Three Years and Counting: Nashville Residents Still Waiting for Google Fiber

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“We wait. We are bored. No, don’t protest, we are bored to death, there’s no denying it.”   ― Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

UPDATE Residents across the city have been waiting for the highly anticipated Google Fiber internet service since Google announced its expansion to Nashville three and a half years ago. Parts of several neighborhoods plus 52 apartment buildings and single-family homes do have access but many residents still do not, reported the Tennessean.

“It’s still complicated,” Nashville Google Fiber Manager Martha Ivester said. “Building this fiber optic network throughout the whole city is a long process, and we never expected it wouldn’t be a long process. Obviously, we have had our challenges here.”

Google was supposed to connect 30 percent of homes by July 2018, and was just granted a two-year extension by the Tennessee Public Utilities Board after officials realized they would not meet the requirements. However, Google has fulfilled the requirements that 25 percent of homes being offered connection belong to low-income residents.  

One challenge lies in the deployment of infrastructure on utility poles and the waiting period required, so Google proposed the One-Touch, Make-Ready (OTMR) process. This would allow independent contractors to move all existing cables in one session, accelerating the installation process and reducing disruption, reported the Tennessean.

But both AT&T and Comcast, who own 20 percent of utility poles in Nashville, opposed the proposal at first, leading to a ruling by a federal judge, noting that only the FCC could regulate poles. “I think no one would have expected it would have been as hard to get on poles as it was,” Ivester said. “There was certainly a lot of push back on that and so I think that that would have been a speedier process.”

Now, AT&T is changing its tune as it relates to OTMR. According to Josh Marsh, who leads AT&T’s regulatory department, “The order promotes fair competition by placing all providers on a path to pole attachment rate parity and incorporates many improvements to the new one-touch, make-ready pole attachment process.”

Earlier this month, the FCC issued an order allowing OTMR, Inside Towers reported. But the ruling does not apply to NES poles in Nashville, which account for 80 percent of the total number of poles there, according to the FCC. “NES (Nashville Electric Service) is committed to the efficient and effective deployment of broadband for our customers,” Vaughan Charles, NES engineering manager, said in an emailed statement. “NES has our own pole attachment process, and we are not required to follow the OTMR policy regulated by the FCC.”

Google Fiber has pulled more than 24,000 permits to lay the fiber through shallow trenching, an installation strategy that has become their leading choice for deployment, reported the Tennessean. The company is still committed to Nashville, Ivester said, and she asked residents for their patience. “We see new customers coming on every day,” she said. “There is the door-to-door team that is out there every day. We are happy to see those numbers continue to go up.”

August 31, 2018