Pole attachments – the devil is in the details for broadband policy

There are a lot of moving pieces to broadband policy. The biggest for deployment is funding. The biggest for adoption/access is Net Neutrality. And inherent in those biggies is a lot of details – such as how do you define broadband? But dive in deeper there are a host of other wonkier topics that can be just as important – such as pole attachments.

Pole attachments is one topic on the agenda for the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee. A committee that (according to Axios) San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo resigned from alleging that the committee is dealing internet service providers “a very favorable hand” of policy recommendations.

Light Reading reports on the committee’s discussion on pole attachments…

The Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) — which is charged with laying out recommendations to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for driving broadband expansion in the US — found itself facing a fundamental divide. Some members of the committee want rules that give communications service providers greater access to poles and other structures in the public right-of-way by guaranteeing local permit approvals and capping fees.

Others believe local officials have the right to determine rules of access based on the public interest. Specifically, they think that local governments have the right to negotiate with service providers to ensure that broadband buildouts reach all communities, thereby helping to close the digital divide.

The fault lines in the debate are clear. Industry folks want unfettered access, arguing that next-generation broadband services require it. Cities, and in some cases states, want service providers to recognize that there are other factors to consider, i.e. that it takes resources for local governments to oversee permitting, and that unregulated deployments without regard for the needs of an entire community are not in the interest of the citizens who collectively own the public assets in question. (See Broadband Fee Fight Gets Messy at the FCC.)

It’s wonky but important because it balances the need for better broadband in many communities with the management of public property. It’s similar to cable franchising and other rights-of-way issues. The discussion of selling off national parks garners more attention but management of more localized public space is important too. There’s a solution but the right decision requires having a strong balance of views in the room to come up with it.

This entry was posted in FCC, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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