BILL: I made a dumb mistake in my previous message. Please discard it an use this one instead. Thanks, nmcl***********************************************************************************
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Yes, the USDA Rural Utilities Service (formerly the REA) does indeed provide low-interest loans to telephone utilities. The Code of Federal Regulations reads as follows: "On October 28,1949, the RE Act was amended to authorize REA to make loans to improve and extend teleph > Good questoin about Rural Electrification. Even if there > was no direct subsidy, there was a large indirect one: > the poles and rights-of-way were put in by the REA, so > Ma Bell got to clamp on for free.
Telcos indeed have a right to attach to REA/RUS poles, they don't get it for free. With few exceptions, no pole owner allows other parties to attach to its poles without compensation.
The most common form of compensation is pole rental. Rental rates vary widely, ranging from about $1.00 per pole per year to as much as $40.00. Virtually all cable TV companies and CLECs rent pole space for their facilities. Local, county, and state governments also rent pole space for such things as street lighting, traffic signals, pedestrian lighting, and alarm circuits.
Many ILECs also rent pole-attachment rights from power companies But ILECs also own many of their own poles, and power companies often rent pole space from ILECs
In high-density urban areas, the dominant power company and the ILEC sometimes have reciprocal agreements: each company can attach to the other's poles without cash changing hands. This situation seems to be rooted in history, based on informal arrangements that have evolved over the years
As for cable TV companies and CLECs, pole attachment rates charged by investor-owned utility companies are regulated by the FCC and some states. The FCC has devised formulas to calculate the maximum permissible rate that a pole owner can charge. 
Rural Electric Cooperatives are specifically exempt from FCC pole attachment regulation, but may be subject to state regulation (which often follows FCC rules) in those states that assert jurisdiction over pole attachments.
Unsurprisingly, even with FCC and state regulation, pole rental arrangements are the source of much altercation between cable TV companies and pole owners. Many such disagreements have would up at the FCC, and a few have wound up in court. Fortunately (for the cable industry), the FCC and the courts have generally ruled in favor of the cable companies. [4-5] Note that the foregoing discussion concerns only pole attachment rights, but says nothing about right-of-way. Any company -- electric power, ILEC, CLEC, or cable TV -- still has to obtain permission to occupy the underlying land.
But that's a subject for another day, so I won't try to tackle it here. 7 CFR Part 1700.1 Federal Register Vol. 63, No. 63 Thursday, April 2, 1998 p. 16085  Federal Communications Commission. "Pole Attachment Enforcement." March 31 2008.  Jack Richards and Thomas Magee. "Broadband Over Power Line: Pole Attachment, Antitrust And Access Issues" (c)Keller and Heckman LLP, September 23, 2004 p. 2  United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Public Service Company of Colorado v. Federal Communications Commission et al.  Jon Lafayette. "Court upholds limits on pole attachment fees: the Supreme Court rules that cost of cable's high-speed- data wires will be regulated by FCC." Cable World, Jan 21, 2002 Neal McLain