Verizon accused of denying Charter pole access in New York

utility poles

Verizon has found itself embroiled in a new pole attachment battle as Charter Communications accused the telco of violating New York’s state public service law and regulations by denying access to utility poles.

These delays were a blow to Charter as it tried to meet a requirement to expand its network in New York to 145,000 homes and businesses by May 2020, something the operator agreed to when it acquired Time Warner Cable.

As a result of the delays, Charter was fined by New York regulators for failing to meet the deadline to complete the first section of network construction. Charter was supposed to complete the first 36,250 locations by May of this year.

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The cable MSO lays the blame on delays that Verizon caused, in a complaint filed on Saturday with the New York Public Service Commission.

"In the face of Verizon’s intransigence, Charter has been unable to satisfy the milestones in the Buildout Condition," Charter said.

Charter said in the complaint, cited in an Ars Technica report, that since the beginning the buildout last May, Charter submitted 822 pole attachment applications to Verizon, asking to attach facilities to over 55,000 poles.

However, the cable MSO said that Verizon has only signed off on “179 of those applications and has released only 4,048 poles to Charter—a mere 7 percent of poles for which Charter has submitted applications to Verizon.”

Similar to other cable providers, Charter has to work with multiple pole owners, but claims Verizon has made the process more difficult.

"Unlike other pole owners in the State, Verizon does not provide routine status updates regarding the status of Charter’s permit applications, further frustrating Charter’s efforts to mitigate delays in Verizon’s processing of such applications," Charter said.

For its part, Verizon told Ars Technica that it has tried to accommodate and accelerate Charter’s pole attachment requests.

"We have been more than cooperative and even presented Charter with options to speed up their construction efforts,” Verizon said. “For them to try to shift blame is puzzling at best. We stand ready to continue to assist them and again provide them with the methods to speed things up.”

Pole attachments overall have been a thorny issue not only for Charter, but also Verizon and other service providers.

A number of service providers like Google Fiber have advocated for a one-touch make-ready process that allows service providers to move existing utility lines from Verizon, AT&T and other service providers.

In a slight ironic twist, Charter could benefit from the new rule despite joining AT&T in suing the local government in Louisville and Jefferson County, Kentucky, to stop a one-touch make-ready ordinance that enabled Google Fiber get a streamlined process to attach fiber to existing utility poles.

Breaking ranks with AT&T and Charter, Verizon, which owns and attaches facilities to other utility’s poles, told the FCC to adopt a rule.

“By replacing sequential make-ready with one-touch make-ready, the new attacher can shorten significantly the make-ready and attachment process,” Verizon said in an FCC filing (PDF).