What They Are Saying: New Report on Need to Modernize & Reform Pole Attachment Policies to Accelerate National Broadband Buildout

January 10, 2022

In December 2021, Western Carolina University Professor of Economics Edward J. Lopez and pole attachment expert Patricia D. Kravtin released a new study highlighting the economic benefits that providing improved access to utility poles would bring to America. As they note in the report, broadband deployment today is often delayed or outright stopped due to outdated rules and problematic practices of certain pole owners, costing our economy billions foregone economic losses.

It’s clear that federal policymakers must take immediate action to reform outdated pole rules so that our country can more quickly achieve 100% connectivity.

Top trade outlets highlighted the report’s findings:

Broadband Breakfast | Article: Pole Access Delays Cost Americans Millions a Month, Report Claims

“Pole attachments will play a significant role for broadband expansion, as federal dollars pour in from sources including the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law last month, and as 5G networks require more attachments. The report determined the economic value of such a policy on a willingness-to-pay metric.”

Law 360 | Article: Pole Access Delays Cost Millions Monthly, Report Says

“Something must be done to stop utility pole owners from slowing down the proliferation of broadband with unreasonable demands, Connect the Future said following the release of a report that found that the hold up could be costing up to $1.86 billion a month.”

Here’s how former FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly reacted to the report:

Michael O’Rielly, Former FCC Commissioner | Op-Ed: Inside Sources

“These poles, along with rights-of-way, are essential to bringing high-speed broadband to unserved Americans and offering new choices. Yet, current federal, state, and local policies are not enough to prod greater access to poles and rights-of-way by providers building broadband in unserved communities.  Having been involved in these issues for over 25 years, I believe this needs fundamental attention so all Americans truly can participate in today’s digital society.”

Third-party advocacy groups on both sides of the political aisle are paying attention to the critical role that pole access plays in bridging our nation’s digital divide:

Deborah Collier, Citizens Against Government Waste | Blog Post: Broadband Infrastructure Dollars Must be Used Wisely

“Federal, state, and local governments must evaluate what barriers currently exist that hinder broadband deployment.  A study by Edward J. Lopez and Patricia D. Kravtin spotlighted one potential barrier, the need for an ‘effective pole policy to address problematic behavior of certain utility pole owners affecting broadband provider access to utility poles.’”

Ignacio Salazar, SER Jobs for Progress National, Inc. | Social

“We have always believed in the importance of expanding broadband connection to our rural and underserved communities so they may be prepared with [digital] skills for great opportunities.”

Johnny Kampis, Taxpayers Protection Alliance | Op-Ed: Report says onerous pole attachment regulations significantly harm broadband growth

“Bureaucrats should work to limit the control that pole owners hold over the growth of broadband infrastructure. It will help close the digital divide, speed timely deployment of high-speed internet, and lessen the need to use taxpayer money to build out the networks.”

Dr. Justin Velez-Hagan, National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce | Social

“New study amplifies what we all know: expanding broadband access will expand GDP, improving business opportunities and enhancing lives. In fact, this study points to a $314 billion improvement.  [Per report authors] one way to get us on the right path is to reduce utility pole barriers/regulations.”

Andrew Long, The Free State Foundation | Blog Post: New Study Quantifies Huge Potential Losses Absent Revised Pole-Attachment Policies

“An economic analysis commissioned by Connect the Future assigns a hefty price tag to the potential delays that utility pole disputes could cause in the deployment of broadband infrastructure.”

Jose Marquez, Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association | Social

“New study states attaching broadband equipment to utility poles is a big challenge and is slowing broadband deployment and economic gains for rural communities. Policymakers need to act – too many communities being set back economically.”

Katie McAuliffe, Digital Liberty | Social

“In Texas, for every month that broadband providers are delayed from accessing utility poles, there is $108 MILLION lost in foregone gains.”

National Grange | Social

“Must-read study from Connect the Future shows how better rules for attaching broadband equipment to utility poles could unleash billions in economic growth, as our rural families finally get the access they deserve.”

Rudy Arredondo, National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association | Social

“Barriers to broadband deployment are jeopardizing too many rural communities in this country.  Important study discusses why utility pole reform is key. Getting this policy right is critical to [the] livelihood of many Latino farmers and ranchers and local businesses.”

Jeffrey Westling, American Action Forum | Social

“I know it isn’t the most glamorous of topics, but pole attachment/replacement issues are still a major barrier to broadband deployment.”

Robert D. Atkinson, Information, Technology & Innovation Foundation | Social

“If we want the broadband infrastructure dollars spent well, as well as ensuring broadband expansion more broadly, getting pole attachment policy right is critical.”

Current and former federal policymakers also weighed in on the report’s findings:

Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) | Social

“A new report shows that utility pole-processes are costing Florida up to $99.51 million per month in economic growth.”

Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) | Social

“From Arcadia to Okeechobee and Bartow to Alva, rural broadband deployment is severely needed in my district’s rural communities. This study shows there is more work to do as we seek to put our rural communities on equal economic footing.”

Evan Swarztrauber, Former FCC Adviser | Social

“Pole owners, often electric utilities, often abuse market power to extract outsized fees from attachers, which harms consumers.”

Read the full study here: https://connectthefuture.com/advancing-pole-attachment-policies-to-accelerate-national-broadband-buildout/