Just as turkeys were being prepared for the oven last week, the FCC reheated an issue leftover from 2011 when it was petitioned by industry advocates to realign the rates telecoms pay utility companies to be on their poles and bring parity to cable companies. Late Tuesday, the commission issued its long awaited, much discussed 44-page decision which effectively reduced telecom rates to what cable providers pay. What’s really behind all of it is the commission’s desire to promote deployment of broadband service nationwide.
“The 2011 revisions sought to bring the telecom and cable rates into parity,” the FCC said in explaining its new rule. “In the intervening time, we have seen that our revisions did not fully achieve that objective. Today, we take the next logical step in achieving the goals set forth in 2011.” The commission added, “We additionally act to support incentives for deployment of broadband facilities, particularly in rural areas, and to harmonize regulatory treatment between states where the Commission regulates the rates, terms, and conditions for pole attachments and states where such matters are regulated by the state.” The Commission said subjecting cable operators to higher pole attachment rates “merely because they also provide telecommunications services, such as broadband Internet access, could deter investment in states subject to Commission pole regulation, which would undermine the Commission’s broadband deployment policy. By keeping pole attachment rates unified and low, we further our overarching goal to accelerate deployment of broadband by removing barriers to infrastructure investment and promoting competition.”
Pretty much everyone but the owners of poles — utility companies – were happy about the FCC moving forward. On Wednesday afternoon, amid the pushing and shoving at Reagan National Airport to get out of Dodge for the long weekend, PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association said, “PCIA is pleased that the FCC has taken steps to ensure a competitive marketplace for broadband services — including wireless broadband — that leverage existing utility infrastructure. The Commission’s action is in keeping with efforts that PCIA is pursuing before state public utility commissions in Arkansas, Washington, and California to revise pole attachment rules and thereby spur the deployment of wireless infrastructure.”