Verizon Bucks AT&T And Comcast, Supports Utility Pole Reform For Faster Fiber Deployment

from the bureaucratic-bumbling dept

In addition to high costs and the slow pace of digging up streets, one of the reasons Google Fiber is contemplating a pivot from fiber to next-gen wireless broadband is the boring old utility pole. As it stands now, new market competitors often have to navigate an archaic, elaborate and expensive process to attach fiber to poles. Quite often, attaching fiber requires having any other ISPs in the area notified in writing, then waiting for each one to move their own equipment piecemeal, one of several bureaucratic processes incumbents have long abused to slow down the arrival of new competitors.

When Google Fiber began more seriously deploying fiber, it proposed new "one touch make ready rules" in many municipalities. Under these revised rules, a licensed, insured third-party contractor is allowed to move any equipment on utility poles with owner approval. In many instances, these contractors are the very same ones used by large ISPs themselves. The regulatory reform is estimated to streamline the pole attachment process by six months to a year.

But because this regulatory reform would make it easier for broadband competitors to come to market, large ISPs like AT&T, Comcast and Charter (Spectrum) decided to sue cities like Louisville and Nashville for proposing such reforms. Of course these regional mono/duopolies can't admit they're predominately motivated by anti-competitive reasons, so they've tried to argue they're simply worried that the reform will cause rampant outages (again, these are licensed, insured contractors already employed by many ISPs). Charter even tried to claim the reforms violated its First Amendment rights.

But something shifted this week in this long-standing, if under-noticed and important debate. Verizon has decided to buck AT&T and Comcast, and has published a blog post throwing its full-throated support behind Google's one touch utility pole reform (though you'll note they're careful not to mention their arch-nemisis Google by name). Verizon is quick to highlight the often-absurd bureaucracy at the heart of this process:

Under the current system, a new attacher must contact a pole owner to get permission to attach, wait for a survey, and then, wait some more as each existing attacher moves or adjusts their attachments – a process called “make-ready” (literally, making-the-pole-ready for the new attachment). Right now, this often proceeds sequentially, with multiple reviews and truck rolls for each of the providers already attached to the pole. It can take six months to a year – and piles of paperwork – to get a new attachment approved and placed on a pole.

Having deployed $25 billion or so in fiber to the home, the company proceeds to note that it, if anyone, should know a little something about this process. As such, it notes that a streamlined pole attachment process would bring a lot of efficiency to the entire affair, helping to speed up broadband deployment nationwide:

Instead of the current ungainly process, there would be one truck roll to make all of the adjustments to existing attachments and to add the new attachment. Just one disruption to traffic instead of multiple trucks. And to care for legitimate concerns about protecting networks and ensuring safety, the FCC could limit participation to qualified, licensed contractors who are approved by pole-owners, agree to abide by all applicable safety standards, and who, along with the new attacher, will indemnify pole owners and existing attachers if things go wrong.

The question of the hour is: why isn't Verizon siding with AT&T, Comcast and Charter out of a desire to protect itself from added fixed-line broadband competition? Verizon no longer cares about fixed-line broadband competition. As we've long noted, Verizon's FiOS expansion is all but frozen, and it's been selling off its unwanted fixed-line customers and networks piecemeal. Verizon's plan now is to gobble up AOL and Yahoo, and become an advertising and media company like Google -- but one that controls the conduit and the message via its nationwide wireless network.

