Challenges with FCC Internet Regulation and One Touch Make Ready

Posted by Mary Ashley Canevaro on October 16, 2018

FCC Internet RegulationThe FCC’s One Touch Make Ready (OTMR) order, issued in early August, involves big changes for everyone in the joint use community: asset owners, existing attachers, new attachers, and contractors. No later than February 2019, companies must begin following the rules and time schedules contained within the order.

The FCC and chairman Ajit Pai have made their purposes clear: to accelerate the deployment of broadband and 5G wireless. “Now, more than ever, access to this vital infrastructure must be swift, predictable, safe, and affordable, so that broadband providers can continue to enter new markets and deploy facilities that support high-speed broadband,” the order states.

The commission expects the new rules to lower costs by spurring competition as additional providers enter new markets. Whatever the benefits prove to be, companies entering the process in good faith may find some of the adjustments challenging at first.


A Lengthy Checklist

One challenge is the sheer number of changes the OTMR order makes, even though those changes are expected to streamline and simplify deployment overall. The order not only tightens several existing deadlines, but also adds time limits to many aspects of the process, where previously none existed. Each participant in the process has deadlines to meet, such as shortened timetables to file complaints if dissatisfied with another party’s decisions or actions.

The order also establishes a variety of new requirements that the joint use community must meet, from asset owners to contractors. The FCC states the requirements are an effort to replace vague guidelines with specifics that leave little room for doubt when a requirement has been met, allowing deployment to move forward.

The role of each community member has been changed. Some responsibilities and rights have been shifted from one party to another, and existing attachers have a much smaller role in the process. But in speeding up deployment, the FCC has also created safeguards meant to protect each party from unjustified or arbitrary decisions, inadequate work, bad faith, or attempts to delay any step in the process.

One Touch Make Ready rules apply only to simple attachments to the middle or “communications space” of a utility pole. Attachers at the top or “electric space” of the pole must follow a more restrictive and time-consuming process, along with those whose attachments require more complicated work such as splicing existing wires on the pole.


Swiftness is Key

Shortening the deployment time for new broadband and small cell attachments is the main purpose of OTMR, but it’s also one of the biggest challenges. Here’s a before-and-after comparison of some steps in the process:
  • Application Review

Before: The process was vague for asset owners to determine whether an application for an attachment was complete, and there was no timeline for making that determination.

After: OTMR makes clear what must be included in the application, and gives the asset owner 10 days to determine whether the application is complete.

  • Decision and Survey

Before: The asset owner had 45 additional days to decide whether to grant the application and complete any necessary pole and equipment surveys.

After: The asset owner has 15 days to decide, and the new attacher conducts the survey.

  • Make-Ready

Before: Once notified by the asset owner, existing attachers had 60 days to prepare the pole for the new attacher. Then, the asset owner had 15 additional days to complete make-ready work.

After: The new attacher performs all work in (as little as) one trip. It must provide 15 days of notice to existing attachers before beginning the work, but that notice may begin while the asset owner is deciding whether to grant the application.

From application to completion of the attachment, the FCC estimates that OTMR will save new attachers over three months. To keep the process moving, the FCC allows the attacher to assume its application is complete unless it hears otherwise within the specified time period. That makes keeping up with the deadlines crucial for the asset owner to protect best interests.

The FCC states that, while OTMR gives new attachers more control over the speed of deployment, it also relieves asset owners of some of the responsibilities and costs they had to bear under the old rules.


Who Does What Under OTMR Guidelines?

With new attachers driving the make-ready process more than ever before, all parties have an interest in making sure the work is done properly and safely, without damage to existing equipment on the poles.

To help ensure this happens, the OTMR order encourages asset owners to create a list of approved contractors they allow to perform make-ready work. If an asset owner doesn’t provide a list, the new attacher may select a contractor following FCC criteria specified in the OTMR order.

Attachers may also request that a preferred contractor be added to the asset owner’s list. The owner may veto the request, but its reasons must be based on safety and reliability concerns and should be clearly explained. If an asset owner rejects an attaching company’s preferred contractor, they must supply the name of at least one approved contractor to do the work. The asset owner may add its own contractor requirements to the FCC’s criteria, but they must be clearly stated and offer safety and reliability.

The previous rules allowed existing attachers as well as asset owners to veto the new attacher’s contractors, but OTMR does not. The order also states that new attachers are not bound by any agreements that existing attachers may have made to use union contractors.

OTMR’s key feature is allowing new attachers to perform all make-ready work themselves. But asset owners and existing attachers that want to do their own make-ready work can do so, the order says, as long as they do it within 15 days of being notified of the new attacher’s plans. However, they may not bill the new attacher for that work.


Safety and Precision with OTMR

The new requirements for contractors are meant to minimize danger. But OTMR also requires new attachers to give both asset owners and existing attachers notice of when the work will be done. It allows all parties to have representatives present during the work. Contractors are required to report any damage to other companies’ equipment during make-ready. Attachers must notify other parties within 15 days of completion so they may inspect the work.

One Touch Make Ready is a trans-formative change in broadband deployment. Meeting the requirements and timetables involved in OTMR will keep the joint use community on its toes for the next several years, especially when multiple attachment requests are in play. Employing an effective management platform is an invaluable part of adapting to One Touch Make Ready. Both asset owners and attaching companies are confused on where to begin.

Alden has teamed up with McLean Engineering to create automated OTMR workflows in Alden One®, our centralized joint use asset management platform. The workflows ensure timelines are met and processes are performed the correct way.

Get Compliant: Alden One® guarantees you will be FCC compliant. Reach out to a product specialist today to learn about the Alden One® platform. 

One Touch Make Ready