Kentucky PSC Adopts New Pole Attachment Rules

October 26, 2021

Last month, the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) adopted several new measures to improve the process of how broadband service providers attach infrastructure to utility poles necessary to provide high-speed internet service to households and business across the Commonwealth. The new rules reflect an increasing awareness among state leaders that additional steps are needed to lessen unnecessary delays and burdensome expenses associated with the pole attachments process.

Specifically, the new PSC rules:

  1. Establish a standard for how costs are shared between pole owners and broadband attachers for the replacement of “red-tagged” poles—poles that are deemed out of compliance with current standards;
  2. Promulgate rules for the overlashing of new lines over existing cables, consistent with federal regulations set forth by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC);
  3. Standardize timelines for predictable permitting of “make-ready” work, the process used to prepare a utility pole to receive a new attachment;
  4. Require utilities to file new tariffs with the PSC as the mechanism to review whether utility practices conform with updated regulations; and
  5. Create a new mechanism at the PSC to expedite dispute resolution between pole owners and those attaching broadband equipment.

The regulations were issued following a month-long comment period that provided commissioners with an opportunity to hear from a wide array of Kentuckians and rural leaders regarding existing barriers to broadband deployment imposed by the pole attachment process. To date, the PSC has received hundreds of comments, including nearly 70 from state legislators, civic organizations and other local elected officials representing nearly 300,000 Kentuckians, many in rural areas, who today remain without connectivity.

During the past year, Governor Andy Beshear and the Kentucky General Assembly recognized and prioritized issues related to broadband and the utility pole attachment process. Last session, the General Assembly appropriated $300 million in federal funds for broadband deployment and passed House Bill 382, directing the PSC to implement pole attachment rules to help facilitate and expedite the deployment of broadband service.

To build on these efforts, Connect the Future will continue to highlight policies designed to accelerate high-speed internet service deployment and implement the new rules, including further clarification of the definitional scope of “red-tagged” poles. Additionally, as the Governor and General Assembly evaluate appropriating the Commonwealth’s remaining American Rescue Plan Act funding, creating a dedicated fund to assist with the costs of replacing utility poles in rural areas would further incentivize and expand broadband deployment to unserved and underserved homes and businesses.