Google Fiber Loses the Beat in Music City

Last week, Nashville’s “one touch make ready” policy for accessing utility poles meant to inject some fresh competition into the area’s broadband market. The idea was backed by Google and promised to shake up prices and connection speeds and make it easier for Google and upstart ISPs to compete against cable giants. But the effort was “unplugged” by Middle Tennessee District Court Judge Victoria Roberts,  who ruled it unlawful, according to The Register.

Roberts decided that streamlining the process for carriers’ engineers to lawfully climb utility poles and move lines owned by other companies to install rival services was a big “no-no.” One problem with the policy was communication. If a carrier wanted to string new lines on a public utility pole, only one written notice, 15 days ahead of the installation, was required. Then a technician could be dispatched to lift the existing cables to make room for the new wiring. 

The Register reported that AT&T and Comcast kicked off a legal challenge, arguing the city did not have the authority to place rules on poles owned and managed by Nashville Electric Service. The carriers proposed reinstatement of the former rules, requiring they be given time to move the lines themselves, which is costlier and more time-consuming than the “one touch make ready” policy enabled. This is especially true in Nashville, where a massive limestone bed beneath the city makes laying underground cables difficult.

A similar battle is ensuing in Louisville, KY, where the established carriers (AT&T and Comcast) are challenging the upstart Google Fiber. In Nashville’s case, the courts sided with the telecom companies, finding that the Nashville rules were in violation of both FCC regulations and the authority of Nashville Electric Service to control access to its own utility poles.

Google is not giving up hope just yet, though, according to a representative, “We have made significant progress with new innovative deployment techniques in some areas of the city, but access to poles remains an important issue where underground deployment is not a possibility. We continue to support the city of Nashville in its efforts to expand access to superfast internet to residents.”

November 29, 2017

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