FCC Makes One-Touch Make-Ready a Reality

FCC Commissioners Michael O’Rielly, Brendan Carr and Jessica Rosenworcel

The FCC passed a one-touch make-ready (OTMR) policy for utility pole attachments yesterday, saying the update will speed the safe and affordable deployment of broadband wireless infrastructure. The change will allow one attacher, usually the last, to perform all the work for the new attachment; it provides for a remedy if an original attacher is unhappy with the outcome.

Pole overlashing of existing wires is allowed, without first seeking the utility’s approval, so all pole space can be efficiently used. It ensures telecoms pay rates comparable to cable and other industries for pole use. The Report and Order makes clear the FCC will preempt, on a case-by-case basis, existing local laws, to allow providers access to poles for restoration work after a disaster.    

A declaratory ruling emphasizes the Telecommunications Act bans state and local moratoria that prevents wireless infrastructure deployment. Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said during the vote that while many localities “get kudos” for making the broadband deployment process more efficient, some state and local governments delay projects and use pole attachment rates as “shakedown bounties.” He said: “State and local governments have been on notice for decades. Congress wants them to stop making decisions based on aesthetics.”

(For industry reaction, see story below: “Industry Applauds FCC ‘Keeping Foot on The Gas’ for OTMR”)  

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who split her vote, partially for and against the OTMR item, favors the concept in general. But she said the way the FCC wrote the change leaves the definition murky between what is a simple pole attachment versus one that is complex, which will invite legal challenges. She also believes it will take jobs away from union workers.

The update makes it easier for providers to “safely and efficiently attach fiber” to a pole, which is “much-needed for wireless backhaul,” Commissioner Brendan Carr said.

Chairman Ajit Pai spoke of the current situation in which each attacher must move their wires and equipment separately, necessitating many truck rolls. “All of this adds up.”

As far as the assertion that OTMR will reduce jobs, Pai quoted Google Fiber, which told the Commission it has “no problem” using labor to perform the pole attachment work. In some places there are no union providers and Google uses labor from current attachers. Pai also quoted Google’s position on leaving it to current attachers to decide if a new attachment is simple or complex. Google said that would “destroy” the ability of new attachers “to have any control over the speed” of the work.   

“I’m happy we have an FCC that sees the importance of these vital issues,” one towerco executive told Inside Towers after the vote. He noted there will be “lots of infrastructure to build in the coming months.”  He called that, “one more reason for the operators to keep their suppliers happy,” a reference to the late payment issue Inside Towers has been reporting on.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

August 3, 2018       

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