Written by Chris Kirkland
What if I told you a utility provider could prevent your family or business from enjoying another essential utility’s service. Envision your water provider preventing the gas company from accessing your home efficiently and in a cost-effective way. This scenario could result in cold showers, freezing indoor temperatures, higher bill rates, and perhaps no home-cooked meals for your loved ones.
In Medina County, OH, our grassroots and locally staffed Medina Fiber impacts cities and towns like Westfield Center, Seville, and Medina every day. Thanks to strong political will in these communities and municipal utility pole owners and permitting departments working with Medina Fiber, we can provide the County’s highest and most dependable internet speeds.
Regrettably, there are areas of Medina County that Medina Fiber is struggling to serve. Communities like Gloria Glens and Chippewa Lake, where there are Ohio Edison poles that are critical to connecting residents. Initially, these areas were the priority in our deployment due to the areas complete lack of broadband services, resulting in service being provided by Medina Fiber in the fall of 2021. Now we are unsure as to when our services will be able to reach these areas because another utility is delaying a needed utility from constructing a cost effective network to a rural area.
Ohio Edison is that utility, and is directly delaying the Medina Fiber build plan in these areas by not following the FCC’s timelines. For decades Ohio Edison has allowed communications companies, like Medina Fiber, to attach, at will, not in regulation, to their poles with little to no delay. Now they are confronted with poles that are severely overloaded and not in the accordance with national guidelines for aerial utility safety. These congested poles must be repaired by Ohio Edison through a process called Make-Ready Engineering and Make-Ready Construction and the high demand for better broadband are causing immense delays in this process.
Medina Fiber has gone to extremes to accommodate and expedite the pole application approval and Make-Ready process. Some of the services Medina Fiber has offered are to complete Make-Ready Engineering and Make-Ready Construction for Ohio Edison at our own expense. This process would give Medina Fiber the ability to arrange the existing attachments, make the pole cleaner, safer, and provide Medina Fiber a position to attach, thus allowing us to service underserved, less dense areas throughout the County. Unfortunately, Medina Fiber’s assistance was denied by Ohio Edison.
Now Medina Fiber and their future customers are left waiting on lengthy timelines ranging from a 7-8 month “target timeline” Ohio Edison has given to the 3-year timeline our local team has seen from past projects. In addition to extended timelines, Ohio Edison has costly Engineering and Construction fees passed along to Medina Fiber. Medina Fiber would not mind paying the higher Engineering and Construction rates if we could serve our community sooner. However, because of these issues, lower density areas will be deferred to later in the build plan, up to 2-3 years later than initially expected due to these circumstances.
Due to a lack of workforce to meet the demand of pole application requests, large power and telecommunications companies that have monopolies over utility poles will continue to hold small, local ISP’s hostage by creating rules on their terms. One utility should never have the ability to block its loyal consumers from accessing another utility’s offerings. Medina Fiber will continue advocating for their communities’ needs, pushing for choice, fairness, and the quality of life everyone deserves, no matter where they live.