As we previously discussed, it is possible for a company to assume ownership of "bad" utility poles. These "bad" assets are poles that have been decommissioned but are still standing alongside their replacements. This generally happens as a result of unfinished pole transfer requests: an attaching company is asked by a pole owner to transfer equipment to a new pole, but the transfer never happens. In accordance with the joint use contract in place, transfers must be completed within a reasonable amount of time, and if they are not, the pole owner may be able to transfer ownership of the "bad" pole to the attacher, hence the unwitting ownership of bad poles.
It is not a situation anyone wants to be in—pole owner or attacher—but fortunately, it is a problem that can be avoided with a smart process in place.
How do bad poles happen to good companies?
Failure to comply with pole transfer requests can come about as the result of a number of situations:Backlogs mean ordinary process grinds to a stop. Weather downs dozens of poles in one night. Community growth in the form of new development means lots of work must be done in a short period. Resource contention puts transfers on the back burner until there are too many to complete in a reasonable timeframe. Whatever the underlying reason, a backlog of transfer requests means a large amount of work is overdue. Often, internal resources are simply taxed beyond their limits to complete the work on time.
"Next to go" never starts. Transfers have a hierarchy: they take place from highest attacher to the lowest. Problems arise in cases where the pole owner does not manage the transfer in the order in which the work needs to be done. In some cases, attachers will simply bill one another for the transfer service when one attachment is in the way of another, but in others, the waiting equipment owner can be left hanging—literally—preventing the work from happening in a timely manner.
How can you avoid this situation?
Two major pieces of advice for those involved in a joint use relationship regarding how to avoid taking ownership of "bad" poles through failure to transfer equipment:
If you are an attaching company, be diligent. The only real way to prevent this situation from happening is to stay on top of transfer requests. Simply being aware of the need for transfers and diligent in their completion can go a long way to ensuring things are moved on time and no double wood, or unwanted ownership handovers, need to take place.
If you are a pole owner: be communicative. On the other side of the relationship, pole owners must also ensure that transfer requests are clearly communicated to attaching companies. If the request was never received, the contractual clock cannot in good conscience be started, leaving everyone in limbo.
What best practices does your company use to keep backlogs at bay? Reply in the comments section below.