FCC adopts one-touch make-ready pole attachment rules

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on August 3 adopted new “one-touch make-ready” (OTMR) rules designed to ease the deployment of wireline broadband access infrastructure. The FCC also noted that states and municipalities are barred from issuing moratoria on broadband deployments, both directly and de facto, in most instances.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on August 3 adopted new “one-touch make-ready” (OTMR) rules designed to ease the deployment of wireline broadband access infrastructure. The FCC also noted that states and municipalities are barred from issuing moratoria on broadband deployments, both directly and de facto, in most instances.

The attachment of communications cables, including fiber-optic cables, to utility and other poles is a common practice when deploying new networks. However, in many instances the pole owners and/or local lawmakers had insisted that making room for new cables or any other procedures had to be performed either by the pole owner or the owner of each attached cable. Depending upon how many cables were already attached to the pole (or how many entities needed to be involved to make any changes), new entrants found that gaining access to pole space had become a barrier to market entry. Google Fiber, in particular, has long complained about the problems it has faced gaining access to poles.

The new rules enable a single entity to make any adjustments needed to attach new cable, and then to attach that new cable. “OTMR promises to substantially lower the cost and shorten the time to deploy broadband on utility poles,” commented FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a statement. “It allows a new provider who wants to attach to a pole to move all the wires and equipment in just one ‘touch.’ It’s a bit like having to go to the grocery, the dry cleaner, and the bank. The slow way to do this would be to visit each business but return home each time. The rational thing we all do is to do each errand, one after the other, all on one trip. That’s essentially what OTMR is.”

“Far too often, the make-ready process has been a model of inefficiency, leading to excess cost and delays,” said Lisa R. Youngers, executive director of the Fiber Broadband Association. “I applaud Chairman Pai and the FCC Commissioners for their efforts to lower barriers to pole attachments, which will propel fiber broadband deployment throughout the country.”

The new ruling also makes clear the FCC’s position that state and local moratoria on broadband network deployments, including de facto moratoria through inaction on permit applications, violates Section 253(a) of the Communications Act of 1934. “There may be many reasonable ways local governments can regulate network deployments in their jurisdiction, but blocking competition and better services for American consumers is not one of them,” asserted Chairman Pai.

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