Google Fiber wins Louisville, Kentucky, OTMR battle as court dismisses AT&T’s lawsuit

Google Fiber pole attachment screencap

Google Fiber won a major coup in its battle to simplify the pole attachment process via the One Touch Make Ready (OTMR) ordinance in Louisville, Kentucky, as a district court dismissed AT&T’s suit against the metro government.

Louisville’s OTMR ordinance, which was passed in February 2016, would help ease Google Fiber’s and other competitors’ movement into the Louisville broadband market by allowing them to move and install their own wiring on poles instead of waiting for AT&T and other service providers to conduct this work.

This process, which is known as make-ready, requires new entrants like Google Fiber to wait months for existing providers like AT&T and Comcast to move their lines themselves.

RELATED: Google Fiber seeks new sales, operations staff for Louisville, Kentucky

AT&T, the incumbent telco in Louisville, filed a suit against Nashville, Tennessee, last year. In the suit (PDF), AT&T argued that the Nashville city council is overstepping its boundaries in enacting a reformed pole attachment process, adding that only the FCC can regulate privately owned utility poles.

Today, AT&T owns 20% of the poles in Nashville while Nashville Electric Service (NES) owns the remaining 80%.

Separately, Comcast and Frontier rallied behind AT&T in its protest against OTMR. 

While Frontier does not operate in Louisville, the Stamford, Connecticut-based telco filed its own brief in support of AT&T Kentucky related to a lawsuit against the Louisville Metro Government.

Frontier, which called the the OTMR ordinance "unprecedented," said that it was concerned the concept might have an impact on its network footprint—one that it expanded through its acquisition of Verizon's assets in California, Florida and Texas.

Mixed responses

Unsurprisingly, the response to the decision was mixed.

"We are very pleased with the ruling," said Chris Poynter, communications director for the mayor's office, in an emailed statement to the Louisville Business First.

AT&T said that although the court’s decision could be appealed, the telco has not said it would challenge the ruling.

"We are currently reviewing the decision and our next steps,” said Joe Burgan, director of public affairs for AT&T Kentucky.

The decision was hailed by Incompas, an industry advocacy group focused on competitive providers.

“One choice is not a choice. It’s a monopoly,” said Chip Pickering, CEO of Incompas, in a statement. “We hope the FCC will heed the call of local communities like Louisville and adopt 'One Touch, Make Ready' to speed broadband deployment, boost local investment and create more jobs. Implementing 'One Touch, Make Ready' policies, streamlining small cell deployment and freeing apartment and condo residents from monopoly-controlled buildings should be a national priority.”

Google ramping up

With the lawsuit now dismissed, Google Fiber can move forward with its network build-out plans in Louisville.

One indication that the service provider is on track with its Louisville deployment came last week when Google Fiber posted two Louisville area positions, reflecting the internet giant’s move to build its Louisville-area sales and operations team.

As usual, Google Fiber is being tight-lipped about its specific network build. The company said only that it would focus on metro Louisville, and noted it would provide deployment specifications at a later date. Google did post a page where residents can sign up for notifications about its progress.

What’s unique about the Louisville market for Google Fiber is that would be one of the first cities that would use a hybrid approach, including a mix of wireline-based fiber and millimeter wave wireless technology to speed up installation timelines.

Google Fiber will still face AT&T and its own FTTH network service. AT&T is already deploying a 1 Gbps-capable FTTH network in Louisville. Currently, the FTTH service is available to more than 50,000 locations in the area.