Comcast calls out Google Fiber’s threat to give up Nashville FTTH roll out

utility poles

A Nashville-based Comcast lobbyist called out a Google Fiber representative’s comments that the service provider could pull out of the market altogether if the city does not change its pole attachment policy.

A letter from lobbyist James Weaver to two Nashville Metro Council committee members challenged remarks made by Chris Levendos, head of network deployment and operations of Google Fiber. Levendos, according to a report in The Tennessean, told the Nashville city council during a special joint council committee meeting last Monday night that not passing the ordinance could prompt Google Fiber bypass Nashville.

“Worst-case scenario is either elongation or it just ceases to happen,” Levendos said. 

Weaver said that Comcast is “is eager and ready to meet to work toward a negotiated solution” to iron out a more efficient pole attachment process to accelerate new broadband roll outs.

Google Fiber is not alone in facing pole attachment issues with the local power utility, Nashville Electric Service (NES).

Weaver said that despite suffering customer churn due to the pole attachment issue, the cable MSO remains dedicated to serving the Nashville community.

“Comcast has had serious pole attachment issues with (the Nashville Electric Service) for years,” Weaver said. “That's not a secret. NES representatives talked about the same Monday night. Not ONCE in all these years has Comcast said, ‘fix this or we will pick up and leave.’ This despite the fact that NES issues have cost Comcast millions and resulted in lost customers and damaged business-to-business relationships.”

At issue is Google Fiber’s request for an ordinance in Nashville aimed at establishing so-called “One Touch Make Ready” rules, which would streamline Google’s fiber network build out by installing part of its fiber on utility poles. 

If passed, the ordinance would allow Google Fiber to move existing Comcast and AT&T cables on utility poles owned by NES. This would circumvent the old “make ready” rules that require Google Fiber to notify NES of the need to make space for its cables, which would require NES to contact AT&T and Comcast to execute the actual work.

Google Fiber would not comment on Comcast’s letter.

Levendos later told The Tenesseean following the meeting that the pole attachment issues are "very challenging and make it difficult to look forward and suggest that we could just continue to proceed as is."

What Google Fiber claims it is fighting for is the ability to more rapidly roll out its service across the city. Existing Tennessee law requires that any new service provider entrant like Google to tell other companies present on a pole they are coming so they can make room for a new player, a process Google Fiber says holds up its ability to quickly wire up cities with fiber. 

AT&T and Comcast are concerned that Google Fiber’s proposal could interrupt existing service if Google mistakenly damages a line due to incorrect information.

Google Fiber is facing a similar battle in Louisville, Kentucky, where AT&T is the incumbent telco. In February, AT&T filed a suit against Louisville challenging the city’s passing of the new make-ready ordinance. The telco said that the ordinance violates a number of state and federal laws. AT&T has asked a federal judge to clarify that the authority to regulate poles is reserved to the Kentucky Public Service Commission and the FCC.

For more:
- The Tenesseean has this article

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