U.S. FCC loosens utility pole rules to accelerate 5G rollout

“The FCC really, really wants to grease the wheels for 5G, and its latest changes do more to that end,” Jon Fingas reports for Engadget. “To start, it just voted in favor of a new rule that could streamline the addition of new wireless and broadband services to utility poles. Instead of asking multiple companies to cooperate on readying a pole for new services, the rule enables a ‘One Touch Make Ready’ approach where the newcomer can prepare the pole all by itself. The move could theoretically speed up deployments while lowering costs.”

“It’s likely to make their 5G and fiber deployments easier,” Fingas reports. “However, it also promises to be tremendously helpful to upstarts like Google Fiber, which has been pushing for One Touch Make Ready for years.”

“There are more changes afoot beyond the poles,” Fingas reports. “The FCC has both established the procedures for the first 5G wireless spectrum auctions, which focus on the 24GHz and 28GHz bands, and proposed changes to the 39GHz, upper 37GHz and 47GHz bands ahead of potential auctions for 5G in those spaces”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Anything that helps deliver real competition among ISPs, naturally ensuring real net neutrality, is a Good Thing™.

The FCC’s Fact Sheet, “Accelerating Wireline Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment,” is here:

5G moves one step closer to reality – June 18, 2018


  1. Not being a resident of the US, can somebody explain how this will work?

    Does this mean that whoever erects a utility pole has to accept that other companies will be able to come along and do what they want with their pole? Will there be any sort of overall oversight and responsibility for what happens, or will it be a free for all?

    1. I’ll give it a shot (since I used to have something to do with this)

      A utility pole means a pole owned and maintained by a public utility in a easement or right of way. A public utility is either the power company (who now maintains most poles) or a phone company (who mostly allows power companies to take over a pole line when it need replacing because they make so little money now).

      When most towns were being electrified and had phone lines added there were two sets of poles. To ease this, new standards were made where poles had to be a certain height to allow both utilities on them (power is always on top even if it is a phone pole).

      As more and more private utilities were coming into business (mainly cable companies) the rules were amended to allow for this. since there is limited space on a pole, sometimes the price for adding a utility jumped because the entire pole might have to be replaced to allow for extra height, which is determined be the NESC (National Electrical Safety Code).

      There has to be a minimum of 30″ between the bolts of the lowest power line (usually but not always neutral) and the bolt of the highest utility (usually but not always phone years ago but many times it is cable now because they got on the pole after power but before phone moved their lines from old pole line to new one).

      After the first utility, there has to be a minimum of 12″ between each utility below. When you add the minimum height for driveways (16′) most roads (16.5′), highways (18′) and railroads (21′) it has to be considered this is the BOTTOM line, so to allow for several utilities (phone, cable, fiber, competing cable) the power line has to be pretty high up, which adds to the cost of the pole.

      If a new utility is being added, the current rule is they must be on the bottom and pay for any new poles needed to get their minimum height at crossing or go underground. Again this is one reason it is so costly to ADD another utility to a town that already has power, phone and cable on a pole line.

      The other added cost is the wait for power company approval, utilities to raise the lines if possible (they don’t HAVE to be exactly 30″ or 12″ separation, but at LEAST which can lead to a lot of wasted space on poles that actually have plenty of room)

      So lets say a town has a phone and cable company already doing battle for internet and video. Why would they want to pay their contractors to go make room on poles for more competition? So they charge the new company for this and then drag their feet. This new rule would allow a new utility to move all the lines to the right heights to allow for more room. When you think of the number of poles in a city, you can see how this can save a LOT of money.

      Now of course there is also the issue of anytime you move a cable (anyone’s) you risk damage to that line, which is why this is not currently allowed. Most contractors work for all types of utilities so the knowledge and skill is there, but what if there is a problem beforehand but after the cable is moved to make room for utility X that utility Y doesn’t scream that their older line need repair because the move damaged it? That’s the tricky part.

      On another level of disagreement is the cost per attachment. Every company has to pay for every pole they are attached to for every bolt every month billed annually (I believe). The power companies are not regulated on the price in most areas so they can charge a ridiculous fee because guess what? They want in the ISP business too. This is an unfair advantage because they are a PUBLIC utility using PUBLIC access to basically keep others off “their” poles. Another issue is THEY are responsible for reporting safety violations on the poles, so you might see some real crappy and sloppy power company work done and not allow for minimum clearances but nothing the other utilities can do about it. This also needs to be addressed that safety can be reported by any utility.

      Yes, a bit wordy but this stuff gets complicated quick when different interest are clashing.

  2. Wikipedia has a good explanation but basically an old FCC rule said that wires on the pole had to be moved in the order in which they were originally installed which caused huge delays when adjustments were needed. If approved, a single contractor can make all the adjustments needed rather than having to wait for each tenant to send their crew to move something. I would hazard a guess that a contractor doing this work would have to be licenses, bonded, insured, and trained appropriately to do all the work. Like anything else I’m sure there will be an occasional screw-up that breaks someone’s service(s) during this new procedure. It does sound like it should save time and money; how much as you willing to bet that any savings aren’t reflected in the customer’s service rates?


  3. I read Frostie’s article. Quite revealing. Edited quote from the article:
    “5G Radiation DangersThousands of studies link low-level wireless radio frequency radiation exposures to a long list of adverse biological effects, including:

    DNA single and double strand breaks
    oxidative damage
    disruption of cell metabolism
    increased blood brain barrier permeability
    melatonin reduction
    disruption to brain glucose metabolism
    generation of stress proteins

    A commenter to the article:
    “This big push for 5G is the wireless industry’s last gasp for as much profit as possible before they’re obsolete. In the meantime, they don’t care how many people are harmed.

    “…LiFi will be available in about 4 years. One of the lead researchers, Dr. Harald Haas, said LiFi has much more capacity, can’t be hacked, and is up to 100 times faster than WiFi. AND, it doesn’t affect living cells at all.

    In the meantime, “…shield yourself as much as possible, and wait for the LiFi lightbulbs, which will be able to screw into any socket and provide connection to the Internet.”

  4. I got a front row seat of an example of this.
    New house built on land next to us. Electric had to be run to this house but was not anywhere near it. They tapped into it down the street past us, put in four new poles since the ones in from of use was telephone only.
    I talked to the electric guys about the old poles right next to the new ones.
    “Phone company needs to move their cables over and then remove the old poles.”

    So I expect to have two poles side by side forever.

    1. Yes, unless one of the old phone poles fall.

      Another way around this (if it is end of the line for phone) is to ask them to remove the line if you are not a customer.

      Most likely they won’t in case you ever changer you mind or a newer house is built nearby.

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