Today, TechFreedom filed comments in response to the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SFNPRM) on measures that the Commission may adopt to better align the financial incentives of utilities and attachers with respect to pole replacements. In these comments, we document why it is vital that the Commission address the issue of pole replacements now, as an unprecedented amount of federal funding for broadband is about to be deployed at a time when the cost to deploy broadband is skyrocketing. Our comments also urge the Commission to adopt a request that disputes arising over pole replacements in unserved areas be moved to the Accelerated Docket, which requires a decision within 60 days.

“If even 20 percent of BEAD funding goes into pole replacements, the digital divide cannot be closed,” said James E. Dunstan, TechFreedom’s General Counsel. “We don’t dispute the existence of an aging power infrastructure and delivery system in desperate need of upgrading. However, the latest round of federal funding is earmarked for broadband deployment, not power grid replacement. ”

“There are clear signs that the costs of broadband deployment are skyrocketing,” Dunstan continued. “The time to act is now. Given that most unserved and underserved Americans are rural, the cost of diesel fuel to transport materials to remote locations and to fuel generators for construction will be a key factor. Couple that with a higher number of pole replacement necessary per household served, and those unserved areas will once again be left behind.”

“The commission has the legal authority to set pole replacement rules,” Dunstan concluded. “The statutory power of the FCC in this area could not be clearer. The question in this proceeding thus becomes not whether the FCC can apportion the costs of pole attachments between owners and attachers, but rather how those costs should be allocated, which we believe should be done in a way that recognizes the economic benefit to all parties involved in the pole replacement.”


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