Examples of municipal policies that may encourage broadband investment
As the result of informal polling and surveys, several municipal practices were identified that may encourage broadband network investment by the private sector. These include:
- Treating companies that obtain State Public Utility Commission certification the same as other telecommunications providers and utilities, e.g., requiring an electrical permit only for placing wireless equipment on existing utility poles, provided that the applicant obtains attachment rights with the pole owner in accordance with other federal and state regulations.
- Development of city-wide master agreements for access to public ROW for fiber and/or pole attachments with fee provisions related to municipal cost of management of ROW as the economic model (as compared with revenue-generation models in those states that do not prohibit municipal charges). Baltimore, MD, for example, charges an annual fee of $100 per year for access to all city rights-of-ways.
- Comprehensive master agreements for access to the ROW and attachment to city-owned infrastructure, including street lights and traffic signal poles with low-cost fees acknowledging the greater community interests and indirect economic development benefits. Such agreements must offer access to many municipal locations with expedited permitting on a large scale rather than processing each site request individually.
This supports economies of scale by allowing uniform attachment of an approved form factor and reduces the workload for city employees tasked with overseeing the permitting process. Examples include the City of Boston, which charges a base ROW fee and a per-node fee for pole attachments; and White Plains, N.Y., which has a fee system based on access, not revenue, and charges a per-year, per-pole fee for attachments to city-owned infrastructure with approved options for small cells. Master access agreements are being used successfully in Boston, New York City, Baltimore and several other cities.
- Revisiting and overhauling existing regulations, policies and procedures on pole attachment, ROW access and permitting so that expediency and new technologies such as small cells are considered —particularly in smaller cities and larger suburban towns and counties. The City and County of Denver recently released this guide to deal with small cells and pole attachments:
- When appropriate, approaching municipal projects with a “dig once” policy where public works projects include inexpensive conduit as part of any project where streets are opened. This single action incentivizes telecommunications companies to lay more fiber because most of the cost of such projects is associated with labor to open and later close the road surface. If conduit is already laid, this can reduce project costs by 90 percent or more. Digging once also minimizes disruption to transportation and the local businesses and residents along such routes.
- Consider street furniture a potential mobile broadband resource. Light poles at the end of their useful life can be replaced with structures that can support or integrate small cells and DAS. When transportation shelters and other street furniture are placed or upgraded, these deployments can be approached with their potential as an infrastructure resource in mind. Even public waste receptacles potentially can serve as small-cell or DAS sites to provide better network coverage for citizens.