The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a combined Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on May 20, 2010, addressing a revised framework for access to utility poles by communications providers. The Order and NPRM implement a part of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, and is intended to make access to utility poles more streamlined and predictable, and to make rental rates more uniform and less expensive. Both the Order and the proposals in the NPRM ultimately may constrain the ability of pole owners to establish rates and conditions for access to their poles. In this context, a “utility pole” includes any pole, duct, conduit or right of way that is owned by a public utility or a local exchange carrier and that is used for any wire communications. Section 224 of the Communications Act gives communications providers a conditional right of access and the Order is intended to assist providers of telecommunications services, cable television service, and other broadband service providers in acquiring and maintaining reasonable access to utility poles in support of their services.
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