5 Ways To Expedite Your Joint Use Permitting

5 Ways To Expedite Your Joint Use Permitting

Are you dealing with the increased burden of 5G wireless and fiber buildouts ramping up?

Communications companies are becoming more and more incentivized to deploy infrastructure, with FCC initiatives like RDOF and CAF helping ease the financial burden. Utilities that can’t keep up with the pace of their attachers risk becoming out of compliance, and are also giving up cost recovery opportunities by effectively tracking who’s on their poles.

Here are 5 ways you can position yourself to handle the increased load of your joint use permit requests and start billing for rental quicker.

1. Utilize your existing Pole data

Utilize your existing pole data

Third party attachers are under tremendous pressure to meet rural build-out deadlines, so anything that kick-starts a pole attachment request saves them time and money. One of the largest time savings comes from exposing the field data you already possess as a pole owner in your GIS.

Enabling attachers to view geographical pole information so they can submit the application for attachment with proper data reduces the amount of time they spend filling out a permit request. Downstream, it also helps you directly in several ways:

  1. Confirming the details of an application is quicker and done with fewer data errors.
  2. You gain the ability to map the poles that are part of a permit through field tools such as Esri Collector or Fulcrum, making inspections smoother.
  3. Storing the record of the originating request and all attachments on a Pole in a Joint Use Management system affords you a level of rental billing accuracy not possible without the data to support it.

Attachers will also thank you for identifying early roadblocks such as existing permit request on the same facility or pending pole replacement — all because you have your Pole data in a system of record that exposes these exceptions.

2. Work toward your key milestones

Work toward your key milestones

Whether you operate in a state that adheres to prescribed FCC timelines or not, utilities need a structured way to define and track the steps that need to be taken to process a permit application.

It’s all too common to lose sight of where your work currently is, particularly as the volume increases.

Juggling dates, status, and assignments in your head as responsibility shifts between you, the licensee, the inspector, the make ready construction crew, and the contractor makes you spend extra mental energy and causes your job to become harder.

Set up a way that allows you to follow a process for each and every attachment request that comes your way, even if it causes you some extra up-front data entry. This should include expected durations, measured in days, for each step and the ability to assign responsibility.

Ideally, this would be available to anyone who wants to view this information in your organization, eliminating the barrage of questions that can occur as stakeholders want to know what’s taking so long.

It will pay off, as the months go by, to process just that one troublesome permit request because several poles require complex make ready.

3. Measure your progress

Measure your progress

Once you are tracking your milestones accurately, you can use your data for business intelligence and decision support.

Modern tools like Microsoft Power BI and Tableau allow companies to visualize data on a scale never possible before. Noticing problematic trends in your business process allows you to understand why and then take corrective action.

Noticing that a particular county or region seems to have more complex make ready more than the rest of your footprint might give you insight. You can anticipate delays for large incoming requests and communicate that to your attachers.

Maybe you notice that the contractors you send your post inspections to seem to come back with results later than you expect, allowing you to factor that into your negotiations with them next time contracts are renewed.

Having the ability to quickly visualize and search your data for your day-to-day needs is important, but the companies that can take their data and look at how they can improve as an organization are going to separate themselves from the pack. Modern tools make it easier than ever before to do so.

4. Say no to paper and telephone

Say no to paper and telephone

Stuff happens. No matter how much you try and build out the perfect process, enter the data required, track your milestones and assignments, every project is unique.

Sure, you’ll get your share of 5 pole attachment requests with only simple make ready needed. You’ll give your approval and let the attacher handle the rest. Outside of these scenarios, you can’t have a system that would accommodate everything that can and will happen. You need to keep notes.

Verbal communication and paper notes don’t do much good. There’s a time and place for both, but in general, this information needs to be digitized in a manner that allows someone who wasn’t privy to the conversation to see it.

Avoid that phone call while on the beach in Hawaii because the person filling your shoes needs to know when the contractor will be out to set the new pole.

Documenting these updates in a clear manner also allows you to look back months from now and not have to pull details from deep in the memory banks, which brings us to…

5. Keep third party attachers up-to-date

Keep third party attachers up to date

“What’s going on with my attachment request? Why is it taking so long?”

There’s a reason the FCC has instituted rulings like One Touch Make Ready (OTMR) in recent years. Communications companies that can handle their own work are more than willing to in order to get their infrastructure up and running fast.

Complex make ready, such as performing an entire pole replacement, adds the additional hurdle of many moving parts, many of which are completely out of your control as a pole owner. You can eliminate a lot of headaches by being proactive in your communication rather than waiting for attachers to come to you asking questions.

Make updates in your system of record regarding what is happening and implement an easy way for you to provide that information to attachers directly, without having to take further intervening steps. This can occur either through automated emails, regular reporting, or through a public-facing communications portal such as NJUNS.

Spending less time answering questions allows you to focus on what everybody wants: a safe and efficient deployment.

Need help? We have the answer

Not every utility has a Joint Use Management System, let alone one that is up to the challenge that communications companies are placing on pole owners as they seek to connect rural communities and cities alike with fiber lines and 5G wireless.

Joint Use 365 is the only modern, fully-featured joint use software application for pole owners built on the latest Microsoft cloud technologies.

Utilities are able to track incoming pole attachment requests, execute configurable workflows with Microsoft Power Automate, manage documents with SharePoint Online, and visualize their data and processes through Power Platform Dashboards and Microsoft Power BI.

With data secured behind your own Azure Cloud infrastructure and Active Directory login, never again will your joint use data be inaccessible, whether in the office or out in the field.

Are you ready to reduce the overhead of tracking your attachment requests? If so, please watch our introductory video, view our pricing page for license and implementation information, or contact us directly.

Joint Use 365

Joint Use 365 is the premier software solution for managing utility poles and third-party joint use attachments. Joint Use 365’s automated permitting, workflows, notifications, billing and integration help you provide better service for your attachers and reduce workload on your staff and contractors.

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