As the FCC reviews its pole attachment rules, a bipartisan group of legislators has expressed concern to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai about "One-Touch Make-Ready" (OTMR) proposals that would allow companies who want to add equipment to a utility pole to move pre-existing telephone, cable and utility equipment.
A letter released today and signed by thirteen Members of Congress led by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) urges the Commission to "ensure that any make-ready policy that [the Commission] adopts include safeguards that would minimize disruptions in service to consumers, protect public and worker safety, and honor collective bargaining agreements."
Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.), in a separate letter, said, "I recognize that streamlining pole attachment make-ready processes sounds like a good idea, but the unintended consequences of a process that bypasses skilled workers could threaten worker safety and disrupt service to customers."
CWA Telecommunications Policy Director Debbie Goldman noted in an Ex Parte filing with the FCC, that "Pole attachment work is complex and, if done incorrectly, can lead to dangerous conditions for workers and the public. In the communications space, unskilled work could leave heavy cable and terminals hanging without proper support. Ungrounded wires could cause electrocution risks. Incorrect placement or overloading equipment on damaged or decaying poles could lead to poles falling into private property or the public right-of-way."
The CWA filing includes photos showing dangerous mistakes made by contractors in Louisville, KY where an OTMR ordinance is in place. CWA's collective bargaining agreements ensure that well-trained employees who are directly accountable for their work perform pole attachment work properly and safely.
In their letter, the legislators said that OTMR proposals "must respect [existing] collective bargaining agreements while serving to protect and promote good, career jobs in communities across the United States."
"CWA-represented technicians earn good family-supporting wages and benefits," wrote Goldman in CWA's Ex Parte filing. "In contrast, contractors advertise lineman positions for $15-19 per hour -- about 40 percent less than the earnings of a union field technician."
Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.), Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), Rep. Theodore Deutch (D-Fla.), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.), Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) joined Rep. McKinley on the letter.
About CWA: The Communications Workers of America represents 700,000 working men and women in telecommunications, customer service, media, airlines, public service and manufacturing.