“Fiber make ready” refers to the process of preparing a utility pole to receive a new fiber attachment. This process must be completed when a service provider is expanding fiber service to a new geographical area, but is more complicated and takes more time than many people realize. Here’s an overview of what fiber make ready entails, and how it can affect DQE customers.
In most communities, utility poles are owned by the local government, a utility such as the electric company, or the telephone company – or sometimes, a combination of entities. Cooperation with the owner of the poles is necessary for DQE or any other service provider to add anything new to that pole, such as fiber-optic cable.
The fiber make-ready process
The process has several steps, as follows:
- The entity wanting to place a new attachment (in this case, fiber) on the pole must contact the pole owner with the request.
- The owner of the pole then determines if there is room for anything new, and rules out any issues with safety or capacity. Any problems must first be addressed before the process moves forward.
- The owner of the pole then sends back the “make-ready” cost to the requestor. This cost must be paid before the process can move forward.
- If the owner concludes there are no issues, every entity that has something attached to the pole must send a worker to the pole to move wires to make space for the new attachment.
- The new attachment can finally be placed on the pole.
This process can be time-consuming, expensive and difficult when multiplied over the number of poles and the number of companies involved. In order to expedite the process, “One Touch Make Ready” (OTMR), where a single contractor is authorized to make all the pole attachment changes at once, has been enabled in a few municipalities – usually through legislation. However, OTMR is not in place or expected anytime soon in DQE’s service area.
Regulations governing fiber make ready
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has developed regulations designed to streamline the process and ensure fair access to poles, as fiber networks are expanding rapidly to meet increased demand. Pennsylvania and West Virginia are among the 30 states that defer to the FCC’s authority on the make-ready process (the others have their own regulations).
The regulations, which were issued in 2011, state that the timeline for new pole attachments is limited to 148 days from the time the request is received, when fewer than 300 poles are involved. If the expansion involves more than 300 poles, additional time is allowed. It’s important to note that these timeframes are just guidelines, and there are no penalties to the owners for not meeting them. In fact, more often than not the timeframes take much longer.
DQE works diligently to expedite each step involved in fiber make ready. However, our customers should know that the process is still time-consuming and requires the cooperation of many different entities, and as such will dictate construction timelines.