The NYS Public Service Commission (PSC) has reached two joint settlement agreements valued at $10 million that resolve penalty amounts for alleged violations against Rochester Gas & Electric Corp. (RG&E) and Frontier Telephone of Rochester, Inc. (Frontier). The settlements reached on August 12, 2021, come after a PSC investigation found that Frontier and RG&E allowed non-conforming pole attachments to remain in place on their respective utility poles without remediation, which is in violation of state safety standards.
The settlement will help fund wired broadband service to underserved communities in NY through the NYS Broadband Program Office (BPO). In its decision, the Commission accepted a negotiated settlement of $5 million against RG&E to resolve the dispute, with $2.5 million suspended pending compliance with remediation guidelines, and it accepted a negotiated settlement of $5 million with Frontier. The $7.5 million in immediate funds will go into an escrow account to be used by the New York State Broadband Program Office (BPO). The BPO will disperse the funds.
In addition to helping provide broadband service to unserved or underserved areas in New York State, the $10 million in settlements also include remediation metrics that require RG&E and Frontier to fully remediate all identified safety issues on their poles and conduct a full audit of their service territory and fix any safety violations found as a result.
The Commission’s pole attachment regulations are designed to ensure safe operations of millions of utility poles in New York State. All underground and overhead communication lines are subject to the Commission’s 2004 pole attachment order to ensure safe construction and operation of networks.
Frontier will have right of first refusal for locations served by Frontier or its New York affiliates in future BPO solicitations funded by the Frontier settlement. The two agreements will immediately deposit $7.5 million into a fund to be administered by the BPO to expand wireline broadband in the state to those who need it most.
These agreements will also ensure that all known safety violations will be remediated immediately, and that all poles in the service territories will be inspected and made safe by December 2022.