Crown Castle, PG&E punt fiber attachment dispute back to CPUC

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Crown Castle and PG&E failed to reach agreement on pole attachment terms, as directed by the California Public Utilities Commission administrative law judge (ALJ) arbitrating their ongoing dispute. Instead, PG&E submitted its standard pole space leasing agreement, and Crown Castle submitted the same, with several modifications that make it more to its liking.

The heart of their dispute is that Crown Castle wants to buy attachment space on poles, and PG&E just wants to lease it to them. Incumbent telecoms companies, like AT&T, can buy space, but they have to buy all of the communications zone, which is section of the pole, typically three or four vertical feet, that’s suitable for attaching telecoms cables. Once they buy the whole zone, they’re then responsible for leasing out attachment space by the foot to competitive telecoms companies like Crown Castle.

Crown Castle isn’t interested becoming the telecoms landlord on PG&E poles, and there’s some doubt as to whether CPUC rules allow them to do it in the first place. The ALJ heard both sides arguments, as well as comments from other interested comments, and decided that there’s nothing in the CPUC rules that says PG&E has to sell pole attachment space by the foot.

So now Crown Castle is telling the ALJ that 1. commissioners should disregard her ruling and give it what it wants anyway, and 2. if they don’t do that, they should change PG&E’s standard pole space leasing agreement to, among things, create a 45 day shot clock for PG&E to approve or reject a request to attach to a particular pole. If PG&E has “provided no response” within that time, Crown Castle could attach its fiber at will. It also wants to know when other companies ask to lease any remaining space, wants to be able to work on poles without notifying PG&E and doesn’t want PG&E to rearrange any of its cables without its permission. Which add up to many of the privileges that come with pole space ownership, without the responsibility of managing leases with other telecoms companies.