CenturyLink to FCC: Allow fiber overlashing on poles to accelerate broadband deployment

utility poles
CenturyLink wants the FCC to adopt rules to allow for greater use of fiber overlashing on utility poles. (Image: publicdomainpics.net)

CenturyLink says the if the FCC continues to allow attachers to overlash fiber on existing utility poles, the regulator will meet its goals to get broadband into the hands of more consumers and businesses.

Overlashing is the process of physically tying additional cables to the cables that are already attached to a utility pole.

This practice could accommodate any additional strands of fiber or coaxial cable on existing pole attachments.

“Consistent with that precedent and its goal of accelerating broadband deployment, the Commission should codify the principle that attachers are permitted, without a pole owner’s prior approval, to overlash their own or third parties’ pole attachments with telecommunications wires, including fiber-optic cable, fiber splice closures, and similar incidental equipment,” CenturyLink said in an FCC filing (PDF. “This rule will enable rapid deployment and upgrade of broadband services, while relying on subsequent inspection and make-ready processes to ensure that overlashed facilities comply with safety and engineering standards.”

RELATED: Incompas, NCTA to FCC: Reject AT&T, CenturyLink, Verizon pole attachment proposal

However, the service provider cautioned that the accelerated process should not apply to other pieces of network equipment service providers place on poles.

“This streamlined process should not apply, however, to equipment that is not incidental to overlashed telecommunications lines, such as strand-mounted antennas and other RF-emitting devices, batteries, and power supplies, because such equipment is much more likely to present safety and load concerns that should be addressed upfront through the pole attachment process, as modified in this proceeding,” CenturyLink said.

Like other discussions related to pole attachments, overlashing has its supporters and opponents.

On one hand, wireless, cable and fiber providers tout how overlashing drives faster broadband deployments.

This group of supporters, says CenturyLink, “claim that prior notice or approval requirements are unwarranted because they would slow broadband deployment and any concerns about overloading or safety, including from strand-mounted antennas, are adequately addressed through compliance with accepted engineering standards.”

However, electric utilities have long pointed out there are potential risks with overlashing. Utility companies like CPS Energy in San Antonio, Texas, previously told the FCC that existing precedent allows them to ask for any new attacher give notice of overlashing requests and deny requests if necessary.

“The desire of the Commission and communications companies to deploy broadband rapidly and cheaply, however, should not be allowed to compromise the safety or reliability of electric system operations or impede the operations of other pole users in the name of expediency,” CPS Energy said in a FCC filing (PDF).

CenturyLink said it recognizes that the FCC needs to consider all points of view in shortening the pole attachment process by ensuring safety and service continuity to any provider’s facilities on those poles as well as protecting utility workers and general public from any unforeseen risks.

The service provider said it “believes the Commission can best strike this balance by drawing a line between wire-to-wire overlashing and attachment of strand-mounted equipment that is not incidental to the host attachment.”