Crown Says Slow Pole Attachment Processing Hindered ComEd Project

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UPDATE The fight between Crown Castle and Commonwealth Edison Company over Illinois pole attachments continues to grind on at the FCC. At issue, are “red tagged” poles that ComEd asserts Crown Castle replace or reinforce. Crown has asserted that ComEd’s denial of access to more than 1,200 poles has cost the towerco over $14 million so far and the meter continues to tick. “Crown Castle continues to deploy facilities on ComEd poles, Crown Castle has continued to be billed by ComEd and has continued to pay ComEd for replacement and reinforcement of red tagged poles,” the towerco told the FCC this week. The additional monetary amount was redacted.

Crown Castle says a big part of the problem is that ComEd is too slow to process any pole work requests, saying on average it takes two to four weeks for ComEd to issue an account number that will allow Crown Castle to submit an application. “ComEd’s inability to keep pace with Crown Castle’s account number requests further delayed Crown Castle’s ability to submit applications in a timely manner,” states the towerco. The delays have interfered with Crown Castle’s ability to meet customer commitments, and sometimes Crown has been, “forced to seek to reprioritize certain applications based on customer demand,” states the company in a filing this week. 

“ComEd also advised Crown Castle that if account numbers aged more than 30 days with no activity, they were canceled. This led us to request account numbers only within four to six weeks of our application submission schedule so that the account numbers would not be canceled,” said Crown Castle.

ComEd’s version is quite different. ComEd believes it has “timely processed” Crown Castle’s pole attachment applications “given ComEd’s considerable constraints.” ComEd also asserts the FCC’s make-ready deadlines did not apply to Crown Castle’s pole attachments in Illinois. However a July 15 FCC order made it clear the agency has jurisdiction over this complaint, ComEd acknowledges. ComEd says it’s now “reexamining the applicability of FCC make-ready deadlines and other rules.”

Part of the problem, according to ComEd, is the spike in third-party attachment applications. ComEd received about 48 such requests in 2012, compared to 4,500 in 2018. “The make-ready work is now approximately 2,000 pole replacements and approximately 27,000 pole attachments per year,” says the utility.

ComEd also told the Commission the telecoms were “very guarded” in their workplace projections in 2017 and 2018, so ComEd had to “manually poll” attachers to get such forecasts. The utility told the FCC it has hired more people to process applications, but the exact number was redacted. “With increased resources and favorable weather for make ready work, May-June completions were 300 percent higher for Crown Castle than the first four months of 2019,” asserts ComEd.  Comments? Email Us.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief 

August 7, 2019     

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