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How to Build a Healthy Joint Use Program

Updated: Mar 5

Joint use is the linchpin of pole attachments– it’s the piece of the puzzle that connects attachers and pole owners. The fundamental purpose of joint use is to process applications while ensuring safety and reliability. Joint use departments (which are often just a handful of folks) work tirelessly to maintain reliability and crank through increasingly large piles of applications. 

Unfortunately, the pain points surrounding joint use can create frustration and result in teams losing sight of the value their work brings. But getting joint use right can relieve this pain, improve the relationships between attachers and utilities, and lower operating demands while still maintaining high standards of reliability.  

What is joint use?

Joint use describes the shared use of utility poles between utilities, communication, and internet providers. Pole owners (who are often electrical utility companies) are required to allow telecom providers to attach to their poles. At the end of the day, pole owners are the ones who absorb most of the costs that crop up with allowing attachers onto a pole. 

With funding flooding the market, the volume of applications is higher than ever, as more and more companies work to provide people with better internet services. Reliable, high-speed internet helps people get degrees online, have clearer phone calls between relatives, and have access to telehealth and remote work opportunities—all without sacrificing electrical grid reliability to keep the lights on in the middle of a storm. 

Why is it so hard? 

The issues of joint use start to arise when we consider the volume of applications pushed through a very small department which tends to be a single person (or at least a small department). Some of the major problems include:

  • Application Management: Departments receive mountains of application requests, with various amounts of consistency 

  • Construction Backlog: Construction demands can create a bottleneck for attachments, especially when poles require replacement.

  • Inaccurate Data: Unverified and inaccurate data causes friction between attachers and pole owners and further complicates the process. 

  • Illegal Attachments: Unauthorized attachments further inhibit grid reliability and cause issues for new attachers trying to attach safely. 

  • Number of Applications: Looming over all of it is the sheer volume of applications, which is only expected to grow with new public and private capital entering the market.

It’s exhausting for all parties—but those trying to create effective joint use departments are drowning.

Why get it right? 

If we get joint use right, it can change the game for how we approach and handle pole attachments. 

  • Utilities and attachers would have more accurate, mutually beneficial license agreements. 

  • Pole owners could maintain regulatory compliance, especially regarding attachment timelines.

  • The make ready engineering and construction process would be far more effective and timely while providing transparency and clarity to all parties involved.

  • Utilities would have up-to-date records for attachment billing/rental fees. 

  • Transparency and communication would lead to a reduction in double wood and pole transfers that never happen 

  • The pole attachments process as a whole would be better set up for continuous improvement while scaling to meet new demand. 

How do we build healthy joint use programs?

There’s not a 10-step plan to make all joint use problems disappear. But with the right processes and standards companies can build healthy joint use programs and solutions that result in greater reliability and higher efficiency.

In the past, departments relied on spreadsheets to manage their applications. This worked okay when utilities weren’t dealing with hundreds of applications. That’s not the case today. The best management tools should cut down on redundancy and optimize staff time and skills, and the right software platform can do that. 

Attacher-facing software for submitting applications lets utilities host data for safekeeping and accurate recording and creates transparency between attachers and pole owners. 

At Katapult, we use an Application Management portal to process application submissions, which ensures each application has the necessary data we need, lets us vet applications for issues, and ingest designs without redundant effort. The portal tracks each application’s timelines and manages email communication with attachers so every party has visibility. All parties can review their current and past applications at a glance to gain a big-picture view of where projects are at. 

When we leverage the right software, humans have the space and capacity to do better work. Automating and simplifying processes reduces the demands placed on us so we can do our best work with that new bandwidth. It lets the experts do what they do best. It empowers people to find or improve upon the right solutions. And it’s the first step in creating a powerful and robust grid that provides power and internet for every American.

For more information on joint use or Application Management, contact us at

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