The National Electrical Safety Code (“NESC”), published by the IEEE Standards Association (“IEEE”), is the foremost standard for constructing communications plant using existing utility pole infrastructure. For 100 years, power and communications industries and regulators have looked to the NESC as the standard for safe practices for the installation, operation and maintenance of electric supply and communications facilities. Consistent with IEEE practice of updating the NESC every five years, the current NESC 2012 edition will be replaced by the NESC 2017 edition commencing in January 2017. The NESC 2017 edition, which proposes some significant changes for utility pole construction that may impact communications attachers, will be available for purchase in August this year. Some significant changes related to joint use that are expected include:

  • Rule 239H related to pole top antenna risers that would reduce the amount of space required between the antenna and the nearest electrical conductor to 8” for most voltages;
  • Rule 420K related to 100 percent fall protection for workers climbing poles (stemming from a change to OSHA rules), which may lead to pole owner restrictions on pole mounted equipment;
  • Rule 283C increasing the amount of separation required for ungrounded streetlights from 4 inches to 20”;
  • Rule 215C related to insulation of guy wires.

It is important to remember that the NESC has a grandfathering clause that permits existing structures and attachments to comply with the code in existence at the time of construction unless that structure is updated, in which case, the newest code provisions apply.