FCC Says It Has Jurisdiction in Pole Dispute Between ComEd, Crown Castle

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UPDATE Score one for Crown Castle in its fight with an Illinois utility over pole attachment rates. The FCC on Monday denied a motion to dismiss the complaint from Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd), the electric utility that owns or controls poles in the state.

Crown Castle told the Commission in June that ComEd denied it access to poles that the utility said needed to be replaced or reinforced. The case involves more than 900 poles. Crown Castle sought FCC intervention; it said ComEd raised the cost per pole, which was unlawful, and that ComEd also violated the Communications Act when it denied the company access to the poles, Inside Towers reported.   

In the meantime, ComEd filed a motion to dismiss both cases, arguing that the Illinois Commerce Commission, not the FCC, had jurisdiction in the matter. In fact, ComEd said the ICC preempted the FCC jurisdiction in all pole attachment disputes.

On Monday, the FCC rejected ComEd’s arguments. The agency said section 224(c) of the Communications Act says a state does not regulate pole attachment, “rates, terms and conditions,” unless it has passed specific laws for that. The ICC contradicted ComEd, saying it has not adopted pole attachment rules, and therefore, “lacks regulatory authority over attachments by telecommunications companies to poles owned by electric utilities.”

The FCC also denied ComEd’s motion to put the case on hold, finding no reason to do so. The Enforcement Bureau said in its decision, “The filing of a motion to dismiss does not suspend any other filing deadlines under the Commission’s rules, unless staff issues an order suspending such deadlines.”

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

July 16, 2019

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