“One Touch” Make-Ready Policies: The “Dig Once” of Pole Attachments

“Dig once” policies, which mandate laying conduit and/or fiber optic cables when undertaking capital projects such as road construction, have been hailed as no-brainer actions that could decrease the cost of broadband while increasing the speed of deployment. This idea has strong bipartisan support in Congress and at the White House and has been praised by the American Cable Association and the Fiber To The Home (FTTH) Council. Next Century Cities cited dig once as one of our policy recommendations for local governments in our 2015 Policy Agenda.

But while dig once has received a lot of press, there’s another, less prominent measure that municipal leaders can consider to increase connectivity: “one touch” make-ready (OTMR) policies for pole attachments.

Akin to dig once, one touch make-ready leverages labor-intensive work on infrastructure to reduce the cost and speed of deployment of new networks. Before a pole may be used for a new attachment, ‘make-ready’ work is usually needed — the existing attachments on the pole have to be rearranged so that it is ready for a new attacher. Often times, there are multiple attachments on the pole already (e.g., telecommunications, cable etc), and, currently each is moved sequentially — which can create delays and multiple disruptions in a neighborhood. In the case of one touch make-ready, companies that own poles agree on one or more common contractors that could move existing attachments on a pole (‘make ready’ work), allowing a single crew to move all attachments on a pole on a single visit, rather than sending in a unique crew to move each attachment sequentially. Sending in separate crews is time-consuming and disruptive to local communities and municipal governments. One-touch make-ready polices would ease this burden.

Perhaps most importantly: providers are likely to look more favorably on OTMR communities as they plan their investments, benefiting both companies and consumers. Across the country there have been complaints about lengthy processes to acquire access to poles and complex make-ready processes that require coordination among multiple providers to make changes. FiberNet, a company in West Virginia even remarked that “the most significant obstacle to the deployment of fiber transport is FiberNet’s inability to obtain access to pole attachments in a timely manner,” during a National Broadband Plan workshop. By implementing one touch make-ready policies, companies will benefit from less red tape, communities will benefit from less disruption, and everyone will benefit from faster deployment and increased connectivity.

It’s exciting to see so many leaders from across the political spectrum come together in support of dig once, but we hope they don’t stop there. One touch make-ready is just one of the many common sense solutions that we hope local and national governments will consider as we work together to increase connectivity throughout the country.

Learn more about one touch make-ready policies in  FTTH Council’s white paper, and in the FCC’s Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan.

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