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Hempfield charges utilities $750 for a right-of-way permit, $500 for a renewal, and $250 for a construction permit, according to a township ordinance. Ferguson said without the fees, the township would not be able to monitor the work. "We use the monies, those permit fees, to pay staff to make sure they repair roads as they're supposed to," Ferguson said. "Part of the fee is ... for our inspectors to go out and make sure they (utilities) complete the job right." Ferguson said utility companies sometimes dig up new roads to install or repair lines and leave the road in shambles afterward. "Taxpayers should not be required to pay the staff to make sure utility companies do the right thing," he said.Telecommunications providers have long claimed that local government fees are unreasonable and getting the necessary permits is too difficult. But when asked to document such claims, they rarely do. The FCC is currently examining whether it believes the fees charged by local governments are fair. While we believe it would be counter-productive for local governments to make it too difficult to access the ROW, we simply have seen very little evidence that it is a common practice. What we do see is a history of massive companies like AT&T using their vast lobbying power to limit local authority in ways that transfer costs from companies like AT&T to the community to benefit AT&T's shareholders. The next interesting question will be what the FCC does about it. It will be hard to watch the FCC, which believes it does not have the power to protect local authority against state laws limiting their ability to build broadband networks, go ahead and overrule local authority to require telecom companies to properly compensate local governments for use of the ROW.
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