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What Utilities Want You To Know

Over the past few years, I've noticed a certain pattern in the discussions I have about the pole attachments process. Most attachers feel like the process is too cumbersome, and that everyone involved in the process is trying to keep them off poles.

They believe that utilities and existing attachers will do anything to stop them from building, including stalling the application, charging outrageous make ready costs, and refusing to move facilities to accommodate a new attachment.

New attachers aren't wrong, most of the time. It's always in existing attachers' best interest to keep new fiber and CATV off the pole for as long as possible. The new FCC Order enacts "Self-Help" rules that will allow new attachers to proceed with make ready work even if existing attachers stall or refuse to move their facilities in a timely fashion.

The misconception, however, is that utilities don't want new attachments to their poles. After talking with many utilities across the country, here are the things utilities want attachers to know:

1. No attachment is worth compromising safety.

No matter how fast, cheap, or accessible your new communications service is, it will never be worth putting lives at risk to make the attachments process faster or more convenient for you. Safety is the number one priority, which means that all new attachments must be done in such a way that protects utility and communication space workers as well as the public.

2. Pole loading analysis and make ready engineering are essential to a robust electrical distribution system.

The standards and specifications set in place by distribution engineers and the National Electric Safety Code aren't hurdles to make the pole attachments process harder, they're designed to ensure the reliability of the electrical distribution system. Utilities want to make sure that attachers value the bigger picture—after all, no one will get to use their new high-speed internet if the power is out.

3. We ALL want faster, better, cheaper internet.

As long as the new attachment is installed safely and doesn't compromise the reliability of the grid, families, businesses, and communities will all benefit from your new attachments. Utilities benefit from competition between ISPs just like any other business, and better connectivity typically leads to more energy consumption. Faster internet with competitive pricing makes everyone's lives easier.

4. Collaboration is key.

Big fiber projects will require custom timelines and clear communication between all parties involved. If you're in an FCC state, know the rules about OTMR and self-help, and start preparing to use these tools to get your project completed faster. If the relationship between pole owner and third-party attacher is adversarial, everyone loses. Here are a few of our tips to help your two teams work together.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, or want to know how we handle these relationships when managing New Attachment Services, give us a call at 717.432.0716 or email me at aschmehl@katapultengineering.com.

Adam Schmehl