AT&T’s utility pole claims refuted by the FCC

The FCC showed support for Google Fiber's attempts to reform utility pole attachment rules via its One Touch Make Ready proposal in Kentucky, an effort that met vehement opposition from local incumbent providers AT&T and Comcast.

AT&T and Comcast have sued Nashville for passing new utility pole attachment rules. These service providers claim that Google’s proposal will result in an increase in service disruptions, and that the local governments are overstepping their legal authority.

Earlier this year, AT&T also filed a suit against the city of Louisville, Kentucky, saying that the OTMR proposal violates a number of state and federal laws.

In a filing this week (PDF) the FCC made in Kentucky court, the regulator argues that Louisville, Kentucky’s attempt to pass UTMR utility pole reform rules does not conflict with federal law, disputing claims raised by AT&T and Comcast.

"BellSouth maintains in its motion for summary judgment that the Louisville Ordinance conflicts with, and is therefore preempted by, the federal pole-attachment rules promulgated by the Commission under Section 224," the FCC said in its filing. "That argument is wrong as a matter of law.”

The FCC added that “the federal pole-attachment regulations do not apply in Kentucky because Kentucky has filed a certification invoking reverse-preemption under Section 224(c) and has thereby opted out of the federal pole-attachment rules.”

Google Fiber, which has been a key advocate to realign and speed up the utility pole attachment process, applauded the FCC’s action.

"We're pleased to see that the Federal Communications Commission this morning filed a supportive statement in the Kentucky court with regard to the AT&T lawsuit over One Touch Make Ready, a common sense measure passed by Louisville earlier this year to bring superfast Internet to residents more safely and quickly,” Google said in a statement. “We fully support the FCC's conclusion that there is no conflict between the federal pole attachment regulations and the principles of OTMR."

Under the current law, new entrants such as Google Fiber have to wait months for existing providers such as AT&T and Comcast to move their lines themselves.

However, with the One Touch Make Ready ordinance, Google Fiber would be allowed to move existing utility lines from AT&T and other service providers. Google Fiber said that this would streamline and accelerate the fiber installation process.

According to Google Fiber, the current pole attachment rules make progress slow down broadband providers’ effort to roll out fiber service in the area.

“Of the 88,000 poles we need to attach Google Fiber to throughout Nashville, over 44,000 will require make ready work. But so far, only 33 poles have been made ready,” said Chris Levendos, director of national deployment and operations for Fiber, in a blog post.

While Google Fiber has halted potential builds in other cities such as Portland, Oregon as it looks at alternative technologies such as millimeter wave wireless, the service provider plans to move forward with its Louisville FTTH build out plans.