The nature—and volume—of pole attachment has evolved immensely over the past 35 years. Pre-1978, space on utility poles was mostly reserved for the power utility and the telecommunications provider for an area. Post-1978, cable companies and others got into the game. After 2000, Internet and broadband vied for space. Today, it is wireless and Wi-Fi.1 The result: many pole owners now have more attachments than poles, which has the potential to create numerous problems.
Too many pole attachment requests, too little time
With requests for attachments growing with every new company and service offering, it takes more and more for pole owners to keep up. The approval process is complex, involving field surveys, inspections and possibly make-ready (which can be costly and take up to 60-90 days or longer). As a result, backlogs become rampant and time-to-attach increases. According to a 2007 survey, some pole utility owners are so backlogged it takes more than 45 days to simply process requests.2 For this reason, some attachers apply the “don’t ask permission, beg forgiveness” ideology, and simply avoid the process altogether, attaching at-will. This, as we know, results in a whole other set of problems.
Unauthorized and unaccounted for utility pole attachments
We have talked about unauthorized attachments and the dangers they cause before. It bears repeating that pole owners are ultimately responsible for any consequences caused by unauthorized attachments or “bootleg” attachments. Unfortunately, via analog methods, combing poles for illegal hangers-on is time-consuming, leading many poles owners to only undertake the process every few years.3 Frankly, that is a lot of time for attachers to mount their equipment and keep it in use before someone discovers and removes it.
The statistics are staggering. Many pole owners currently experience a backlog of 2000-5000 outstanding violations—a massive number by anyone’s tally, but especially huge considering other, legal requests for attachment still come in (and must be dealt with) every day.
Smart joint use management tools and processes can help
Take inventory. Joint use inventory locates the utility poles you own, verifies existing data (or collects it, if the pole is new), and documents all company and foreign-owned attachments, rooting out any unauthorized bootleg attachers in the process. Safety audits and inspections are also performed to ensure current and future pole viability.
Get all the parties talking. Joint use notification systems collect, analyze and store all manner of information about poles and attachments, greatly facilitating attachment requests, keeping you organized and all parties informed and communicating. Great communication leads to trust among partners and fosters healthy pole-owner and attacher relationships due to the transparency of the process.
Streamline the backlog elimination process. Joint use management software collects, maps and makes virtual the adding, removal and editing of poles, attachments and resources, helping owners manage attaching companies and contracts. With vivid maps and intuitive interfaces, tools like these make the process of keeping track of authorized and unauthorized attachments faster and more organized, making you—and your attachers—more accountable.