Bob Stevenson is getting to know his way between Hannibal and Jefferson City. Last week the general manager of the Hannibal Board of Public Works got up bright and early in order to testify at the Missouri Capitol in front of the House Utilities Committee.
Bob Stevenson is getting to know his way between Hannibal and Jefferson City. Last week the general manager of the Hannibal Board of Public Works got up bright and early in order to testify at the Missouri Capitol in front of the House Utilities Committee regarding legislation that would impact accessibility to BPW power poles by telecommunications firms.
“It was not pretty,” said Stevenson in an e-mail to the Courier-Post. “We (Missouri Public Utility Alliance) accomplished very little in our fight against the cable companies. In the end when these laws are passed and signed, the city will have lost some of its property rights related to pole attachments and our ability to charge rent to the cable companies for using our facilities. Our bottom line will be reduced and the bottom line of Charter will be increased. What I told them was weak relative to the arguments being put forth by the cable companies and none of the representatives wanted to hear it.”
Leading telecommunications firms contend that city and county regulations are hindering them from expanding high-speed Internet service across the state.
In a memo to the BPW Board, Stevenson wrote that legislation currently under consideration would require the BPW to “use an FCC-based formula to calculate attachment rates on each pole rather than the one-size-fits-all rate” the BPW currently uses.
What would the change cost the BPW? During last week’s BPW Board meeting, Stevenson said that attachment fees will likely be “capped” at approximately $5 a pole, which would be roughly half of what is currently charged ($9.85 a pole). Last year Charter was billed $85,000 by the BPW for its attachments.
It was suggested during the Feb. 18 BPW Board meeting that the lost revenue stream would likely have to be made up by local ratepayers.
According to Stevenson, the proposed Legislation does contain some good news for the local utility.
“We will be authorized to demand a contract between the BPW and any broadband company wanting to attach to our poles,” he wrote in a memo.
Bills limiting local regulations on utility poles and right-of-way access were passed by the Legislature last year. They ultimately were struck down in October by Cole County Circuit Judge Pat Joyce for violating the Missouri Constitution's single-subject requirement for legislation.
When the current session got under way some lawmakers began attempting to sidestep the original ruling by re-enacting the numerous provisions piece by piece, including the provision that would limit what could be charged to companies wanting to attach devises to municipal utility poles.
During its Jan. 21 meeting the BPW Board approved a resolution relating to its pole attachment policy.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)