Utility pole owners are in for a busy 2023. Federal funding for broadband expansion programs, such as RDOF and BEAD, have communication companies scrambling to build broadband facilities rapidly. Because above-ground distribution channels can be used to roll out broadband services quickly, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) predicts that nearly all utilities will see an unprecedented surge in attachment requests on utility poles. This means utilities’ pole joint use departments, responsible for approving and facilitating third-party attachments, will face soaring workloads.
Many utilities only have one or two joint use specialists managing attachments. While hiring more analysts could work in the short term, it won’t cure the joint use team of necessary, inefficient workflows. Using siloed systems for asset management, billing, permitting, and task management results in duplicate tasks and constant error monitoring. Without a centralized system, analysts will struggle to stay on top of their workload. Between providing status updates to attachers, scheduling make-ready tasks or maintenance, and reconciling pole data, the likelihood of missed deadlines and severe fines increases.
If the problems above plague your joint use department, Joint Use 365, a software application designed specifically for utility pole owners, can help.
Joint Use 365 can
- Streamline joint use workflows and greatly reduce internal workload
- Accelerate the permitting process and reduce project bottlenecks
- Give instant insights into workloads and tasks
- Create detailed tracking for billing
- Provide complete security with Microsoft Azure and SOC2 Type 2 certifications
Learn more about how Joint Use 365 can revitalize and automate attachment processes to help them tackle the incoming “broadband tsunami.”
1. Joint Use 365 software automates joint use workflows and reduces internal workload significantly.
A utility pole owner’s most critical data is frequently stored in separate Excel spreadsheets, GIS, and other repositories. A joint use analyst must update the attachment requests, billing, asset records, and permitting spreadsheet to add a single new attachment to one pole. The joint use analyst must also double-check the pole information in their GIS to ensure that the attacher has chosen the right pole in the correct location. The analyst must do this for hundreds or even thousands of attachments while carefully monitoring their make-ready tasks and pole replacement projects. This method for joint use management is very time-consuming and leaves no room for error.
Joint Use 365 is a complete database for managing asset history, attachment requests, billing, permitting, make-ready tasks, and violations, doing away with duplicate tasks. It seamlessly integrates with the utility’s GIS. Attachers securely log in and use the map interface to select the poles to which they wish to attach. The attacher inputs all necessary attachment data, significantly reducing the workload of joint use analysts and eliminating guesswork. With a complete history of a given utility pole in one place, Joint Use 365 reduces confusion caused by unpermitted attachments, making reconciliations and rental billing recovery a snap.
2. Accelerate the permitting process and reduce project bottlenecks.
Communication companies are more motivated than ever to get their broadband-delivering devices onto utility poles. It’s not uncommon for joint use analysts to receive many requests for status updates every day from one or many attachers. This siphons time from more critical tasks, like scheduling the make-ready tasks, inspections, or construction needed to complete a project. Even after the utility’s tasks are complete, the joint use department can be stuck waiting on the attacher to complete a required task.
Joint Use 365’s permit automation feature provides attachers with real-time project updates without an analyst ever having to pick up the phone. Its attachment request tracker immediately alerts the attacher and the utility when a task needs to be completed. Joint Use 365 also integrates with the National Joint Utilities Notification System (NJUNS), seamlessly migrating all data into Joint Use 365.
NJUNS is a not-for-profit consortium of utility companies created to facilitate communication between utilities and third-party attachers. It’s widely used by communications companies like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T. By integrating NJUNS with Joint Use 365, attachers can use NJUNS’ familiar self-service portal to input attachment requests without having to learn new input methods. Attachers can also use NJUNS to check the status of pending projects without needing the utility to relay it. All the pertinent information is stored in NJUNS and brought into Joint Use 365. Click here to find out if NJUNS is available in your state.
3. Provide instant insight into workloads and tasks.
With so many tasks to complete for various attachers, all with distinct timelines, it can be difficult to prioritize what needs to be completed and when. When utilities need updates on how many attachment requests are pending versus how many make-ready projects require immediate attention, it can be challenging for a joint use department to characterize their workloads.
Joint Use 365’s customizable dashboards can display the information a joint use department needs. From open activities to active attachment requests to inspections, each dashboard is fed by live data and can be sent to key stakeholders. These metrics allow utilities to make data-driven decisions to complete the tasks that matter while keeping an eye on pending activities.
4. Generate detailed tracking for billing.
If an attacher or utility field technician finds an unpermitted or unrecorded attachment on a pole, it represents a loss of rental income and a possible safety hazard. It can also cause expensive disruptions to construction or repair projects when the crew shows up with equipment and materials only to find unexpected equipment on the pole that introduces new requirements.
In some cases, the “unpermitted” attachment was permitted, but unreliable billing records and asset management allowed the attacher to rent space for free for years. Either way, the joint use analyst must dig through years of records to determine how much money was lost.
Joint Use 365’s detailed asset history allows utilities to store all their assets’ critical data, including financials. Joint Use 365 is a repository for pole inspections, allowing utilities to recoup lost rental revenue and keep records of audits and violations. It can also ensure that disputes between the utility and attachers or between two separate attachers can be resolved quickly. With integrated financials, utilities can feel confident that their rental billing is accurate and up to date.
5. With Microsoft Azure and SOC2 Type 2 certifications, Joint Use 365 software offers total security.
Utilities are facing digital attacks like never before. After the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack in 2021, utilities must ensure that their energy and customer data are securely backed and stored.
Not only is Varasset, the developer of Joint Use 365, SOC 2 Type 2 certified, but the software also uses Microsoft Azure’s world-class, single sign-on security to protect utilities’ data. The data is stored on the utility’s dedicated Microsoft tenant. And with Microsoft’s $1 billion yearly investment in its security, utilities can rest assured that their data is unreachable by even the craftiest of hackers.
To learn more about how Joint Use 365 software can help your utility’s joint use department be successful, contact us today to schedule a demo!