In several different ex parte filings during the last week at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), UTC and other electric utility industry groups opposed FCC expansion of pole attachment regulation of ILEC pole attachment rates. UTC explained that giving regulated rates for ILEC attachments would be “contrary to the statute and congressional intent and would undermine critical infrastructure by abrogating joint use agreements that are fundamentally based upon cost sharing and parity of pole ownership.” This followed filings by the Alliance for Fair Pole Attachment Rules (including, American Electric Power Service Corporation, Duke Energy Corporation, Entergy Services, Inc., Florida Power & Light Company, Progress Energy, and Southern Company) and the Edison Electric Institute, which focused their opposition on regulated rates for ILECs. The Alliance quoted the FCC’s own determination in 1998 that ILECs have “no rights” under Section 224 with respect to the poles of other utilities, and EEI contradicted carrier claims that Section 224(b) provides regulated rates for ILECs as “providers of telecommunications services” even though Section 224(a)(5) excludes ILECs as “telecommunications carriers” for purposes of pole attachments.
Most recently, PEPCO CEO Joseph Rigby filed a letter with the FCC expressing safety and reliability concerns, stating that “[w]hile I fully support the National Broadband Plan’s goal of improving our communications infrastructure to make low-cost, high speed Internet available to all Americans, I want to be certain that this does not come at the expense of critical infrastructure. He explained that “our electric grid is a complex system that – although resilient – remains susceptible to factors beyond a utility’s control ranging from the weather to the strain or unauthorized attachments.” He urged the FCC to “consider these concerns carefully and ensure protections are in place to guarantee that critical electric infrastructure is not compromised by promoting attachments without adequate resources to mitigate this new strain on utility systems.”