Verizon says OTMR, streamlined copper retirement will enhance wireline broadband expansion

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Verizon continues to seek permission to retire copper facilities in areas of its Northeast territory.

Verizon says that if the FCC is serious about creating an environment that’s conducive for service providers bringing broadband to more places, the regulator should consider focusing on two areas: revising the copper retirement process and considering a one-touch make-ready pole attachment process.

Being a traditional ILEC, Verizon has a large copper network built over the last 100 years and it should be of no surprise that it is working to transition more of its last-mile network to a more future-proofed and multipurpose fiber network.

While it has not called out any other new cities recently, the service provider did strike an agreement with Boston to replace its aging copper network with fiber to not only satisfy consumer Fios internet and video, but also to support future 5G and business service initiatives. At the same time, the service provider has continued to seek permission from the FCC to retire copper facilities in other areas of its Northeast territory.

Verizon said in its FCC filing (PDF) that by reworking the copper retirement process, the telco can not only alleviate any customer concerns but also shut off services that have little, if any, customers using them.

“To allow reasonable allocation of resources and encourage the transition to newer technologies, providers seeking to deploy and expand broadband facilities need better tools to efficiently retire legacy copper networks and discontinue outdated services,” Verizon said in its filing. “The copper retirement notice procedures need to be revamped to remedy possible customer confusion, and to shorten the timeline.”

Focus on fiber migration, services

Verizon added that the FCC should also be able to notify customers on the basis that they will be moved to a network medium that can support a range of higher speed broadband and video services not possible with traditional copper-based technologies such as DSL.   

“Customer notices should be linked to the customer’s specific migration to fiber, and not to the actual retirement of their copper,” Verizon said. “And providers should be able to quickly and efficiently discontinue services that are outdated or better served by other technologies.”

The service provider recently asked to retire copper in eight markets—including cities and towns in Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland and Delaware—for example.  

Verizon has continued to expand its wireline broadband deployments into more cities. Available to nearly 14.3 million premises in the telco’s wireline service territory, Fios offers symmetrical upload and download broadband speeds near gigabit speeds as well as linear video TV service in many markets.

The telco says it now competes against strong cable competitors that are offering 1 and 2 Gbps speeds via their hybrid fiber coax networks by upgrading their plant to DOCSIS 3.1 technology.

“As deployment of fixed broadband services accelerates, Verizon faces competition nearly everywhere it has deployed broadband, including its Fios service. To keep pace, cable operators are rapidly deploying the latest generation of cable technology known as DOCSIS,” Verizon said.

Emphasis on OTMR

Verizon has also been a supporter of the Google Fiber-backed one-touch make ready (OTMR) proposal to streamline the pole attachment process to “spur broadband deployment.”

“The commission should allow attachers to use approved contractors who would coordinate and do all work to add a new attachment—that is, it should authorize one-touch make-ready as an alternative to the current pole attachment process,” Verizon said. “The commission should also adopt a rule that incumbent LEC pole attachers are entitled to the telecom rate and the Commission should exclude capital costs from pole attachment rates.”

But wireline broadband is only one element that Verizon says OTMR will enable.

In a previous filing, Verizon said that to make its 5G network investment a reality, Verizon needs a streamlined permitting process to get access to necessary rights of way on existing utility poles and other associated infrastructure.

RELATED: Verizon to FCC: Streamlined pole access will facilitate small cell, fiber deployments

Verizon’s stance on OTMR is a break in rank with fellow telcos AT&T and Frontier as well as cable operator Comcast.

AT&T filed a suit against Nashville, Tennessee, last year, which passed an OTMR ordinance in February 2016. The ordinance would help ease Google Fiber’s and other competitors’ movement into the Louisville broadband market by allowing them to move and install their own wiring on poles instead of waiting for AT&T and other service providers to conduct this work.

At that time, AT&T said the Nashville city council is overstepping its boundaries in enacting a reformed pole attachment process, adding that only the FCC can regulate privately owned utility poles.