Pole Attachment Rates Not a Barrier to Rural Broadband Deployment

 

 

  • National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)

WASHINGTON — Rural broadband deployment is not impeded by pole attachment rates, finds Brian O’Hara, regulatory director, NRECA, in a new white paper,  "Pole Attachment Policies and Issues."

The white paper explains that electric cooperatives own and maintain poles, wires and rights-of-way to deliver safe and reliable electricity to their consumer-members. Some cooperatives allow communications companies to use these poles to carry infrastructure that provide cable television, telecommunications, broadband internet access, and other communications services. This relationship gives communications companies valuable access to a fully-constructed pole distribution corridor while the cost-based attachment rental fees help electric cooperatives to recover a small part of the significant cost of building and maintaining this 2.6 million mile distribution network.

Electric cooperatives understand that communications service providers may need access to existing poles and rights-of-way to provide service and some have provided such access at cost-based rates to the considerable benefit of communications companies. By leveraging the cooperatives’ existing distribution systems, communications companies avoid significant construction and maintenance costs, generally paying modest cost-based annual fees to access these systems.

Despite this tremendous benefit, some for-profit communications companies contend that pole attachment rental rates charged by rural electric cooperatives prevent them from providing broadband services to rural communities. These claims are unfounded.

The white paper finds that pole attachment rates are not a barrier to rural broadband deployment. In fact, pole attachment rental rates are de minimus in relation to the overall cost of deploying broadband. Other factors, primarily low population density and large capital expenditures, are more significant factors. NRECA sent a letter to FCC Chairman Pai highlighting the findings in this white paper.

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