Supreme Court Won't Consider FCC's 2011 Pole Attachment Order

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By Bryce Baschuk  

Oct. 7 --The Supreme Court denied a cert petition from electric utility companies Oct. 7 to review a lower court's decision in a case that limits the price they can charge telecommunications companies to hang wires and other equipment from utility poles (Am. Electric Power Serv. Corp., et al v. FCC, U.S., No. 12-1396, cert. denied 10/7/13).

In February the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the Federal Communications Commission's 2011 pole attachment order (Am. Electric Power Service Corp. et al v. FCC, D.C. Cir., No. 11-1146, 2/26/13). The order set a new rate of $7 per foot per year that utility-pole owners could charge telecommunications providers to hang wires and antennae (2011 TLN 7, 5/1/11).

The FCC order sought to reduce costs for broadband Internet access and encourage greater deployment of broadband Internet to underserved and unserved areas in the U.S. The order also requires utility companies to allow Internet service providers to attach broadband wires and equipment to utility poles within 148 days of a request and 178 days for wireless antennae.

The decision “essentially cements the order into law, absent further regulatory changes,” said a Stifel report authored by Christopher King and David Kaut. “We believe telecom carriers will likely achieve savings on pole attachments over time under the FCC rules,” the report said. Former Bell operating companies previously said utilities had overcharged them up to $350 million a year.

New Deployments

The decision may benefit Internet service providers who are considering new broadband deployments and facilitate the installation of distributed antenna systems (DAS), the Stifel report said. The commission recently acknowledged that increased deployment of DAS and small cell antennae are supplementing traditional wireless towers where towers' construction would be impractical or inefficient.

USTelecom Vice President Glenn Reynolds said the group was pleased that the Supreme Court has “rightly put a final stake in the efforts of the electric utility industry to delay the FCC's implementation of the statute's clear directive,” according to a news release. “We are hopeful that these companies will now come to the table to negotiate reasonable attachment rates and conditions and, where they continue to refuse, that the FCC will move quickly to enforce its pole attachment rules.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Bryce Baschuk in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at

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