PA PUC Moves to Resolve Broadband Install Fights

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The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) passed a measure that some commissioners say will make it easier for rural residents to get broadband; however one commissioner disagreed. The PUC voted 4-1 last week to take over pole attachment jurisdiction from the FCC. The vote means Pennsylvania would create a statewide forum to establish rates, terms for using utility poles, and obtaining rights-of-way, reports the Center Square.

The measure also establishes a group to advise the PUC on problems with state and federal pole attachments. 

The PUC Pole Attachment Working Group will consist of members of the PUC’s technical and legal staff, pole owners, pole attachers, telecommunication/broadband interest groups, consumer and small business advocates. The group will handle complaints and resolve disputes.

Giving the PUC a dispute resolution group will expedite broadband to the state’s rural areas, said Commissioner Norman Kennard. “Providing a dispute forum for pole attachments at the commission will allow for prompt resolution of fiber and wireless deployment, and result in more efficient and better priced broadband expansion for the benefit of our rural residents,” he said, according to The Center Square.  

Vice Chairman David Sweet dissented, saying he supported broadband expansion but cost questions remain. The action taken so far, “avoids this fundamental issue,” Sweet said. “The fiscal impact of this initiative must be explored or should have been explored before we assume this substantial federal rule obligation and not afterward.”

Gladys Brown Dutrieuille, who chairs the PA PUC, said the costs of the dispute process would be discussed at a later date. She supports the FCC fee of $259 until the PUC knows how many will go through the process and the costs.

Commissioner Andrew Place voted for the initiative, but has concerns about a pending federal appeal concerning pole attachments. Reading from a written statement, he stated: “The adoption of the present final rulemaking order and final form regulations cannot possibly account for all future contingencies involving the commission’s enforcement of the FCC’s pole attachment rules and related dispute resolution or adjudication. I would have preferred a constructive dialogue engagement between our staff and interested stakeholders … prior to the submission of the recommendation that’s before us today.”

September 9, 2019

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