What Verizon's Pole Attachment Stance Tells You

For every public purpose there are corresponding private interests. Consider pole attachments.

Attackers generally support less-costly, simpler, faster processes for gaining the right to string communications cables on telephone and light poles. Incumbents generally oppose such moves, as faster, easier, cheaper pole attachments mean more potential competition, faster.

Of course, interests are not simple. Cable TV companies, which once were attackers, argued for simpler pole attachments, until they became incumbents. Now the tier-one cable companies oppose “one touch make ready” and other measures to ease the process of creating an access network.

But even in the tier-one incumbent arena, business interests vary. AT&T generally opposes such measures, while Verizon now supports easier pole attachments. There is a simple reason. AT&T has the largest fixed network footprint, and so is an incumbent in much of the United States.

Verizon, in contrast, serves a relatively small portion of U.S. homes, so Verizon homes passed are about 21 percent of the roughly 126 million U.S. homes.

AT&T homes passed are about 66 million, or about 52 percent of U.S. homes. In other words, AT&T is the defender in 52 percent of locations, while Verizon is the defender in about 21 percent of locations.

Though AT&T already has some efforts underway to compete out of region, Verizon has the bigger opportunity out of region.

So Verizon’s position on easier pole attachments tells you at least one thing: Verizon intends to move out of region, where it will have to attach its cables to poles owned by somebody else.

AT&T likely also is planning to do so, but will defend in roughly 52 percent of cases, attack in no more than 48 percent of cases. There is a slight advantage for AT&T to take the position it does.
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