Just one touch is all it takes, FCC tells telephone, cable companies

29 July 2018 by Steve Blum
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One of the useful things that’s come out of the Federal Communications Commission’s industry-dominated Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) is a draft rule that would establish a “one touch make ready” (OTMR) process for attaching new cables to utility poles. Assuming the FCC adopts it – pretty much a foregone conclusion – a new wireline competitor that wants to enter a market won’t have to wait around for incumbents to clean up their attachments before adding its own cable. Any necessary make ready work can be done by a pre-approved contractor.

The result, according to the FCC’s draft, is faster broadband build out…

OTMR speeds broadband deployment by better aligning incentives than the current multi-party process. It puts the parties most interested in efficient broadband deployment—new attachers—in a position to control the survey and make-ready processes. The misaligned incentives in the current process often result in delay by current incumbents and utilities and high costs for new attachers as a result of the coordination of sequential make-ready work performed by different parties.

Different companies, local agencies and other organisations have different takes on what the details of OTMR should be, but on the whole there’s general agreement that it’s a good idea because it reduces work for everyone. Google Fiber, in particular, has pushed for this kind of rule for a long time, and said in a blog post that it was “excited” the FCC’s proposal.

When it comes, the FCC’s decision won’t have direct effect in California, though. States have the option of regulating utility poles themselves, which California does. The FCC’s default rules apply in the 30 states that haven’t picked up that option. The California Public Utilities Commission is reconsidering how it regulates utility poles, and could adopt the same standard. The California legislature also has utilities poles on the agenda, although its more concerned with the fire hazard that electric lines present, and the liability that electric companies face.