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News and comments on community broadband networks, the communities deploying them and the technologies that support them. Published by Denise Frey and Al Bonnyman.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2003


"Poles apart: Telecom case heats up"

"Poles apart: Telecom case heats up"

"A dispute between area utility companies and a New York firm that hung fiber-optic cables on hundreds of utility poles in Hampden and Hampshire counties is being watched closely by local officials, who say it could open the door to better telecommunications services in western Massachusetts. The case is now in the hands of the state Department of Telecommunications and Energy, according to executive director Timothy Shevlin. In the dispute, Verizon, Western Massachusetts Electric Co. and Massachusetts Electric Co. claim Fibertech Networks of Rochester, N.Y., hung fiber-optic cables on their poles last year without permission."

This is an article worth reading as it brings up several issues about attaching to poles:

1. In general, Federal law gives all competitive telecom players the right to attach to poles, provided they pay reasonable pole attachment fees as well as pay the incremental cost of upgrading poles when needed, usually to meet National Electric Safety Code (NESC) cable spacing requirements. Pole-owners can't discriminate by treating one attacher differently from another.

2. Failure to meet NESC requirements can result in electrocutions, either during installation or later when others are working on poles. In most cases, the NESC spells out a 40" (1 meter) free of any cables between the lowest power utility conductor or cable and highest communications cable. Only the power utility can install fiber cables up above the safety zone.

3. Many poles are already "full" -- there's no room to put another cable TV or telecom cable on the pole without illegally encroaching on the safety zone. That means a new attaching entity has to pay the cost of having the power company come out and replace the pole with a taller pole. Moving all the power conductors (while energized) and telecom cables typically costs $3000+ per pole. If 30% of the poles are full and there are 35 poles per mile, a new attacher may be looking at over $30,000 per mile in pole replacement costs.

(That's why all the new municipal cable TV projects are going over to fiber to the home -- the municipal electric utility saves money by putting all dielectric fiber cable above the safety zone near the conductors instead of trying to find room for metallic coax below the safety zone.)

4. Reading between the lines, it looks like Fibertech may have tried to short cut the cost of "make-ready".

Daily Hampshire Gazette article by Dan Crowley.


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