Frontier, TDS join chorus calling on FCC to reform pole access rates

Frontier and TDS Telecom agree with COMPTEL and Level 3's recent FCC petition that all service providers should be able to get competitively priced access to local power utility poles to expand their broadband networks. 

In June, Level 3 and COMPTEL filed comments asking the FCC to resolve the lingering issue over pole attachment rates for cable and telecom providers.

The two groups said that while the FCC's 2011 pole attachment order recognized that there was a disparity in the rate formulas used for cable and telcos that could have "negative implications for competition and broadband deployment," the regulator needs to make further clarifications.

Frontier and TDS Telecom -- two telcos that mainly serve rural markets -- said in separate FCC filings that they support a petition to eliminate any unintended disparities between the cable rate and the new telecom rate for pole attachments.

Given its rural status, Frontier said it sees a number of power companies try to overcharge it for access to poles in the areas it serves.

"Frontier routinely faces attempts by power companies to use the urban telecom rate cost allocator (66%) for areas with lower numbers of average attaching entities, including for areas with less than an average of three attaching entities -- the presumed average for rural areas," said Frontier in an FCC filing."

Frontier added that since ILECs don't own a lot of their own poles they are "left in an inferior bargaining position."

"Because ILECs do not have a right of access to utilities' poles, ILECs face even greater challenges than other attachers achieving just and reasonable rates and are at a competitive disadvantage," said Frontier.

TDS is in a similar position as Frontier. It said in its filing that as a "telecommunications provider that serves many rural areas, TDS Telecom is deeply concerned about this issue."

The telco agreed with the joint Level 3 and COMPTEL filing that the FCC could "achieve its goal of providing uniform pole attachment rates for providers of telecommunications and cable service by accommodating cost adjustments scaled to other entity counts when fewer than five entities attach to a pole in an urban area or fewer than three entities attach to a pole in a rural area."

Other telcos like Verizon (NYSE: VZ) continue to mire through battles with local utilities over pole access.

Verizon is currently engaged in a pole attachment battle with Virginia-based power company Dominion, arguing that the power company requires it to pay more for pole access than its CLEC competitors.

For more:
- see the Frontier filing (.pdf)
- see the TDS filing (.pdf)

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