And most of the current hotbeds for fiber deployment (pretty much everywhere but Verizon's territory in the Northeast) won't impact Verizon's remaining fixed-line infrastructure. But these fiber deployments outside of Verizon's territory will help fuel Verizon's fifth-generation (5G) expansion plans, which is why, for once, Verizon is actually on the right side of the issues -- instead of trying to keep the bureaucratic status quo intact.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2017 @ 9:46am

    Wait, this makes no sense. Verizon can't be prepping next-gen technology. Only unequivocal monopolies lead to investment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2017 @ 10:58am

    busting Unions

    Verizon just wants to bust the CWA, removing these rules would help with that

    "When Google Fiber began more seriously deploying fiber, it proposed new "one touch make ready rules" in many municipalities. Under these revised rules, a licensed, insured third-party contractor is allowed to move any equipment on utility poles with owner approval."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2017 @ 11:01am

    I know if I owned a bunch of poles, paid for them to be installed, maintain them and the equipment on them and if anything goes wrong it's going to be my fault, I'd be saying 'hell-no' to everyone too.
    And Google Fiber contractors have caused at least three critical ATT down-ages covering tens of thousands of people's service, including EMS/911 systems, at least one power outage lasting hours, and probably one gas line break that triggered an evacuation of a whole neighborhood. Their contractors SUCK.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2017 @ 11:07am

      Re: EDIT

      ^In Nashville

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2017 @ 12:11pm

      Re:

      Where we live, we lost a major mixed-used building in a historic downtown district to Verizon's (sub)contractor hitting a gas line; however, this was largely due to our gas utility dropping the ball on marking & emergency response. Just goes to show you that:

      1. the legacy players aren't immune to such messes either
      2. pointing fingers at the excavator isn't always totally fair

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 21 Jun 2017 @ 4:06pm

      Re:

      DEAR AC..
      ONLY the electric corp is responsible..OTHERS RENT SPACE ON THE POLES..

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2017 @ 7:45am

        Re: Re:

        Not true. With one-touch-make-ready rules, the contractors adjusting stuff on the poles are responsible for any damage. They need to be certified/bonded/etc. and if they're as bad as claimed could likely be banned from touching the poles even with these rules.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 21 Jun 2017 @ 11:09am

    Well sure. Maybe someone else will fix Verizon's very fine utility poles for them then. Plus they can screw their own workers in the deal, as someone else would be doing the work. Win/win.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2017 @ 11:37am

    Maybe they published it by mistake.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2017 @ 1:02pm

    When it's for someone elses deployments, they'll fight tooth and nail to keep everyone else off of "their" poles. But now that it will benefit them with their own deployment, of course they're all for the reform.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 21 Jun 2017 @ 1:56pm

    This is the latest in a series of small, otherwise unnoticed policy decisions that are shifting Verizon's trajectory slightly away from the rest of the thugpack; Chairman Pai must be mightily miffed at his alma mater. Of course, all it takes to invalidate it all is one senior executive transfer...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 21 Jun 2017 @ 3:54pm

    They probably just want to be able to move everyone else's stuff without any hassle because they are being forced to clean up their own mess.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Jun 2017 @ 4:05pm

    Verizon no longer cares about fixed-line broadband competition.

    but one that controls the conduit and the message via its nationwide wireless network.

    That does not diminish their interest in gaining quick access to utility poles, as all the base station they install need fiber running to them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 21 Jun 2017 @ 4:11pm

    Lets see.....

    Vorizen..
    wants..
    Everyone ELSES SYSTEM..to expand THEIR OWN..
    Think about it..Install Underground connections to the LAST MILE, Pop up and MOVE any lines Direct to homes..

    There is also an other TECH that is very interesting..
    With EACH FIOS install you can add an external Cell antenna. WOW what a way to COVER the world..

    How much does a LARGE Antenna cost?? and LEASE land for?? When you can use LOW GAIN localized systems??

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    vanilla (profile), 22 Jun 2017 @ 4:57am

    Who's Been OverBuilding In Verizon Territory?

    I haven't read a single story where some provider has been stonewalled by Verizon. Those stories have been all about AT&T, Comcast etc. Maybe someone can point out where Verizon has stopped Google or who ever from attaching to Verizon poles.

    Verizon has also quietly replaced 3.8 million copper lines with fiber, post FIOS, through a copper plant replacement program that they started in 2012. People then complain they can't get dial tone during a hurricane.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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