October 26, 2020

Volume X, Number 300


October 26, 2020

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Telecom Alert - Pole Attachment Regulations; Next-Generation Networks; Broadband Deployment; USF High-Cost Support Rules; Business Data Services

FCC Seeks “Creative and Common Sense” Pole Attachment Regulations

The FCC last week released its order seeking comment on numerous proposed changes to its pole attachment regulations.  Chairman Pai stated he wants “creative and common sense” pole attachment regulations to address what the Commission considers to be “unreasonable costs and delays” in the pole attachment process.  This rulemaking creates significant challenges and opportunities for electric utility pole owners and we intend to participate vigorously.

FCC Seeks to Accelerate Next-Generation Networks

In the same order, the FCC seeks comment on expediting the process for LECs to retire copper networks and transition to IP networks. The Commission proposes to do this by streamlining or eliminating network change notification rules and by eliminating rules requiring carriers to spend money to maintain outdated equipment.  Comments on this and the above pole attachment item will be due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

FCC Works to Remove Barriers to Broadband Deployment

The Commission issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to begin identifying and eliminating unnecessary regulations that hinder wireless broadband deployment. The NPRM opens an examination of several topics including how state procedures affect the speed and cost of infrastructure deployment, and whether the FCC’s rules can better balance timely, effective site deployment with compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In the NPRM, the Commission seeks comment on whether siting applications that are not acted on by state or local governments in a reasonable amount of time should be “deemed granted” by the Commission. The NPRM also requests input on how to limit the inherent costs and delays associated with complying with the NEPA and NHPA, including the tribal review process. A draft of the NPRM was circulated at the end of March as part of the Commission’s transparency pilot program.

FCC Revises USF High-Cost Support Rules.

The Commission adopted an Order on Reconsideration granting the Petition for Reconsideration of the March 2016 Rate-of-Return Reform Order filed by NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association. Under the old rules, high-cost carriers lose all universal service support for capital expenses on a construction project if the average cost per location exceeded a certain threshold.  Because of this, carriers would exclude high-cost homes to avoid losing funding, even if this made construction less efficient overall.  The Order on Reconsideration will allow carriers to pay the excess portion of the capital expenditure with their own funds, while still receiving universal service support for the non-excess portion.  The Commission stated that “the change allows carriers greater flexibility in planning deployment projects that are funded by the high-cost universal service support program.”

FCC Rolls-Back Pricing Rules for Business Data Services

The FCC adopted a Report and Order that removes pricing rules for business data services (BDS).  Chairman Pai and Commissioner O’Rielly approved the Order, finding that competition in the market is sufficient without the pricing regulation, while Commissioner Clyburn dissented.  A Commission statement describes the Order as leveling “the regulatory playing field for ILECs by extending uniform forbearance from certain rules that had previously been granted unevenly”, although many are concerned the result will be price increases for enterprise end users of special access services.

© 2020 Keller and Heckman LLPNational Law Review, Volume VII, Number 114



About this Author

Thomas B. Magee, Keller Heckman, transactional counsel, litigation attorney, FCC law, safety violation lawyer

Thomas Magee joined Keller and Heckman in 2000. Mr. Magee provides regulatory, transactional and litigation counsel to investor-owned electric utilities, electric cooperatives and municipalities regarding pole attachments and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licensing of private wireless telecommunications services.

Mr. Magee has helped to resolve dozens of pole attachment disputes affecting make-ready costs, safety violations, unauthorized attachments, annual rental rates and other terms and conditions of access. He negotiates,...

Timothy A. Doughty, Keller Heckman, Telecommunications Licensing Specialist, Lawyer, FCC Matters Attorney

Timothy Doughty joined Keller and Heckman in 2009 as a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Licensing Specialist.

Mr. Doughty assists clients with the preparation of FCC applications, modifications, special temporary authorities, requests for rule waiver, renewals and spectrum leases in various radio services including Private Land Mobile, Microwave, Coast and Ground and Aircraft. His capabilities also include the preparation of tower registrations with the FCC and Obstruction Evaluations and Aeronautical Studies with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). He maintains a wide-ranging knowledge of the FCC's rules and procedures and regularly interfaces with various certified frequency coordinators.

C. Douglas Jarrett, Keller Heckman, telecommunications lawyer, procurement law

Douglas Jarrett joined Keller and Heckman in 1979. Mr. Jarrett specializes in telecommunications law, policy and procurement matters.

Mr. Jarrett is a recognized expert in representing enterprises in negotiating telecommunications services agreements with the major wireline and wireless carriers, domestically and globally.  He also advises enterprises on M2M services, cloud computing and IVR technology procurements. 

Mr. Jarrett represents technology companies in securing amendments to the FCC rules to enable the...

Wesley K. Wright, Keller Heckman, Telecommunications Lawyer, FCC Enforcement Attorney, DC

Wesley Wright joined Keller and Heckman in 2006 and practices in the areas of telecommunications law.  He assists corporate clients and trade associations with various legal and regulatory matters before the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Aviation Administration, courts and state agencies.

Mr. Wright’s practice includes private wireless licensing, FCC enforcement, and related transactional matters.  He counsels clients on internal operations and governance matters and has drafted and negotiated asset purchase agreements,...