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or eliminating network change notification rules and by eliminating rules requiring carriers to spend money to maintain outdated equipment.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.