Last week’s “Poles and Holes” webcast, carried live on Broadband US TV, sparked a lively debate among panelists representing the telecom sector on the one hand, and utility and local governmental interests on the other. The program featured FCC Wireline Competition Bureau Chief Sharon Gillett who talked with co-hosts Marty Stern of K&L Gates and Jim Baller of The Baller Herbst Law Group about the scope and application of the FCC’s new pole attachment rules, including the rules’ controversial new telecom rate formula and the first-time requirement that incumbent telephone companies get the benefit of regulated pole attachment rates.
The panel discussion highlighted the strong disagreement between telecom industry interests and utilities over the Commission’s new telecom rate formula, new deadlines on completing attachments, and whether revised rules were needed at all. On rights-of-way access and facilities siting matters involving local governments, there was also significant disagreement over the extent to which particular local governments have been a hindrance to deployment. One industry panelist suggested, particularly as to wireless deployments, that “it’s a real fight” in too many cases. Joanne Hovis, President-elect of NATOA, bristled at that notion, stressing the interest of governments in working cooperatively and collaboratively with providers to facilitate broadband deployment, and argued that the industry is trying to “short-circuit localism” and asking the FCC for relief. Hovis, instead, offered that industry should “come to us and we will work with you. If you have a problem with one of our members, we will work with them as well.”
The webcast may be viewed here (registration required).