AT&T, Time Warner Cable battle Louisville, Ky. pole attachment proposal

AT&T (NYSE: T) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), the incumbent telco and cable operator for Louisville, Ky., are fighting city leaders over a proposal to streamline the city's utility pole attachment process.

Louisville's metro council recently proposed measures that would give other competitive ISPs like Google Fiber (NASDAQ: GOOG) a way to more readily access the city's rights-of-way along utility poles that are mainly owned by AT&T or Louisville Gas & Electric.

The city proposed that a utility pole's owner, like AT&T, could appoint a single contractor to install new fiber and related network equipment and move other companies' equipment on a pole.

Councilman Bill Hollander (D-9th District), who is sponsoring the ordinance, said in a Louisville Courier-Journal article that the current process, which enables every company to use their own contractors to conduct pole work, can take up to six months or longer.

"We are trying to do everything we can to position the city to be a leader in broadband," said Hollander.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Time Warner Cable and AT&T are opposed to the new rights-of-way proposal.

Time Warner Cable says the way the new ordinance is presented does not give them any insight into how its own cable and fiber infrastructure is affected.

"The ordinance is simply unworkable," said Gardner Gillespie, an attorney representing Time Warner Cable. "It does not provide any meaningful way for TWC to know what changes have been made to its existing facilities or to assure any damage is promptly cured."

Likewise, AT&T Kentucky President Hood Harris said in a letter to the metro council that the measure violated their agreement and "would likely disrupt the service our customers receive." 

The city leaders hope to be able to make their city an attractive spot for new ISPs like Google Fiber (NASDAQ: GOOG) to build FTTH in their community. BluegrassNet, SiFi Networks and FiberTech Networks also have said they would like to build a fiber-based network in segments or throughout the entire city. Meanwhile, AT&T has set Louisville as one of the upcoming targets for its GigaPower FTTH 1 Gbps service.

Battles over getting access to existing utility poles has been an emerging issue, particularly as Google Fiber and other competitive providers have looked to extend fiber into new communities.

In 2013, AT&T and Google Fiber became embroiled in a battle over utility poles in Austin, Texas. At that time, Austin City Council voted to change rules requiring AT&T to lease space on their poles to Google Fiber. Austin owns about 80 percent of the utility poles in Austin, with AT&T owning roughly 20 percent.

For more:
- see this Louisville Courier Journal article

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