Broadband Communities

JAN-FEB 2013

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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T h e L aw Access to Utility Poles For FTTH Providers To encourage the buildout of fber to the home by nontraditional, innovative providers, legal changes are needed. By Carl E. Kandutsch ■ Attorney O ne avoidable barrier to the rapid deployment of fber optic networks in the United States is the cost associated with the lack of reliable, efcient and afordable access to physical infrastructure, particularly utility poles. Tere are several reasons for accessrelated barriers to deployment: First, the processes and time schedules for negotiating access to utility poles vary depending on the type of utility company that owns the poles. Te lack of a fxed, uniform protocol creates uncertainty, which in turn deters investment. Second, although the FCC has promulgated rules governing the rates that may be charged for attachment rights, enforcing the rules is costly and timeconsuming and risks undermining providers' long-term business relationships with owners of essential infrastructure. As a result, these rules are often ignored in practice. Tird, disparities in pole attachment rates may distort a service provider's decisions about which advanced services to provide. For example, uncertainty surrounding attachment rights and costs may deter a provider of cable television service from ofering other, noncable services over the same wire. gOOgle iN KaNsas City Te efects of regulatory uncertainty on fber deployment are illustrated by the bureaucratic fak Google Fiber encountered early last year. Google frst announced the project to deliver symmetrical 1 Gbps Internet connections to residential homes in February 2010. In March 2011, Google announced it had selected Kansas City, Kan., as the frst 46 Learn more about pole attachments and other right-of-way issues at the BroadBand Communities Summit in Dallas, April 16 – 18. buildout site for the new network. A few months later, it expanded the project to Kansas City, Mo., and several other neighboring towns. Te new fber network promises to bring huge benefts to these communities, including a boost in property values and new jobs, as businesses fnd ways to take advantage of increased connectivity. Compared with costs in other areas of the country, the cost of a Google connection is a bargain – $70 a month for Internet service or $120 a month for Internet and television service. If deployed nationally, Google Fiber's all-IP fber network has the potential to revolutionize ISP and cable television business models. Te key factor in Google's selection of Kansas City for initial deployment was the city's promise to minimize bureaucratic red tape by providing ready access to rights-of-way, expedited permitting and free space in city facilities, as well as assistance with public relations and marketing. Despite this promise of cooperation, Google's deployment eforts were hampered by controversy over fber pole attachment rates and the physical placement of lines, causing the company to delay its much-anticipated service activation for several months. Google's disputes over access to utility poles, though eventually resolved, illustrate why smaller-scale fber-to-thehome projects have been so difcult to realize. Old CategOries, New teChNOlOgy Te FCC is cognizant of the deployment obstacles created by cumbersome pole attachment processes and has moved to streamline the process. In its 2010 National Broadband Plan, the commission wrote that "the expense of obtaining permits and leasing pole attachments and rights-of-way can amount to 20 percent of the cost of fber deployment. Tese costs can be reduced directly by cutting fees. Te costs can also be lowered indirectly by expediting processes." Regarding processes, the plan noted that make-ready work "can be a signifcant about the author Carl Kandutsch, a former FCC attorney, is in private practice representing MDU property owners and broadband service providers on broadband communications and related real estate matters. Dr. Kandutsch may be contacted through his website (www. kandutsch.com), via email (carl@kandutsch.com) or by telephone (207-659-6247). | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | January/February 2013

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