Unauthorized attachers and bootlegs, are both common industry terms for companies that attach equipment unpermitted and/or unbeknownst to the owner of the pole it hangs on, or the conduit it resides within. Because these characters are essentially pirates, we will use the term "bootlegger" in this article when describing their outside-the-law behavior.
Bootlegger is a name that inspires all sorts of interesting, narrative lore and these unwanted visitors certainly have their own stories—and their own reasons for doing what they do. Understanding the other side of the coin pretty much always has its benefits, so today, we tell their tale.
Chapter 1: The hardest question in the world
To someone who needs approval to do something (approval that has to be specifically asked for and then granted, which sometimes takes time), the most tempting question to ask might be, "Which is better: to ask permission or beg forgiveness?" Often, attachers are not born bootlegs; they are made by pole and conduit owners who offer inadequate responses to requests to attach.
If a pole or conduit owner takes too long to respond to a request that an attaching company deems the lag damaging to their ability to conduct business, there is a chance that entity may go the "beg forgiveness" route out of sheer desperation. From their point of view, the work has to get done, and the penalties for being found out may not compare to the loss of revenue from not attaching and getting into a particular market quickly. Or, something like what recently happened in one medium-sized Midwestern town could go down: This particular city’s "bell" was turned in to the FCC by attachers for not responding to requests quickly enough. Fines and bad feelings ensued. If that is not reason enough to see the situation from an attacher’s point of view, we do not know what is.
Chapter 2: The case of the missing contact information
To request to attach, an attacher must know who to contact. If pole or conduit information is obscured, or ownership is in question or simply too difficult to find out, some attachers will just attach anyway without bothering to ask. Motivation for this runs the gamut from "I don’t care" to "I don't know who to call" to "This is too hard to figure out, so I'm not going to try."
As in the above example, penalties such as back-rent may not be as costly as actually going through the permitting process. In this case, a thorough utility pole inspection can serve double duty—to discover attachers who are not permitted and to discover if the reason there are unpermitted attachers has anything to do with assets that are not clearly marked.
Prologue: Discovering bootlegs is not the end
Conducting and keeping up with utility pole inspections can help a company find out if pirates are attached to their equipment, but solving the problem once and for all requires a more proactive, process-focused approach. Now that you have read the bootlegger's tale and can see the other side of the story, what will you do to make sure you do not write the next chapter for attachers who might go rogue? Leave a comment below.