PORTLAND, Maine — Maine utilities regulators have moved closer to updating rules that would allow broadband and wireless phone services to request access to utility poles, just as phone companies can.

The three-member Maine Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to start taking input on changing Chapter 880 of its rules, which deals mostly with rates paid to utility pole owners for using that infrastructure.

The commission’s vote Tuesday invites comment from interested parties before the commission starts a formal rulemaking process.

Commissioner Bruce Williamson, the PUC’s newest appointee, said Tuesday that the existing rules are “outdated.”

The state’s Office of the Public Advocate requested the rule update, arguing that it’s holding back broadband expansion and competition in Maine, which has consistently ranked last or close to last for broadband speeds in recent years.

State law currently sets out that only telephone service providers and the statewide fiber optic network manager Maine Fiber Co. can demand a response to requests to place lines on existing utility poles, from owners such as FairPoint Communications or Central Maine Power Co.

A proposed rule from the public advocate’s office would allow new categories of unregulated utilities to request access to utility poles and be entitled to either a quote or denial of the request within 45 days.

Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.