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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • BPW opposes free use of its utility poles

  • Efforts by Missouri legislators to limit local regulations on utility poles and right-of-way access has begun again. A Senate commerce committee heard testimony Tuesday on five separate bills on that topic.
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  • Efforts by Missouri legislators to limit local regulations on utility poles and right-of-way access has begun again. A Senate commerce committee heard testimony Tuesday on five separate bills on that topic.
    All the measures had been rolled into two similar bills that were passed by the Legislature last year. Those bills were struck down in October by Cole County Circuit Judge Pat Joyce for violating the Missouri Constitution's single-subject requirement for legislation. The case is on appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court, but some lawmakers are attempting to sidestep the original ruling by re-enacting the numerous provisions piece by piece.
    The new approach drew support Tuesday from lobbyists for many of the nation's leading telecommunications firms, including AT&T, Verizon, U.S. Cellular, T-Mobile and Google. They contend that city and county regulations are hindering telecommunications companies from expanding high-speed Internet service across the state.
    Voicing opposition to the bills on Tuesday were officials from the cities of Blue Springs, Butler, Fulton, Gladstone, Hazelwood, Kansas City, Springfield and Willow Springs. While no one from Hannibal spoke during Tuesday’s committee hearing, that doesn’t mean the BPW isn’t opposed.
    “Broadband companies nationwide will spend many millions annually to attach to poles owned by others,” said Bob Stevenson, general manager of the BPW, on Wednesday afternoon. “Sure they will try to bully us in the Legislature, but why should our citizens give up their collective rights to collect rent just because the squatters do not want to pay? And, just because they have good lobbyists?”
    During its Jan. 21 meeting the BPW Board approved a resolution relating to its pole attachment policy.
    “The problem has been that the lawmakers have shown no regard for the property rights of the folks who spent the money and labor to put up the poles in the first place for their own good,” wrote Stevenson in a memo to the BPW Board.
    One of the bills brought before the Senate committee Tuesday would limit the fees that could be charged to companies wanting to attach devises to municipal utility poles. The BPW currently receives an attachment fee of $9.85 per pole.
    “Our pole attachment fees will not break anybody's bank,” said Stevenson on Wednesday afternoon. “Consider the cost of a pole installed is $1,000 to $2,000 and is good for 40 years. The broadband company might pay for 25-30 percent of a pole in its lifetime. Nobody can honestly argue that is unfair.”
    The committee took no vote on the bills Tuesday.
    The BPW is planning on taking a more active role in opposing the telecommunications legislation than it did a year ago.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We’re trying to be heard in the right places,” said Stevenson, acknowledging that pole-owning utilities face an uphill battle.
     
    (The Associated Press contributed to this story.)
     
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