Private Internet Service Providers can’t afford to branch out into rural, underserved areas because pole attachment fees in Tennessee, a Comcast official said, cost three times the national average.
Andy Macke, Comcast’s vice president of government and community affairs, told state legislators his company pays 35 percent more in pole attachment fees in Tennessee than five years ago.
Macke made the remarks during a recent meeting of the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.
Private ISP’s like Comcast and AT&T pay the attachment fees so they can attach their wires to a local power company’s utility poles.
The Tennessee Valley Authority regulates pole attachment fees for local power companies.
Macke said the high pole attachment fees keep his company from expanding its service into areas without broadband Internet.
“I can say it is a major barrier to deployment,” Macke said.
“If there is a common thread it is that cost far outpaces the national average and, indeed for Comcast, any other state that we operate in. Not only is that number three times the national average, but it’s growing at an alarming pace.
For Comcast, that amounts to $10 million a year, which the company pays in pole attachment fees over the national average, he added.
“So, that’s $10 million in potential capita that is not going to deploy broadband networks,” Macke said.
Bruce Mottern, state government affairs manager for the Wisconsin-based TDS Telecom company, said Tennessee’s pole attachment fees are too high compared with other states.
Neither Macke nor Modern said what those fees generally cost.
TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said in an email the pole attachment fees, as they are, “allocate the cost of pole ownership to each attaching party based on their respective space allocation.”
“Most pole attachment cost recovery methodologies have a great number of details involved in implementation,” Brooks said.
As reported, Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board took $111 million in taxpayer money, via federal stimulus, to create a smart grid to offer cable and Internet service to compete against private providers.
TN4Fiber, a website and Facebook page reportedly made up of rural folks pushing for expanded municipal broadband in Tennessee, is overseen by Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board and other public utilities, IRS records show.
EPB officials want state law changed so they can expand outside their municipal boundaries and offer service to customers in rural areas without broadband.
They say they want their service expanded because AT&T, Comcast and other private ISPs have refused to expand into rural areas.
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