Broadband competition-killer: telephone poles. FCC will try for 3rd time to open poles to Google, others

Access to telephone poles has been a battleground between incumbent broadband providers such as Comcast and AT&T and new competitors such as Google.

Six years ago, the federal agency that regulates the telecom and cable companies, the Federal Communications Commission, then headed by Obama-appointee Julius Genachowski, announced that it had reformed rules "to streamline access and reduce costs" to attach new broadband lines to utility poles dotting the American landscape — perhaps opening a new era of broadband competition. 

It didn't happen.

In 2015, the FCC, with a different Obama appointee heading it, Tom Wheeler, tried again to make it easier for new broadband entrants, such as Google Fiber, to string wires on telephone poles and offer lightning-fast internet speeds at lower prices.

It didn't seem to do much as incumbents Comcast and AT&T — Comcast is now the nation's largest residential internet provider — rallied local political opposition to pole attachments.

Now, in 2017, the FCC is taking another pass at it.

On Thursday, the FCC's newest chairman, Trump-appointee Ajit Pai, as part of a raft of new initiatives, said he also would seek to reform rules to ease the process to string new wires on telephone and electric company poles because "high-speed broadband is an increasingly important gateway to jobs, health care, education, and information for all Americans."

Time will tell whether the third time will do the trick.