PUC Adopts Rulemaking on Utility Pole Attachments Intended to Better Address Disputes & Enhance Deployment of Broadband & Other Services
Published on 8/29/2019
Filed under: Telecommunications
HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today advanced the process for the PUC to assume jurisdiction over pole attachments, creating a statewide forum to clearly identify the rates, terms and conditions for the use of utility poles and rights-of-way, and to more quickly resolve disputes that could be barriers to the deployment of enhanced broadband and other services.
The Commission voted 4-1 to adopt final regulations to begin asserting Commission jurisdiction over pole attachments in Pennsylvania, rather than the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), where that authority had previously resided.
“The deployment of broadband internet speeds is as essential to all Pennsylvanians, especially those in rural areas, as was electricity in the 1930’s. Access to the Internet is critical for education, healthcare and economic opportunity,” noted Commissioner Norman J. Kennard, who initiated the rulemaking process in 2018. “Providing a dispute forum for pole attachments at the Commission will allow for prompt resolution of fiber and wireless deployment and result in more efficient and better priced broadband expansion for the benefit of our rural residents. The Commission is proud to join legislative leadership, the Governor’s Office, the Center for Rural Broadband, and others in finding ways to push broadband to all of our citizens.”
In a series of statements at today’s public meeting, each of the Commissioners highlighted support for accelerating the resolution of disputes involving pole attachments. Chairman Gladys Brown Dutrieuille, Commissioner Kennard, Commissioner John F. Coleman Jr. and Commissioner Andrew G. Place supported the PUC rulemaking as a mechanism to better address barriers to broadband deployment. While noting his continuing support for efforts to enhance access to broadband service, Vice Chairman David W. Sweet dissented.
The PUC rulemaking approved today adopts current and future FCC regulations related to pole attachments and establishes procedures for resolving disputes.
Additionally, the rulemaking establishes a PUC Pole Attachment Working Group. The Working Group will monitor state and federal pole attachment issues and advise the Commission on those developments, discuss new issues and ideas, evaluate the complaint and dispute resolution process, offer input on any changes in formal regulations and make recommendations regarding whether the Commission should adopt subsequent FCC rule changes in Pennsylvania.
The Working Group will include technical and legal staff from the Commission; pole owners; pole attachers; the state’s consumer and small business advocates; interest groups representing telecommunication and broadband initiatives; and others in the public interest.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.
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Docket No.: L-2018-3002672
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