I want to thank Chairman Ajit Pai and the FCC for the innovative steps they took today to reduce the time and cost of deploying broadband infrastructure.

The FCC’s new “One-Touch Make Ready” (OTMR) policy will make the often-cumbersome process of attaching cables to existing utility poles much more efficient. I know that sounds like the most in-the-weeds telecom topic imaginable, but this policy change will help encourage the deployment of broadband, and that’s a subject about which our customers care a great deal.

Under the old policy, multiple parties – essentially the pole owner plus any utility with equipment attached to a pole – had to weigh in every time a new attachment was made. That … took … a lot … of … time, as you might imagine. The new policy allows attachers to elect an expedited process for simple preparation work on a pole. The multi-party process will be retained for more complex projects when there are legitimate concerns about safety and reliability.

I’m also pleased that the FCC is addressing the disparate rates that incumbent local exchange carriers (including Windstream) and other telecommunications providers pay to attach to poles. That’s only fair, after all.

The FCC’s new policy is great, but more can be done to encourage broadband deployment. The FCC must address the fact that electric co-ops and other unregulated providers can still charge much higher attachment fees. For example, in one state Windstream pays around $6 per pole attachment to other telecoms and investor-owned electric utilities, while paying around $24 per pole to several co-ops.

Electric co-ops talk a lot these days about their “selfless” desire to bring broadband to underserved and unserved rural areas, but the co-ops, by charging exorbitant attachment fees, have set up one of the biggest obstacles to broadband providers like Windstream, who are striving to serve already high-cost rural locations.

So, today’s action by the FCC was a very good start – but there are still major issues outstanding. I encourage Chairman Pai, his colleagues at the FCC, and Congress to address the unfair competitive advantages currently wielded by the co-ops.