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FCC issues two rulings on pole attachments

Updated: Dec 6, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission is taking action to expedite small cell deployments on utility poles. One rule relates to so-called "make-ready" fees and the other relates to historic preservation review.

The first set of rules is meant to facilitate deployment of multiple cells on one pole when possible. The FCC said local service providers need to grant one another access to poles they own or control, and that pole owners cannot charge "make-ready" fees to a second provider when the cost of making the pole ready for small cells has already been recovered from the first provider.

Of course the new rule will be somewhat open to interpretation at the local level, but the FCC wants to make sure municipalities don't drag their heels. The agency has instituted a 180-day "shot clock" for all disputes, and said its enforcement bureau will handle these.

The FCC is also eliminating historic preservation review for replacement utility poles that are "substantially identical" to the original poles. The new pole can be located up to 10 feet away from the original, provided there is no new ground disturbance, and can be up to 5 feet taller than the original pole.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, who is leading the agency's efforts to expedite wireless infrastructure deployment, said the new rules are a first step on the path to accelerated deployments.

"In this Order, the Commission reaches the reasonable determination that swapping out utility poles for the purpose of adding antennas or other wireless equipment can be done without any impact on historic properties," said Carr. "This determination provides substantial relief by eliminating what would otherwise have been an unnecessary and time-consuming review process for each and every pole replacement."

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