No consensus on public property lease rates, but FCC committee moves ahead anyway

24 August 2018 by Steve Blum
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Telecoms companies and local government representatives didn’t agree on how lease rates for assets such as street light poles should be set, but at least they were able to articulately lay out their positions and identify what they do agree on. The Federal Communications Commission’s broadband deployment advisory committee received a draft report last month that looked at how fees and rental rates are set. It was produced by a sub committee that had two members from local agencies, plus a municipal lobbyist and a state government representative. The other fifteen committee members are mostly lobbyists for telecoms companies.

The group agreed that one-time charges, such as permit application fees, should be based on costs, but there was no consensus on how lease rates for public property should be set. Industry lobbyists think those should be set on a strict cost basis, arguing that public assets “are intended for use for the public good”, which they equate with expansion of their networks.

Local government representatives prefer a fair market value approach because, among reasons…

It is unfair to prioritize one industry (wireless industry) over all others in pricing the public rights-of-way and public infrastructure access. Equal pricing of private access to public assets is especially a concern where there is no obligation for providers to serve all residents (which is required of other users of the rights-of- way who may pay market-based fees).

On the whole, the report is an even handed document that focuses on principles both sides accept, and outlines the remaining differences.

A model state law, developed by another sub committee, is, to say the least, not as well balanced. The State Model Code for Accelerating Broadband Infrastructure Deployment and Investment proposes to make all publicly owned assets that have some relevance to telecoms – including dark fiber – available on demand and on a narrowly defined cost basis. The full committee, which has been sharply criticised for its industry-heavy membership, adopted that recommendation.