In a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, competitive carrier association Incompas (known formerly as Comptel) recommended several actions Pai should take in advancing the digital empowerment agenda that he articulated last year as an FCC commissioner. Spotlighting markets with established, incumbent providers, the February 9 letter urges the removal of regulatory and other barriers which Incompas members face in accessing pole attachments, multiple dwelling units (MDUs) and video programming.

While stating his organization’s commitment to “working . . . on the shared goal of removing barriers to broadband network deployment,” Incompas CEO Chip Pickering shifted the focus away from the need for broadband deployment in rural and other underserved areas and toward issues which competitors face in making inroads against incumbents in mature markets. According to the letter, one such issue involves pole attachments, and Pickering declared that reform of the FCC’s pole attachment rules “is necessary because current make-ready processes do not allow affordable or efficient construction of competitive networks.” Lamenting, “some carriers are taking more than 90 days to complete their makeready work” to accommodate competitive mast placements on poles and “there are no shot clocks” to ensure completion of such work on a timely basis, Pickering urged the FCC to modify its rules to implement a “one touch make-ready” policy whereby “a contractor approved by the pole owner could do all make-ready work at once.” Pickering also called on Pai to revisit the FCC’s decision in 2011 “not to require utilities to provide schedules of common make-ready charges” as lack of access to such information makes it “difficult for competitors to plan their builds.”

On the subject of MDUs, Pickering complained that incumbent carriers and property owners “have used marketing arrangements with exclusive rights to advertise their services in building common areas” to effectively deny or create a perverse incentive to deny access by competitive providers. Moreover, although incumbents are required by law to make inside wiring available to another provider or to remove such wiring when a customer terminates service, Pickering advised Pai that incumbents “enter into agreements with MDUs to lease this fallow wiring on an exclusive basis, forcing competitive providers into the difficult position of having to choose between duplicative in-unit wiring or not serving the building at all.” Because customers prefer to purchase broadband and multichannel video services as a bundled product, Pickering further emphasized that competitive broadband carriers require affordable access to video programming “in order to achieve higher broadband adoption rates.” As such, to enable broadband providers “to compete head-to-head on linear video service,” Pickering argued: “the Commission should address the ease with which smaller [multichannel video program distributors] and new entrants can gain access to video programming.”