#1: Ensure Predictable & Fair Pole Replacement Costs
Broadband providers who attach their wires and other infrastructure to utility poles owned by others are often forced to bear the expense of paying the entire cost of replacing old utility poles when the existing pole does not have the capacity to handle the new attachments, even when a pole is near or past the end of its useful life and is in need of replacement by the utility anyway. Instead of replacing the poles at the end of their useful life, utility companies often wait until there is a request for a new attachment by a broadband provider so they can get them to pay the full costs of the replacement.
Broadband providers are forced to accept the utility company demands to pay all of the pole replacement cost in order to avoid extensive construction delays and so that the utility company does not deny the application for attachment. These utility company practices make network investment in rural areas take longer and cost more, discouraging new investment in internet infrastructure to the places that need it most. Broadband companies that attach to utility poles should pay their fair share, but pole owners bear responsibility as well.
#2: Allow for Techniques that Speed Up Deployment
Various alternative construction techniques can aid in expediting deployment in rural areas without compromising safety. So long as their use complies with National Electric Safety Code and other applicable safety standards, Kentucky should permit the use of extension arms, boxing techniques and temporary attachments like other states have done for more timely and efficient deployment. It will not solve all the problems, but Kentucky needs broadband now and experience proves that employing these policies works to speed deployment.
#3: Implement Louisville-Style One-Touch Make Ready
Louisville Metro has expedited make-ready to allow for safe, efficient, and faster deployment of broadband networks on utility poles. These rules, commonly referred to as “one-touch make ready,” strike an important balance between protecting existing entities with facilities on poles and making way for faster access by new attachers. While one-touch make ready is not appropriate in all circumstances, the PSC should follow Louisville Metro’s successful implementation, which allows new attachers to perform the utility make-ready quickly themselves, but only after existing attachers receive 30-days to do it themselves. Implementing a reasonable timeframe after which new attachers can exercise “self-help” makes it fairer. When new attachers do the make-ready work themselves, the Louisville Metro rules incentivize them to do it correctly by requiring notice, upon completion, to pole owners and other entities occupying space on the pole, and affording 90-days to complete an inspection to make sure the work was done correctly and in accordance with applicable safety codes.
#4: Provide Faster Permitting & Dispute Resolution Timeframes
The ability to expand broadband in a timely, cost-effective manner directly correlates to a provider’s ability to efficiently access utility poles. In some cases, projects that should be completed in a few weeks can take many months or longer because of unnecessarily lengthy and complicated permitting timeframes. Broadband providers want to get broadband to these rural areas quickly, but they are often delayed by pole owners who have no incentive to move quickly and use process roadblocks that slow or stop construction projects.
Efficient deployment of rural broadband demands a process that includes:
#5: Establish Consistent Overlashing Opportunities
Overlashing is the practice of physically tying new network to the wires that already exist on a utility pole. This long-standing industry practice allows broadband providers to quickly and efficiently expand their service capacity, extend service to new customers, and maximize the use of space on utility poles without making new attachments or significantly increasing the burden on existing poles. Clear rules are needed to advance unrestrictive overlashing to ensure it remains a cost-effective, expeditious method for deploying higher-speed and higher-capacity broadband connections to serve customers.