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FCC proposal could help Google Fiber roll out to more cities

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering a proposal that would eliminate bureaucratic red tape and speed up the delivery of gigabit internet from providers like Google Fiber. Called the one-touch make-ready (OTMR) system, the proposal could accelerate the deployment of broadband services and 5G by requiring new service providers do the work of moving existing lines on utility poles if they want to add their own lines.

The change would make it easier for new providers to enter a market. Under the current system, if a new provider wants to move existing wires or make changes to a utility pole, it must consult with the incumbent providers, who would make the changes themselves. By shifting the work burden to the new service provider, the FCC’s OTMR proposal aims to speed up the process by eliminating the coordination needed to perform the work on simple changes to utility poles.

“OTMR speeds and reduces the cost of broadband deployment by allowing the party with the strongest incentive — the new attacher — to prepare the pole quickly to perform all of the work itself, rather than spreading the work across multiple parties,” the FCC wrote. “By some estimates, OTMR alone could result in approximately 8.3 million incremental premises passed with fiber and about $12.6 billion in incremental fiber capital expenditures.”

OTMR will also reduce disruptions to communities. “Unlike sequential make-ready work, which results in a series of trips to the affected poles by each of the attachers and repeated disruptions to vehicular traffic, OTMR’s single trip to each affected pole will reduce the number of such disruptions,” the proposal stated.

If approved, the FCC’s new proposal would apply to simple transfers on utility poles regulated by the agency. In the past, AT&T had lobbied that OTMR should only apply for simple installations. Simple installations are defined as jobs that don’t require cable splices and where there is little chance of service disruption for original providers, like AT&T. Google at the time argued that OTMR should also apply to complex installations, but existing attachers can also opt to do the work of moving their own facilities if they choose. Verizon’s recommendation was similar to Google’s — the carrier wanted a longer notice period for complex OTMR transfers so that it could choose to move its facilities if it wishes. The moving or replacement of an existing utility pole, the agency argued, should be treated as a complex transfer, as it’s more likely to cause a service outage or facilities damage.

The proposal, however, does not apply to “work above the communications space, including the electric space” because the work is dangerous for workers and impacts of electric outages are severe. This limitation affects some 5G wireless deployment. “We recognize that by not providing an OTMR option above the communications space for the time being, we are not permitting OTMR as an option for small cell pole-top attachments necessary for 5G deployment,” the agency noted.

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