Frontier says pole attachment prices are dramatically high in rural areas

Frontier has joined Level 3 Communications and industry group COMPTEL in asking the FCC to clarify the rules regarding pole attachment rates for cable and traditional telecom providers, as well as making the rates more uniform.  

Being a provider to a number of rural and harder to reach areas, Frontier faces unique challenges with attaching fiber and copper to existing utility poles.

The service provider said that the amount of money they have to pay to power companies to get necessary rights-of-way to access utility poles is one of the largest costs that it and other broadband providers incur in expanding their networks to more homes and businesses.

In its Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan document, the FCC wrote that "the expense of obtaining permits and leasing pole attachments and rights-of-way can amount to 20% of the cost of fiber optic deployment."

"Pole attachment fees are among the greatest costs that broadband providers, such as Frontier, face; reducing those costs enables providers to focus resources on infrastructure investment and deployment," wrote Frontier in an FCC filing.

Frontier added that "these costs are particularly dramatic in the rural areas that Frontier serves, where Frontier must obtain rights to many more additional poles to serve customers spread out over a greater geographic area."

Like Level 3 and COMPTEL, Frontier is asking the FCC to grant the pending petition from reconsideration of the regulator's 2011 Pole Attachment Order. The FCC's order was designed to ensure that any provider can get access to poles at the same rate cable gets--an issue the FCC raised again in its new net neutrality order.

If the FCC were to adjust the telecom rate, the FCC would not only promote further broadband deployment--which has been a key goal of current Chairman Wheeler--but also reduce what Frontier calls competitive distortions. The FCC said that reducing the telecom rate to be closer to the cable rate would enable providers to "compete on a more level playing field."

Frontier said that it has seen a number of local utility companies in rural areas use the "telecom rate cost allocator for areas with lower average attaching entity numbers," but the FCC could reduce these competitive disparities by granting the petition.

The service provider added that the FCC's action could put it on a more competitive footing with cable operators on pole attachment rates.

"By granting the Petition, the Commission can reduce these competitive disparities," wrote Frontier. "In particular, the Commission can remove any competitive advantages that cable providers currently have over other Internet service providers based on a different pole attachment rate when cable providers and other Internet service providers are frequently providing the same services and competing for the same customers."

For more:
- see this FCC filing (PDF)

Editor's Corner: Enabling competition from Google Fiber means FCC must reconsider pole attachment pricing

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