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INTX 2015: Wheeler Pledges No 'Excessive' Pole Attachment Rates

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said Wednesday that the FCC would "align" pole attachment rates for cable and telecom operators.

"I intend to ensure that you do not confront excessive rates for pole attachments," he said in a speech at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association's INTX convention in Chicago.

Wheeler said the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau is issuing a short public notice seeking comment on "the pending NCTA and COMPTEL petition for reconsideration seeking to clarify the Commission's intent from its 2011 reforms to level-set the cable and telecommunications rates for pole attachments," he said. "Once the record is refreshed, my expectation is that a recommendation will be made to the full Commission to take any action it can to further align cable and telecommunication rates."

Cable operators, including NCTA and the American Cable Association, had been pushing the FCC to act before it reclassified ISPs as telecoms under Title II.

The telecom rate has traditionally been higher than the cable rate. The FCC voted in 2011 to harmonize the rates, but the opportunity remained for pole owners to charge higher rates under some circumstances. NCTA, COMPTEL and others sought to resolve that situation in a petition for reconsideration filed back in 2011, asking the FCC to insure that broadband providers can attach at the lowest rate available under FCC rules.

NCTA and ACA argue that reclassifying broadband as a telecom without granting the petition left them exposed to hundreds of millions of dollars in increased pole-attachment fees, which is why they wanted FCC action on the petition before the vote, and after almost four years in the pipeline.

The FCC's new Title II reclassification is slated to go into effect June 12, though both NCTA and ACA have filed suit to block the rules and petitioned the FCC last week to stay enforcement while the court case is ongoing.

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.