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Relating to attachments for broadband service on utility poles owned by an electric cooperative and establishing and funding a pole replacement program for deployment of certain broadband facilities.
No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
HB 1505 establish the Texas Broadband Pole Replacement Program for the "purpose of speeding the deployment of broadband to individuals in rural areas by reimbursing a portion of eligible pole replacement costs incurred by certain persons." It would be funded by the federal Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund and overseen by the comptroller.
In addition, the bill would regulate utility pole attachment contracts and standards for utility pole attachments between electric cooperatives and broadband service providers. It limits the right of electric cooperatives to deny access to their utility polls to broadband service providers and would even require cooperatives to make modifications to their utility polls in order to accommodate broadband providers and notify the broadband providers currently using their poles if they replace a pole. This bill would also mandate that a broadband provider indemnify, defend, and hold harmless an electric cooperative and the cooperative’s members from and against all liability for the removal and transfer of a pole except for personal injury or property damage arising from the gross negligence or willful misconduct of the electric cooperative. This bill would make the broadband providers responsible for removing abandoned pole attachments. This bill would create the Broadband Pole Replacement fund to support the pole replacement program which aims to assist in the development of broadband in this state by reimbursing pole replacement costs
Texas Action opposes HB 1505 as this bill infringes on the rights of electric cooperatives to freely negotiate their own contracts and deny applications at their own discretion. Electric cooperatives and broadband providers should be free to voluntarily cooperate without the government interfering violating property rights and private contracts.