In April of 2011, the FCC adopted an order that significantly overhauled pole attachment guidelines. Among other things, this directive detailed the specific rights and obligations for pole owners and attachers regarding access, attachment rates and timeliness of the pole attachment process. For attachers that play by the rules, this is the rulebook, in addition to any contract the pole owner may have with the attaching company. However, as you may well know, not everyone obeys the law of the land, and when violations happen and sneaky attachments show up on poles without payment or contracts, pole attachments can become annoyances.
Problem Attachers: Two Types
There are two general varieties of problematic attachers.
First, unauthorized attachments, otherwise known as “bootlegs”, are essentially squatters—equipment taking up space on utility poles and making connections to others’ equipment that is not legal or regulated. Bootleg attachers can cause dangerous situations for the public and technicians, and cost pole owners money. Without permission to attach and the proper paperwork, attachers get a free ride on poles—and pole owners get to clean up the mess.
How does this happen? Lack of effective process and lack of attention paid to utility poles in the field.
The second type of problem attacher is a legal one, but one that has not attached according to the standards laid out by the FCC, the state, or those agreed upon in their contract with the pole owner. This half-legal attachment can cause a number of problems, especially when mistakes lead to NESC violations or pole owner contract violations.
How does this happen? Lack of education. Sometimes when an attaching company hires an independent contractor to perform the attachments, their work may not be up to the pole owner’s standards, or more often, the technicians may be from out of state. In the latter case, an attacher’s crew simply may not understand the specific standards applicable in the area they are attaching in. Forty-two states follow the FCC’s rules in handling pole attachments, but eight, including large states like California, Ohio and Washington, have their own standards. In this case, familiarity with an area and its rules is vital.
Attachers and Attachments: Best Practices
Bootlegs and botched work happen, so how can you turn potential annoyances with regard to attachments into an advantage? Use these three steps as a guide:
Audit. Nothing tells you what is going on with your utility poles better than sending someone out to physically survey them, collect data on everything from pole health to attachments, and then record all findings into the joint use management database of your choice. This gives pole owners the opportunity to not only eradicate bootlegs but also solve problems with authorized attachments before they become dangers.
Organize. Once all pole and attachment data is entered into joint use management software, having a program that is easily updatable, searchable and overall easy to use—and then using it to its fullest capacity—is vital to keeping on top of attachments, as well as billing, fines and other items that can impact your business’s profitability.
Communicate. Excellent joint use management software will also offer the ability to save correspondence and contracts in its database, as well as contact information, making communication between pole owner and attaching company seamless and simple. Once all parties are talking, the instance of “annoyance” is bound to decrease. Remember, communication is key.