Once upon a time (in the mid-19th century), utility poles held a single line of electrical cable. Today, in a world with multiple power companies, telephone companies, cable companies and broadband providers, many businesses all need utility poles to provide services, so they are essentially lease space on existing utility poles. This practice of multiple companies sharing a single pole, known as “joint use,” is extremely beneficial for both the pole owner (who gets revenue from renters) and the attachers (who do not have to worry about the placement and maintenance associated with owning a pole) — as long as the pole owner has a system in place that allows for efficient joint use communication.
Joint use poles require the involvement of many separate entities: there is the pole owner, the pole tenant(s), the engineers, the linemen and a number of other potential third-party contractors. With so many parties involved, joint use communication becomes vital in facilitating the management of these poles. Imagine the following situations in which joint use communication is necessary:
• Pole Replacements - A system of joint use communication would ensure that this process is conducted in a manner that allows the pole tenants to transfer their attachments to the new poles in a way that minimizes any disruption in customers’ service, and coordinates this process among all people involved.
• Severe Weather Damage – Effective communication is vital to notifying attachers of damage to poles and equipment as well as working with the utility crews to repair damage and restore power.
• Attachment Requests – Proper internal as well as external communication can prove important when it comes to ensuring proper notification in the pole attachment agreement process. It can help reduce penalties and fines associated with not abiding by city ordinance timelines.
Years ago utility pole owners and their joint use partners had to rely on communicating via paper or telephone which led to piles of mail and faxes to be gone through and organized, and dozens of voicemails to be listened to and returned. The modern use of e-mail communication can still lead to ineffective communication when e-mails pile up in one’s inbox and important information gets overlooked. A separate online communication system can help avoid all of these problems.
Along with the need for communication comes the need for notification. Renowned Irish playwright and Nobel Prize for Literature winner George Bernard Shaw once said, “The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” So while an efficient communication system that allows joint use partners to interact and share information can aid in situations like those detailed above, the communication can be made even more effective with capabilities that include sending automated status alerts, project updates, deadline notices and general reminders.
Communication systems are really the key to helping facilitate work, and making everyone’s jobs easier. With open communication comes trust, and that trust will ultimately improve relationships between pole owners and attachers, pole owners and third party contractors, and pole owners and their joint use partners.