News - March 13, 2024

INCOMPAS Encourages FCC to Act Now on Large Poles Proceeding

WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 12, 2024
– INCOMPAS , the internet and competitive networks association, filed reply comments today on the Federal Communications Commission’s Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking encouraging the Commission to act now and modify its rules on large pole orders of over 3,000 or more poles and help define make-ready timelines to prevent future delays on deployment projects.

“As a leading trade association for innovation and technology across the country, it is imperative to improve and speed up the processing of large pole orders to ensure that the grantees of government broadband funding will be able to meet required construction milestones in the next few years,” said INCOMPAS CEO Chip Pickering.

“The record reflects significant concerns from competitive providers and new attachers that the current make-ready framework for large pole orders is simply not working and relying on make-ready negotiations to take place between pole owners and attachers is far from clear and predictable. INCOMPAS members are often waiting months for the utility (or its contractor) to conduct make-ready or replace utility poles,” Pickering continued. “Many of the delays are caused by the inability to engage in self-help, the lack of transparency into whether the utility has the resources to complete make-ready in accordance with deadlines, and the impact of contractor availability. Therefore, it is important for the Commission to address the timelines for processing large pole orders and the requirements for self-help to ensure that consumers can get access to new broadband networks as fast as possible and connect unserved parts of the country more quickly.”

“Additionally, we urge the Commission to not only prohibit utilities from limiting the size of an application or the number of poles included in an attachers’ application, but also to modify its rules to enable attachers to access poles through “self-help” tactics when utilities fail to conduct pole attachment surveys, estimates, replacements or prepare poles for attachments within the agency’s required make-ready timelines,” said Pickering. “We support the Commission establishing requirements for utilities to inform attachers early in the process about their ability to process applications or complete make-ready work. And if pole owners are unable to meet these deadlines, then attachers should be allowed to choose their own qualified contractors without prior utility approval. By modifying its rules on large pole orders, the Commission can take immediate action to reduce new attachers’ barriers to deployment, alleviate bottlenecks as they currently exist, and achieve its goals of bridging the digital divide and connecting unserved parts of the country to the much-needed, affordable internet services more quickly.”