FCC Compliance and One Touch Make Ready

Posted by Mary Ashley Canevaro on November 13, 2018

fcc and otmrThe Federal Communications Commission’s One Touch Make Ready order (OTMR), issued in August of 2018, spells out the rules, requirements, and deadlines that the joint use community must begin following no later than February 2019.

One main goal is to speed up broadband deployment by reforming regulations to reduce delays and provide safe access to poles. The FCC estimates the changes will shorten the time it takes to get from application to completed work by more than three months.

The rules apply in the 30 states where pole attachments are governed by the FCC (instead of by state regulations): Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

The FCC is allowing OTMR for simple attachments placed on the middle section of a utility pole, known as the communications space.

Rights and Responsibilities: Breaking It Down

Previous Attachers: Companies who already have equipment attached on the poles have a reduced role in the entire process but retain important rights.

New Attachers: In general, the order gives new attachers more control over the pace of deployment, as well as more responsibility for ensuring that the make ready work is done correctly.

Contractors: Contractors who perform the work on behalf of the attacher must meet numerous requirements.

Asset Owners: Owners have tighter deadlines to meet in their dealings with new attachers.

Application and Approval

What are the basic elements of OTMR compliance? For each stage of the process it looks like this:

Survey - At the beginning of the process, the company wishing to attach its equipment hires an authorized contractor to survey each utility pole where it proposes a new attachment. The survey assesses safety and makes sure there is sufficient space for the new equipment. The new attacher must give the asset owner and previous attachers at least three business days’ notice of when the survey will be performed, so that they may be present.

Simple vs Complex - Using FCC guidelines, the contractor determines whether the proposed attachment is simple or complex. Moving other owners’ equipment temporarily while attaching your own is part of simple make ready work. The FCC defines complex attachments as those that require workers to splice wires or relocate wireless equipment. This also includes anything likely to interrupt service or damage existing equipment.

The asset owner must then review the survey and can disagree about whether the make ready work is simple or complex. The owner has final say but must explain its decision. The FCC has a complaint process for attachers who believe an asset owner is acting in bad faith.

Completeness - The company wishing to attach will submit an application to the asset owner. Before the asset owner rules on the merits of the application, it must determine whether the application is complete.

Under OTMR rules, the asset owner must supply written completeness guidelines for applicants to follow. Once the application is submitted, the asset owner has 10 days to make a determination and inform the applicant.

If the application is judged incomplete, the asset owner must specify the reasons. The applicant may resubmit the application as many times as it wishes; with each resubmission, the asset owner has five days to rule on its completeness. If the owner fails to respond within the specified timeframe or fails to offer reasons why an application is incomplete, it must be considered complete.

Yes or No - Once an application is complete, the asset owner has 15 days to review it and either approve or deny it.

Selecting a Contractor

A crucial part of OTMR is the new attacher’s selection of contractors to perform its surveys and make ready. The OTMR order encourages, but does not require, asset owners to set criteria for contractors and provide attachers with lists of approved contractors.

If a list is provided, the attacher must select a contractor from that list. If an attacher wants to use a contractor not on the asset owner’s list, it may request that the contractor be added to the list. If the asset owner rejects that request, a reasonable explanation for that decision must be provided.

If the asset owner does not offer a list of approved contractors, the attacher may select a contractor using the FCC’s minimum requirements. Under those requirements, the contractor must:

  • Follow the asset owner’s safety and operational guidelines if available, or otherwise follow the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC).
  • Follow licensed-engineered pole designs for make ready work, if the asset owner requires it
  • Follow all local, state, and federal laws, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) rules for Qualified and Competent Persons
  • Meet or exceed any safety and reliability thresholds the asset owner has set, such as having no significant safety violations or worksite accidents on its record
  • Be adequately insured or supply a performance bond for the make-ready work

In the Field: Make Ready and Attachment Installation

With the additional rights and advantages OTMR gives to new attachers, it also imposes some requirements.

Providing Notice - The new attacher must give the asset owner and existing attachers 15 days of notice before beginning any make ready work, so they have a fair opportunity to be present. The notice must include the place and time the work will be done, a description of the work, and the contractor’s name.

If the asset owner or existing attachers prefer to perform the make ready work on their own equipment, they may do so during the 15-day period, but they may not charge the new attacher for that work. The new attacher may give the make-ready notice while its application is being reviewed, so the work can begin almost as soon as the application is approved.

Damage or Outages - If the new attacher’s contractor damages existing equipment or does anything likely to cause an outage, it must stop work immediately. Then, the new attacher is required to notify the asset owner and/or existing attachers that have been affected. The equipment owner may require the new attacher to repair damages or equipment, and bill the new attacher for the work. The repairs take precedence over finishing make-ready.

Pre-Existing Violations - If the new attacher discovers (during its survey or make-ready work) that the utility pole or previous attachments are in violation of current regulations, it is not responsible for correcting those violations.

After Make Ready

The OTMR order includes a process for asset owners and prior attachers to inspect the work, confirming that it was done safely and equipment is not damaged. This process involves a series of deadlines:
  • The new attacher must notify the asset owner and previous attachers within 15 days after make-ready is complete
  • The asset owner and other attachers have 90 days to perform an inspection
  • After the inspection, an equipment owner has 14 days to notify the new attacher of any problem with the work, which must be documented. The owner may require the new attacher to correct the problem or may use its own people to correct them, then bill the new attacher.
  • The new attacher has 14 days to correct the problem if it is required to do so

While OTMR was created to help new attachers deploy service rapidly, they aren’t required to apply for OTMR if they prefer to follow the slower procedure that applies to more complex attachments.

Members of the joint use community are also free to negotiate their own arrangements and timetables, as long as they meet safety standards and all parties agree.

Help is Available

Even without getting into additional issues—such as alternate timelines for large requests and new rules for complex attachments—complying with the basic requirements of One Touch Make Ready is far from simple. Joint use professionals could easily get swamped by minutiae, making it harder to accomplish their main objectives.

Alden Systems and McLean Engineering have teamed up to offer automated OTMR workflows in Alden One®, a centralized joint use asset management platform used by about 500 companies across the country to manage electric utility, broadband, and telecom infrastructure.

Alden One® simplifies interactions among all joint use stakeholders, including billing and permitting, and makes it easy to find authorized OTMR contractors when asset owners provide a list. Alden One® puts essential data where authorized users can access it and see the big picture.

One Touch Make Ready represents a sea of change for the joint use community. Navigating the way to compliance is much easier with the proper instruments as a guide. The number one goal of the OTMR workflow in Alden One® is to guarantee compliance with FCC standards, enabling companies to make the most out of their current resources.

One Touch Make Ready