effort to lower pole-attachment rates really does that in a Title II ISP world. According to a source, the practical effect of the order is to make the rates sufficiently similar so that the difference "does not matter."

Telecoms historically paid more for those pole attachments than cable ops. But in the interests of promoting broadband, the FCC in 2011 tried to harmonize the rates by lowering the telecom rate to the cable rate. That turned out not to have worked in practice "in all circumstances," said cable operators, something the FCC concedes, and gave pole owners a cost-allocation alternative that allowed them to still charge a higher rate. NCTA and COMPTEL asked the FCC to fix that.

The FCC declined to forbear from the pole-attachment rate provisions in Title II, but the FCC cautioned that “any increase in the rates” prompted by the reclassification would be “unacceptable as a policy matter.”

The American Cable Association has been pushing the FCC to act on the NCTA petition, given that the Title II reclassification took effect June 12. ACA and NCTA both urged the FCC earlier in the year to deal with the pole attachment issue before it took the action on new Open Internet rules, which did not happen.

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.