This is a story of persistence and perseverance, if not patience.
The cable industry finally obtained some control over skyrocketing pole attachment rates charged by cooperative utilities in North Carolina when the State’s Business Court ruled in favor of Time Warner Cable in Rutherford EMC v. Time Warner Entertainment/Advance-Newhouse Partnership on May 22, 2014. This was the first decision on the merits of a rate dispute under a 2009 North Carolina statute that gave the Business Court the responsibility to act on disputes related to cooperative and municipal utility pole rates. In deciding squarely for the cable operator, the Business Court ruled that the rate formula used by the FCC to determine reasonable pole rates “offered the most credible basis for measuring the reasonableness of [Rutherford’s] pole rates.” The FCC rates were determined to be in the range of $2.54 to $3.63 per pole annually during 2010-2013, in contrast to Rutherford’s rates in the range of $15.50 to $19.65. The court also found that the average rate in North Carolina charged by regulated investor owned utilities ranged from $5.91 to $6.06 in that same period. The court ordered that within 90 days the parties “negotiate and adopt new rates for the years 2010 through 2013 that are consistent with the reasoning of this Order.”