Live Webcast Examines Controversial Pole Attachment Rules and Right-of-Way Access [UPDATED 6/21/11]

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).

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FCC Wireline Competition Bureau Chief Sharon Gillett will be featured on an upcoming live webcast on “Poles and Holes” being carried on Internet TV channel Broadband US TV on June 17 at 1 p.m. ET. The program, co-hosted by K&L Gates partner Marty Stern and Jim Baller of the Baller Herbst Law Group, will examine the FCC’s recently issued pole attachment rules and how to improve rights-of-way access and facility siting. Also featured on the program will be Joanne Hovis, incoming president of the NATOA; Brett Kilbourne of the Utilities Telecom Council; Tracey Steiner of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association; Charles Stockdale, General Counsel of FiberTech; Scott Thompson of Davis Wright Tremaine; and Jeb Benedict of CenturyLink.

The program will feature a spirited “point-counterpoint” discussion among participants on all sides of these issues. Among the topics to be examined are the controversial new pole attachment rules, which we recently blogged on, including new access timelines and pole attachment complaint procedures, as well as the FCC’s recent Notice of Inquiry requesting comments on multiple points of contention between industry and government affecting broadband buildout.

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