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ACA Urges FCC To Curb Rise In Pole Fees Tied To Broadband Reclassification

Pole Owners Seeking Higher Rates From Cable Operators

PITTSBURGH, June 5, 2015 - The American Cable Association called on the Federal Communications Commission to protect cable operators that offer Internet access from paying much higher pole attachment fees as a result of the FCC's decision to reclassify broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service.

"Pole owners must not be permitted to exploit the FCC's action by seeking higher pole rates or else investment in broadband will shrink and the retail price of broadband access will rise to recover the cost. Both are truly bad outcomes," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.

Under federal law, cable operators that offer broadband access used to pay pole fees under a cable-specific formula that fully compensated pole owners. But as telecommunications service providers, cable operators that offer broadband access are no longer protected by the old formula; instead, they are exposed to a different formula designed for telecommications carriers that results in much more revenue for pole owners.

Prior to the FCC's Feb. 26 vote to reclassify broadband under Title II of the Communications Act, ACA warned the agency that cable operators would be exposed to paying much higher pole attachment fees as telecommunications service providers.  Utility pole owners jumped on the FCC's ruling and have been notifying cable operators that their poll attachment fees would start going up by as much as 80% under the telecommunications formula, ACA said in June 4 comments filed with the FCC.

As long as the FCC fails to take the action on a petition by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and others to shield cable operators from pole hikes, pole owners can levy higher attachment rates, deterring investment and broadband deployment by affected cable operators. These disincentives for broadband deployment will especially harm smaller operators operating in less dense areas where access to more poles is generally required and where it is already harder to justify a network build enabling higher performance broadband access service.

Consequently, the FCC should take immediate action on NCTA's petition and ensure that pole owners can't demand excessive fees harmful to the national goal of universal and affordable broadband access. Reducing the telecom pole fee rate so that it is close, if not identical, to the cable rate will better enable providers to compete on a level playing field and will eliminate distortions in end-user choices between technologies.

About the American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing nearly 850 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for nearly 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America.  Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA's members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business.  For more information, visit http://www.americancable.org/

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