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Utility Pole Oversight Bill Passes Florida Legislature

Florida lawmakers last week passed legislation to give the state oversight over utility poles. The measure is on its way to Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ desk for his signature.

The House voted 114-3 on Wednesday to pass the bill to shift utility pole oversight from the FCC to the Florida Public Service Commission. The measure passed the state Senate on Monday 38-2, reported Florida Politics.

If the Governor signs the measure, Florida joins 22 other states and the District of Columbia, in regulating pole attachments, according to Communications Daily.

The bill (SB 1944) requires the PSC to enforce rates, charges, terms and conditions for pole attachments and to resolve disputes. It outlines new rules for settling disputes, boosting grid reliability and hardening, and on redundant poles.

The FCC currently oversees many of the operations surrounding utility poles. But if the PSC takes complete control under the bill, it would stop preempting private contracts, according to the account. However, PSC would have the authority to settle disputes regarding those rates.

The Commission is reviewing two such disputes in Florida, between AT&T and Florida Power and Light. However, both are expected to be concluded before any Florida legislation could take effect.

The legislation also would give Florida more control over the telecommunications industry’s service distribution systems, notes Florida Politics.

During the committee process, AT&T senior counsel Tracy Hatch signaled his opposition to parts of the bill, and said the proposal would ask the PSC to develop its own rules for removing pole attachments by October. It also extended the definition of utility poles and pole hardening beyond what is necessary, he said.

Power companies appear to support the idea while telecommunications companies oppose it. Both industries are trying to get away from pole use in Florida. Two years ago, the state legislature approved a law requiring power utilities to bury their lines over the next 30 years, to harden Florida’s power grid against storm damage. Telecoms are moving more toward tower transmission to distribute broadband signals, reports Florida Politics.

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