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Reliable Utilities for People

Pole Attachments on the Rise

Even before things shut down in 2020, pole attachment requests were steadily climbing. In some markets, telecom attachment applications had doubled, and the teams managing these requests were often weeks or months behind.

The pandemic highlighted something that was becoming increasingly clear—our quality of life in America is hugely dependent on our access to reliable, high-speed internet. Now, it feels like an all-out sprint for communication providers to be the first to light up these underserved communities using public funds.

There are many ways to bring reliable internet to people: going underground, using fixed wireless, or even through satellites. Each has its own unique cost-benefit analysis, but attaching to utility poles is still the primary channel to maximize the impact of broadband dollars.

There are a lot of problems with the pole attachment process. I've outlined some of them here, but they can be summarized like this:

  1. The biggest communication providers want to use a universal approach to applications even though every pole owner has a different process

  2. Pole owners and their vendors are struggling to keep up with the volume of applications while keeping workers safe and the grid reliable

  3. Existing attachers have too much power to slow their competition down

The Attacher's Perspective

It's tough to be an internet service provider or their contractor submitting pole attachment requests. There's a vicious circle that happens during the attachment process, which often leads to frustration, cut corners, and lawsuits.

A robust one-touch make ready protocol can solve this vicious cycle in a brilliant way. By using an approved OTMR contractor, attachers can hire a partner who has worked closely with the pole owner and has a reputation to protect. These approved contractors must hold dual responsibilities in tension: safely execute simple make-ready while passing complex make-ready on to the standard process.

It's a win-win that allows teams to do more work without sacrificing the safety and reliability of the electrical grid. And it prevents incumbent attachers from introducing friction for competition's sake.

Joint Use Management in Katapult Pro

We have decades of experience solving the toughest challenges of joint use, both firsthand for a major utility and by supporting software customers across the country. Here's what we've learned and built along the way:

Fully-Administered Standards

The most important priority of a joint use department is to ensure that telecom attachments don't jeopardize the safety or reliability of the grid. Pole owners honor this priority through every step in the pole attachments process, from setting up initial agreements to post-construction inspections and attachment audits.

Attachers would love to steer the process toward an approach that fits their design workflow and timelines—and the FCC is working to make OTMR an option for certain types of work. But as pole owners, these expectations often distract from safety and reliability. 

The Katapult Pro application management portal puts the power in the pole owner's hands to ensure consistency from their vendors. The portal facilitates pole owner standards for:

  • Attachment records

  • Standard and non-standard application processes

  • Make ready clearances and rules

  • Overhead power maps and pole locations

  • Pole loading standards and equipment specs

  • Construction packages

Creating these transparent, shareable standards allows pole owners to split work between trusted vendors to match incoming demand without sacrificing safety, reliability, or consistency of process.

Customer-Facing Attachments Portal

You can play defense against a flood of attachment requests by automating your process and providing transparent access to each application's status and next steps. The two approaches complement each other by reducing the risk of litigation and drastically cutting administrative costs.

Allowing attachers and their contractors to submit their own applications is critical to reducing the cost of joint use. It's also an opportunity to put the attachments process on rails and ensure that all applications are pre-vetted for completion. 

In Katapult Pro, you can allow attacher admin users to manage their own users and permissions. You can also change what information is required to submit an application, as well as the statuses, timelines, notifications, and other actions taken as an app moves through different steps of the process.

Applicants can view all applications at a glance and see the real-time status without calling or emailing for a status update. This lets both you and them focus on the applications that need attention. 

Integrated Engineering Workflows

The best engineering teams across the US use Katapult Pro to design, collect, engineer, and deliver make ready solutions. We built these engineering tools so that teams of any size can do great engineering work and deliver transparent data to build trust with their clients and partners.

Katapult Pro's suite of engineering tools uses the same real-time engine as our application portal and can be configured on your server, which means vendors can do great work while:

  • using a familiar tool

  • operating within your standards and specifications

  • producing consistent, standardized deliverables

  • keeping records and info accurate and up-to-date

And they can do this with existing staff and established workflows to offer a better price and or service.

Education, Scalability, and Growth

Healthy programs must be able to adapt and grow. Increased regulation can cause pressure, as can technology changes, process tweaks, new standards, staff turnover, or a flood of attachment requests from billions of dollars entering the market.

Our approach to support growth is threefold:

  1. Configuration, Training, and Certification - Katapult Pro workflows and models are extremely self-configurable. We have out-of-the-box default workflows that kick-start your project, and our onboarding process includes extensive training to assist you as you own and conquer even the most custom of implementations. Our certification program allows you to evaluate vendors' knowledge of Katapult Pro tools and workflows and gives us confidence that our training is sticky and that teams have been properly equipped.

  2. Continuous Improvement Packages - We know that something always comes up, and workflows and processes need to be invested in to grow and thrive. Our packages include monthly credits for custom coding, training, configuration, and more—so your most pressing issues can be solved quickly. Your vendors likely have a similar budget, which should give them the flexibility to capitalize on any opportunity you throw their way.

  3. World-Class Support - We love what we do and we care about the impact of our work. When you call or email us, we'll respond quickly. Our experienced, empathetic support staff work closely with our software and engineering teams to understand the scope and relevance of the work you do. We'll always do our best to communicate clearly, resolve issues quickly, and take accountability if we ever make a mistake.

A Noble Cause

Joint use can be an awkward landing place in your career—and it's almost impossible to explain to family and friends. Despite this, it's an incredible opportunity to positively impact others. As broadband deployment becomes a hotter topic, joint use departments across the nation will have an opportunity to steer the ship in a healthy direction. By pushing the telecom attachments process to be better and faster without sacrificing safety or reliability, these teams will be instrumental in bringing two critical utilities to communities across the country. 

Raising the quality of life for Americans—that's work that matters.

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