AT&T, Comcast challenge Google Fiber’s Nashville pole access proposal


Google Fiber’s desire to get a more streamlined pole attachment process to install fiber is facing another snag in Nashville as AT&T and Comcast are protesting the proposal, citing potential damage to its own existing wires.

At issue for AT&T, which is the incumbent telco in Nashville, is an existing law that requires new service provider entrants like Google to tell other companies present on a pole they are coming so they can make room for a new player.

However, Google Fiber said that this process holds up its ability to quickly wire up cities with fiber. Similar to a proposal it made in Louisville, Kentucky, Google wants Nashville to pass a new "One Touch Make Ready" law that would enable it to move other equipment on its own.

AT&T said that Google Fiber’s proposal would not only rob its union network technicians of work, but it also could interrupt existing service if the service provider mistakenly damaged a line.

“While we have not seen the proposed ordinance, we are concerned that a make-ready ordinance would interfere with our contractual commitment to have our skilled employees represented by the Communications Workers of America perform make-ready work on our behalf,” said AT&T Tennessee spokesperson Joe Burgan, in a Nashville Scene article. “Beyond that, we have serious concerns with other companies being allowed to perform work on our facilities without providing us notice, which could put service reliability and public safety at risk in some circumstances.”

Burgan added that “jurisdiction to regulate pole attachments rests with the FCC, and municipalities have no authority under federal or state law to enact the ordinance being proposed here.”

Comcast has cited similar issue. In a letter to Google Fiber, Comcast’s main lobbyist James Weaver said that the Google's contractors caused damage to its equipment during another installation. Weaver said that the mistakes those contractors have made illustrate that no other contractors besides Comcast’s should be able to move their lines and equipment on existing utility poles.

For its part, Google Fiber’s fiber installation hasn’t been without its issues. During a recent underground fiber installation, the provider's workers mistakenly cut into a gas line, causing streets in Nashville to be closed for several hours.  

Nashville is just one city where Google Fiber’s proposal for a streamlined One Touch Make Ready process has been met with protests from local incumbent service providers.

Over in Louisville, Kentucky, AT&T filed a suit in February against the city 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 in an 11-page suit.

Frontier, which does not provide service in Louisville, filed a separate suit in support of AT&T’s filing. The rural telco said in a suit filed in June that the ordinance is "unprecedented" because it allows new service providers like Google Fiber to apply for a permit to hire a contractor to install fiber even if the pole owner does not grant them permission in 30 days.

For more:
- The Register has this article
- Nashville Scene has this article

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