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Permit forms adopted for rights of way usage PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt   
An application form for revocable encroachment of the City of Holyoke rights of way and an exhibit involving an excavation permit were approved at a special meeting of Holyoke City Council Tuesday, July 24.

Attorney Russell Sprague, representing PC Telcom, as well as PC Telcom employee Pete Markle, attended last week’s meeting, asking the council to delay any action pertaining to the revocable encroachment permits.

The need to have such permit forms in place was called to the council’s attention in June when the contract company working for EAGLE-Net requested a permit to occupy street rights of way to install fiber optic lines to schools and libraries.

In approving the application permit forms at last week’s special meeting, council members emphasized this is simply the permit form, it is not granting permission for anything.

The revocable encroachment permit requests permission to encroach on the city’s rights of way. It is a revocable permit, in that even if approved, permission can be revoked. It’s not a permanent agreement.

Permit applications will go in front of the City Council, not the city superintendent.

Through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), EAGLE-Net was awarded a $100.6 million Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant to deliver middle mile connections to take broadband to unserved and underserved locations in Colorado.

Supt. Mark Brown had expressed concern in June, as no mechanism was in place to allow or disallow such requests for use of the city’s street rights of way. Attorney Al Wall advised the council to adopt an application permit form to put a process in place.

A revocable encroachment permit form from Montrose was used as a model for the one the City of Holyoke adopted last week.

In Tuesday night’s special meeting discussion, Supt. Brown explained there are certain fiber lines he doesn’t need, so those can be waived in the permitting process.

He said he doesn’t see the need for what many cities will use the fiber optics for.

Brown added every alley in town has fiber optic, and if city crews get close to the lines, PC Telcom is on site immediately to assist.

Council member Scott Murray said, “If there’s no cost to us, why not do it?” He said it shouldn’t hurt anything if the fiber optic lines are there but aren’t used.

But David Churchwell pointed out concerns for potential costs if the lines get damaged. He also noted concern for the vague term “reasonable” when talking about timelines. Other members questioned long-term responsibility for the fiber optic lines after they’re installed.

Brown said one of his biggest concerns is who is going to do the locating for the city.

EAGLE-Net was formed as a local government under Colorado state statute. EAGLE-Net Alliance out of Broomfield is one of 3,407 active local governments under the Colorado Dept. of Local Affairs (DOLA).

Back to the permit process, Sprague addressed two concerns on behalf of PC Telcom, asking for no action to be taken that night.

The first concern is with EAGLE-Net, and the second is with the permitting process for any telecommunications provider, which includes PC Telcom.

Sprague addressed rights of way for telecommunications providers.

He said the definition of a telecommunications provider includes not only providing telecommunications services, but also providing them under the authority of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) or Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

At this point, Sprague said EAGLE-Net is a local government under DOLA and hasn’t gone through the process to use rights of way. “That’s a big concern,” he added, noting PC Telcom asks that when a permit application comes in that the city take time to look at that.

Sprague cited some issues with regard to the proposed permit process, as it will also apply to PC Telcom down the road.

He said state statute says a government entity can’t come in and compete with private industry. If EAGLE-Net, who hasn’t gone through the PUC or FCC process, is allowed to come in and use rights of way, Sprague suggested that could be impermissible because it allows competitive advantage.

“We’d like it to be fair and reasonable for all telecommunications providers,” he added.

Sprague described the situation as EAGLE-Net using free federal dollars to overbuild on the fiber optic network that is already here. PC Telcom installed fiber optic facilities sufficient to serve the Holyoke school and neighboring schools and made arrangements necessary for the network to provide distance learning to the N.E. BOCES schools.

“Free federal dollars are competing with private enterprise, and the council should take a look at how that affects and how it looks,” said Sprague.

Ultimately, he cited the importance of making sure EAGLE-Net has gone through the proper process to use the city rights of way.

With PC Telcom being an entity that will be affected by this, Sprague said they feel there are ways to stop EAGLE-Net and to question telecommunications provider status and definition.

After a 20-minute executive session called for the purpose of receiving legal advice, the council voted to adopt the proposed revocable encroachment permit and excavation permit (Exhibit A).

Council members emphasized this action does not grant anyone anything. It’s a permit process that is now in place. No applications have been addressed.

Holyoke Enterprise Aug. 2, 2012