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No Pole Price Hike, Says Cable

Cable operators are asking the FCC not to establish a uniform price for attaching to utility poles they say would be an unfair tax of hundreds of millions of dollars and a disincentive to broadband deployment.

In a letter to the FCC, cable operators said Friday that broadband providers should pay the same rate to attach to poles as cable operators do, saying that was the fairest way to compensate pole owners and promote broadband service.

The FCC is considering how to change the pole-attachment rate regime to better reflect broadband delivery and achieve regulatory parity among service providers.

Phone companies (and pole owners) AT&T and Verizon have proposed that cable operators' rates be increased to reflect the fact that they are delivering broadband as well as cable service. But the National Cable & Telecommunications Association argues that would be a tax on broadband delivery running into the hundreds of millions of dollars, to the excessive benefit of pole owners and the detriment of cable operators and competitive local exchange carriers.

NCTA argues that the fee-change proposal by Verizon and AT&T would boost broadband service costs by up to $600 million annually when the rate they pay has already determined to be just compensation for the space they take up. NCAT argues the best solution is to extend that rate to all broadband suppliers, which means not boosting cable's rate just because it now delivers a mixed service of video and data.

While AT&T and Verizon argue there should be a uniform rate, one that would boost cable's price for attachments, NCTA says that it should be based on usage. "Assigning costs “equally” to an electric utility that uses 8-12 feet of space and a cable attachment that uses less than 1 foot of space has been rejected time and again by the Commission and by state public service commissions," NCTA argues.