OTMR – One Touch Make-Ready will soon be the rule of the land; at least in the thirty states governed by the FCC’s latest rules on pole attachments. This ruling, which largely follows the BDAC (Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee) recommendations, applies only to investor-owned utilities and telephone companies and not coop or municipal-owned poles. Although this sounds like a droll topic, it could have a significant impact on broadband deployment, as an economic study by Corning estimates that it could trigger “approximately 8.3 million incremental premises passed with fiber and about $12.6 billion in incremental fiber capital expenditures.”
In the above interview, ACA SVP of Government Affairs, Ross Lieberman indicates that ACA is also bullish on the positive impact of the Order. This was echoed in Matt Polka’s Tweet that the FCC referenced in a press release, “Thank you @FCC for addressing one of the biggest problems @AmericanCable Mbrs encounter when trying to deploy and be #BroadbandForward!”
In its Fact Sheet on OTMR, the FCC emphasizes that these rules are a baseline of sorts and they encourage the attachers (those entities wanting space on the pole) and pole-owners to negotiate better solutions and for states to experiment with other ways to encourage broad deployment in their local jurisdictions, provided they don’t conflict with the FCC rules. The rules also apply to overlashing on an existing cable.
The Order also indicates that the FCC “will preempt, on an expedited case-by-case basis, state and local laws that inhibit the rebuilding or restoration of broadband infrastructure after a disaster.” It also equalizes “the pole attachment rates incumbent carriers must pay compared to other similarly-situated cable and telecommunications attachers.”
The major difference is that with OTMR, the attacher does all the work for make-ready when the equipment resides in the communications space, as opposed to spreading the work over multiple parties.
In the 8/1/18 Open Commission meeting, FCC Chairman Pai likened the new process to consumer making one trip to several stores, as opposed to making several trips, which would add time and cost (the old make-ready process). To ensure safety, when the equipment is being installed above the communications space (e.g. wireless on top of a pole), the pole-owner is still responsible for make-ready work outside the communications space.
Regarding safety, the new attachers must use utility-approved contractors to perform OTMR. If the utility does not provide a list of approved contractors, then the new attachers must use qualified contractors. Although the FCC believes that liability laws will serve as guardrails, it reserves the right to re-examine its ruling if these metaphorical guardrails are not adequate:
“To the extent that it exceeds our expectations, we may consider expanding the availability of our OTMR process where it is safe to do so.109 Conversely, if new attachers fail to prevent physical harm or outages, we will not hesitate to revisit whether to maintain an OTMR option.”
Previous make-ready rules were not perfect from a safety perspective, as indicated by this author’s personal experience documented in this article, “If a Cable Falls in the Street, Does Anyone Care How It Happened?” Although the FCC’s current Order and Report doesn’t appear to address all the questions raised in that article, it is encouraging that the FCC is showing it will have the flexibility to adjust the OTMR option, as necessary.
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