Introduction

As a major publicly owned utility in the Midwest, this customer maintains a grid that delivers reliable energy to homes, businesses, and farms. The grid is made up of distribution networks from over 40 municipalities and over 20 public power districts and/or cooperatives. As would be the case for any grids across rural America, many of the poles had not yet adhered to any formal standards for pole load analysis. The resulting set of pole data did not benefit from a clear, consistent, accurate, or reliable format for pole loading analysis, which presented a significant operational challenge in the face of mounting pressure from new attachers.

As rural broadband and fiber gained traction in the service area, a slew of small telecommunications companies began attaching to poles across the network. Prior to the introduction of IKE, the process to request infrastructure attachments was manual. Data collected in the field was transcribed by hand into a permit request spreadsheet. Manual processes like this are often prone to error, regardless of the industry. In an effort to improve data accuracy and eliminate errors, the utility was required to send a team member into the field to confirm the information submitted was accurate. Although the requesting organization was required to cover the cost incurred by the utility to visit the site, the utility was still having to send valuable employees to remote locations across the state to simply verify collected data. These processes became untenable as they were challenged to rise to meet increasing numbers of attachment requests.

25%

faster permit approval

11,000

poles with an IKE Record

What Happened

As a long-time customer of PoleForeman (now known as IKE Structural), the IKE team was able to share compelling benefits of additional IKE solutions including the IKE+ camera-based measurement solution that captures pole data digitally. Starting with one of their largest attachers, the utility mandated data collection with IKE and the provisioning of nearly 10,000 pole loading analyses and make ready recommendations using IKE Analyze. The photograph-based record created by IKE enables more consistent and rapid review of permit requests without having to send employees out to the pole to verify collected data. Additionally, through the process of standardization to IKE, The Utility was able to close gaps in their pole data and begin to arrive at a single source of truth for themselves and their attachers.

Capturing data in this standardized format created a known standard to share with rural attachment companies to comply with clear and consistent formats, alleviating the guesswork from attachers. Key benefits to the include:

  • Accurate inventory records:
    • Collection of a more accurate, photo-verifiable records, and up-to-date inventory of their infrastructure, including:
      • multiple photographs from different vantage points
      • pole tags
      • sub decimeter RTK enabled GPS locations
      • accurate attachment heights,
    • Faster path to revenue:
      • Updated inventory records provide visibility to all equipment attached to Utility assets. Standardized view into assets + faster permitting = attachment companies fast track to revenue generating broadband services and Utilities receiving joint use attachment fees.
    • Compliance and Make Ready Recommendations:
      • IKE records validate that all the utility’s assets meet safety standards and structural integrity requirements as recommended by industry and government compliance guidelines. The IKE team provides Make Ready Recommendations so the Utility’s engineers can easily review the permit request, quickly perform make ready engineering, and approve the request in compliance with new FCC guidelines.

“We appreciate our partnership with IKE and the defensibility of the data. Adopting the IKE Record and PoleForeman Record as our standard helps to ensure we have up-to-date, consistent, high-quality data and have processed all current pole records.”

Distribution Engineering Supervisor Midwest Utility

Conclusion

By standardizing on the data collection and submission process, the utility was able to slash the permit review and approval process by 25 percent. The increased efficiency of collection and quality of record has created a single source of truth for pole data that has improved grid knowledge amid a boom in new attachments. The expansion of the partnership with IKE from PoleForeman customer to IKE Device and IKE Analyze demonstrates a path forward for utilities and their developing relationships with telecom providers large and small. The creation of a common standard and work practice using IKE gives everyone involved in the rural broadband boom the chance to increase efficiency and get to revenue faster.

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