TR Daily NCTA Seeks Speedy Ruling on Pole Replacement Costs
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Friday, July 17, 2020

NCTA Seeks Speedy Ruling on Pole Replacement Costs

NCTA has asked the FCC for an “expedited declaratory ruling” that utility pole owners cannot require broadband facility attachers in unserved areas to bear the entire cost of pole replacement.

“Pole owners routinely incur pole replacement and upgrade costs, whether prompted by an attachment request or not, and derive significant economic gain, including in the form of ‘betterment,’ even when a pole is replaced ahead of schedule. The Commission should ensure that the cost of replacing a pole in unserved areas is not shifted entirely to the attaching entity, as it often is today, but is instead allocated in a manner that recognizes the limited role the attaching entity plays in causing (as opposed to merely advancing) the costs of the replacement, as well as the significant benefits the replacement conveys to the pole owner,” NCTA said in the petition it filed yesterday in WC docket 17-84.

NCTA said that the ruling it is requesting “is both mandated by the just and reasonable requirements of section 224(b) of the Communications Act and consistent with the Commission’s orders limiting make-ready costs to those actually caused by the attaching entity as well as with section 1.1408(b) of the Commission’s rules, which requires proportionate sharing of costs among the entities that directly benefit from a modification to pole owner facilities, including the pole owner.”

In determining the allocation of costs, NCTA said, “[a]ttachers should be presumed to be responsible only for the undepreciated cost of the old pole. The most efficient and economically principled way to measure this cost is to use the average net book investment per bare pole derived using the Commission’s pole attachment rate formula, which can be easily administered by utilities and attachers relying primarily upon publicly available data with minimal need to escalate disputes to the Commission. Under NCTA’s proposal, the pole owner would also be provided the opportunity to prove that certain additional costs associated with the new pole would not have been incurred ‘but for’ the new attachment and specific costs found to have met that economic criteria could also be allocated to the attacher.”

The petition also asked the FCC to “clarify that complaints regarding pole attachments disputes that arise in unserved areas will receive expedited consideration under the Accelerated Docket … with expedited procedural timelines and effective remedies, whenever possible.”

NCTA said that its requested clarifications “are consistent with the goals of the Communications Act in removing barriers to broadband deployment; with Commission and Congressional policy prioritizing the expansion of broadband service to unserved areas (where pole replacement costs operate as a significant barrier); and with sound policy and economic principles.” —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

MainStory: FederalNews FCC BroadbandDeployment

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