The Honorable Thomas A. Golden, House Chair
The Honorable Michael J. Barrett, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy
State House, Boston

Dear Chair Barrett, Chair Golden, and Distinguished Committee Members,

On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association respectfully requests that your committee report favorably on H. 2811 and S. 1976, An Act relative to municipal authority in public rights of way. This legislation, heard before your Committee on June 18th, would give local governments increased enforcement authority and negotiating power with investor-owned utilities operating in the public rights-of-way.

Under the Massachusetts General Laws, local governments lack adequate authority to control their own rights-of-way. For years, municipalities have faced issues related to double utility poles, misplaced poles and wires, and roadblocks to purchasing energy and telecommunications infrastructure from investor-owned utility companies. Municipalities must also deal with the impact of delays to utility projects in the public right-of-way, beyond the statutorily-prescribed 90-day time period for this type of work. By way of example, there are over 16,000 double poles on public rights-of-way in our cities and towns, with the vast majority of these in place far beyond the statutory deadline for removal, but communities lack the necessary enforcement tools to compel the utilities to remove these unsightly and unsafe structures in a timely manner.

The proposed legislation would begin to address these issues by providing municipalities with more authority to enforce current laws when dealing with utility companies, through imposing fees or fines, assessing taxes, and negotiating during the licensing and permitting processes. The measure would also enable municipalities to purchase utility infrastructure from investor-owned companies at a price that considers their depreciation in value. Above all, this legislation would enhance municipalities’ ability to achieve reasonable and accountable action by those utilities that operate in the public right-of-way.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony in favor of H. 2811 and S. 1976. We look forward to working with you and your colleagues in the Legislature to enhance municipal authority over their taxpayer-owned public rights-of-way. If you have any questions or desire further information, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Legislative Analyst Ariela Lovett at 617-426-7272 or alovett@mma.org at any time.

Sincerely,

Geoffrey C. Beckwith
Executive Director & CEO