FCC recently issued its Third Report and Order and Declaratory Ruling, which takes several steps to facilitate deployment of wireline and wireless networks. The biggest step is the adoption of “one-touch make-ready” (OTMR). OTMR will speed deployment time and reduce costs for certain utility pole attachments by letting a new attacher perform work required to make the pole ready for the new attachment. This improves the current process, in which owners of existing attachments perform make-ready work on their attachments. OTMR applies in 30 states; some governmental bodies in the remaining 20 states have already enacted their own OTMR rules, with other jurisdictions likely to follow.    

The FCC clarified issues related to pole attachments. First, new attachers are responsible for damage they cause to existing attachments, but not for consequential damages such as those resulting from a service outage. Second, new attachers are not responsible for the cost of work required to bring a pole with pre-existing violations into compliance with safety and construction standards.

The FCC made official its longstanding policy that attachers may overlash – attach new cables to existing ones – without prior approval from a pole-owning utility. Utilities may require notification up to 15 days prior to overlashing, but the utility can only object if the overlash will “compromise the safety or integrity of existing electric distribution and communications infrastructure.”  

The FCC addressed outdated rate disparities for local exchange carriers (LEC), who are often charged higher rates for pole attachments than “similarly situated” telecommunications providers. Previously, a LEC had to prove it was “similarly situated” to telecommunications providers. With this Ruling, the burden shifts to the utility to show the LEC is NOT similarly situated in order to justify charging the LEC higher attachment rates.

The FCC ruled that moratoria on the deployment of telecommunications services or facilities violate federal law. The FCC noted that temporary moratoria for planning purposes or government study are generally not allowed, nor are moratoria that delay review of applications “until pending local, state, or federal legislation is adopted.” The FCC stated that emergency moratoria may be allowed, but only if competitively neutral; necessary to address emergency, disaster, or public safety needs; and targeted to geographic areas affected by disaster or emergency.

It will be interesting to see how these provisions play out, and it is encouraging to see the FCC take steps to accelerate wireline and wireless broadband deployment.