Recent petitions seeking to expand federal pole-attachment rules are not only unlawful but also will frustrate, rather than expedite, rural broadband deployment, a massive coalition of electric utilities said.
In comments filed last week with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission), UTC, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) said these efforts also threaten the safe and reliable delivery of electricity to homes and businesses throughout the U.S.
At issue are petitions filed in early September by the wireless telecommunications industry’s trade group CTIA and the Wireless Infrastructure Association, which both request that the FCC take swift action to remove even more regulatory requirements on their attempts to attach small-cellular devices to utility infrastructure (Industry Intelligence, Sept. 16, 2019). In particular, the petition asks the FCC to declare that utility light poles be subject to the same pole-attachment requirements as other utility poles. The petitions also ask that the Commission prohibit utilities from exercising certain restraints on attaching communications equipment along the “unusable” portion of a utility pole.
These requests, the utility groups said, are unlawful and would jeopardize the safety and reliability of utility poles. Not only that, the petition is so broad it would essentially require the FCC to rewrite substantial new pole-attachment rules, resulting in a lengthy, litigious process that will also frustrate the deployment of broadband services, which these petitions profess to support, the groups said.
“If the Commission were to take the unprecedented step of regulating privately-owned light poles under [federal law], it would distort the robust free market that has developed over the past two decades for access by wireless communications service providers to towers, buildings, and other sites suitable for small cells,” the groups said. “It would undercut negotiations between carriers and these infrastructure providers by reducing demand and lowering market-based rates.”
Moreover, utility light poles are not constructed in the same way as traditional utility poles and therefore are not suited for telecommunications equipment.
“[A]ll of the dedicated light poles owned by electric utility companies have in common two unique characteristics that exclude them from the scope of [federal law]: first, these structures do not support equipment used to deliver electric power; and, second, these structures are custom-built pursuant to private contracts between the utility pole owner and its customer, at the customer’s direction and expense,” the comments said.
The wireless industry, additionally, cites no evidence as to why these changes are necessary, the groups said. Aside from general statements about the need to access poles, the petitions make no specific allegations that utilities are preventing them from attaching equipment to their poles.
“In fact, there is no discussion of the specific facts at all. The claims are at best anecdotal and there is no indication that this is a widespread problem that requires Commission regulation,” the groups said.
Reply comments on the CTIA petition are due Nov. 13; UTC is scheduling conference calls to discuss draft reply comments this week. Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.
It’s not too late to register for UTC’s 5G, Broadband, and Small Cells for Utilities: What You Need to Know workshop this week in Nashville!
The Nov. 6-8 workshop will address how utilities are key players in the deployment of new communications technologies expected to unleash a wave of faster and broader connectivity. As bandwidth demand for these communications technologies, including both wireless and wireline, increases, so too does the demand on utilities, both in terms of increased broadband capacity and infrastructure access.
At the workshop, panelists will address what these changes mean for the deployment of fiber for retail and wholesale communications, including broadband for rural unserved areas and backhaul for wireless networks. Attendees will learn how upgrading wireline and wireless networks improve utility communications, including for grid modernization and the industrial Internet of Things (IoT).
Finally, this workshop will address the implications for more small wireless antennas being attached to utility infrastructure, along with more regulations for faster deployment of the antennas and related equipment.
For more information, click here: https://utc.org/event/5g-and-utilities-workshop/.
UTC core utility members have until Jan. 31, 2020, to submit ideas or concepts for potential policy resolutions to be adopted at the association’s annual Telecom & Technology conference next May.
This will mark the third time UTC pursues policy positions through the resolution process as approved by the UTC Board in its December 2017 meeting.
Any UTC core utility member can submit a proposed resolution or ideas for a resolution to UTC’s Public Policy Team by Jan. 31. Only UTC core utility members can submit a resolution; if a vendor member has an idea, it must be sponsored and submitted by a core utility member.
Once all the proposed resolutions are collected by UTC staff, the Public Policy Division (PPD) will formally accept and discuss the proposals during its regularly scheduled February meeting. PPD members will have the opportunity to edit and debate the proposed resolutions prior to its March call, at which point the division will vote on the resolutions. This call will be open to all UTC core utility members.
Any resolutions cleared by the PPD will be submitted for review and consideration by the entire UTC membership at the annual Telecom and Technology meeting in Providence, RI, from May 18-22. Resolutions for consideration at the annual meeting must be distributed to the entire association membership no later than two weeks prior to the event. Additionally, the proposed resolutions will also be posted on the UTC Website.
UTC’s core utility members will vote on the proposed resolutions during the association’s business meeting at the annual conference. Each UTC core utility member company will have one vote during the meeting, meaning that core members must designate one person to cast the company’s vote.
Any resolutions approved at the annual Telecom and Technology meeting will be considered official UTC policy and will inform the association as it advocates for its members in Washington and elsewhere.
Resolutions approved at since 2018 annual meeting are available here.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the Commission) is slated to finalize rules to prohibit telecom companies who receive federal subsidies from using such funding on services or equipment from manufacturers deemed by the U.S. as national-security threats.
Additionally, the agency will also propose new rules requiring these companies to strip out of their existing networks and services any equipment made by these companies, the Commission announced last week.
Taken together, the actions—slated to be approved at the agency’s Nov. 19 open meeting—are the latest efforts by the FCC to respond to eliminate equipment manufactured by Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE Corp. after both entities were classified as national-security threats by the Department of Commerce (Industry Intelligence, May 28, 2019).
“Both companies’ ties to the Chinese government and military apparatus—together with Chinese laws obligating them to cooperate with any request by the Chinese government to use or access their systems—pose a threat to the security of communications networks and the communications supply chain and necessitate taking this step,” a draft of the FCC order states. “Our actions today are informed by the evidence cited herein, including the actions of other agencies and branches of the government and similar assessments from other countries.”
Specifically, the FCC proposes to:
Please contact the UTC Public Policy Team with any questions.
Calendar of UTC committee/division conference calls