As AT&T, Comcast and Google Fiber deadlock in Nashville over pole attachment, Fiber cuts staff

Joelle Phillips, president of AT&T Tennessee, said negotiations with Google Fiber over pole attachment rules had "many positives" despite failing to reach an agreement Wednesday. (Source: AT&T)

Google Fiber’s recent strategy shift to less-costly broadband options like fixed wireless suggested problems may be arising within the Alphabet-owned service – and that may increasingly be the case, as The Information reported that CEO Larry Page has ordered Fiber to cut its staff size in half, from 1,000 employees to about 500.

The cost of rolling out 1 Gbps wireline services is just one factor. Another, apparently, is the relatively low number of subscribers – Google executives initially hoped to sign up 5 million broadband subscribers within five years, but by the end of 2014, only about 200,000 subs were on the books, The Information said.

The news comes as Fiber was unable to reach an agreement in Nashville with incumbent provider AT&T and cable MSO Comcast over the city’s utility pole attachment policy. Mayor Megan Barry’s office held negotiations on Wednesday between the providers, which were ultimately unsuccessful.

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Google Fiber wants the rules governing the city’s utility poles changed so that it can more easily install its wiring on poles owned or shared by other providers. Right now, “make-ready” rules require Fiber to ask for space on the utility poles and then wait for Nashville Electric Service to contact AT&T and Comcast, which would then prepare those utility poles for additional wiring.

Fiber wants to be able to use its own contractors to prepare the utility poles, bypassing AT&T and Comcast.

Despite the impasse in negotiations, AT&T Tennessee President Joelle Phillips said in a WKRN article that “there were many positives. Comcast, AT&T, NES and members of the Mayor’s administration identified and committed to several specific proposals that would help all companies who are serious about investing and deploying broadband in Nashville.”

She also said that the parties looked through Google Fiber’s data, saying it was helpful because it suggested that “Google often overstates the time it takes for AT&T to complete certain work.”

The statements were similar to those made Wednesday to FierceTelecom, in which Phillips said that Fiber has a nationwide contract in place with AT&T for pole attachment, and that once payment is made on an attachment contract, the work is completed in about four weeks.

Fiber, in the meantime, has threatened to abandon its Nashville buildout entirely if the pole attachment rules aren’t changed.

Google Fiber’s pole attachment woes in Nashville may be adding fuel to the fire of speculation that its rollout isn’t going so well. The provider recently delayed planned buildouts to several California communities including San Jose, and reassigned the 100 or so people planning to handle that buildout to another location.

For more:
- see this WKRN article
- see this Business Insider article
- The Information has this article (sub. req.)

Related articles:
AT&T says Google Fiber’s bad info delayed pole attachments

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