In April, 2011, the FCC released an order that gives non-discriminatory access to pole tops, regulated rates, and timely access to utility poles for the DAS antennas and other wireless technologies.
Essentially, the order:
- Set a maximum timeframe of 148 days for utilities to complete make ready work for pole attachments in the communications space, and 178 days for pole top attachments. It allows an extra 60 days for requests of between 300 and 3,000 poles.
- Set the rate for any attachment by telecommunications companies at or near the rate paid by cable companies. Wireless providers are entitled to the same rate as other telecommunications carriers.
- Confirms that wireless providers have a right to access pole tops.
- Allows ILECs, which are not covered by the rate schedule, to file complaints with the FCC for relief from unreasonable rates, terms and conditions.
- Clarifies that a denial to a request to attach must explain the specific capacity, safety, reliability, or engineering concern.
- Removes the cap on penalties for unauthorized attachments.
- Encourages negotiated resolution of disputes and pre-planning and coordination between pole owners and attachers, which will be taken into account in any enforcement action.
The FCC’s oversight of utility poles stems from Section 224 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which directs the FCC to ensure that rates, terms, and conditions for pole attachments by cable television systems and providers of telecommunications services are just and reasonable.
This recent Order is specifically for “pole attachments” – antennas and equipment located on utility poles. This also cuts the amount of revenue that a city can obtain (or the pole owner) to a rate that is “at or near” rates paid by cable companies. Typically, those rates are around $7 per foot; some pole rentals were at $20 a foot. Since some cable company lease payments were from decades ago, this will give wireless companies a lower rate for pole space rental.