Frontier backs AT&T's Louisville, Ky. pole access lawsuit blocking Google Fiber

Frontier may not have any presence in the Louisville, Kentucky market, but the telco is pledging its support for an AT&T (NYSE: T) lawsuit that's seeking to block an ordinance that would give Google Fiber (NASDAQ: GOOG) a streamlined utility pole process.

The Stamford, Connecticut-based telco has filed its own brief in support of AT&T Kentucky related to a lawsuit against Louisville Metro Government.

In a suit the telco filed in late February, AT&T challenged Louisville's "One Touch Make Ready" ordinance that's designed to streamline the city's utility pole attachment process. This ordinance, which faced heavy protest from AT&T and Charter Communications, lets emerging service providers like Google Fiber install new equipment and wires on existing utility poles owned by AT&T. The majority of the poles in Louisville are owned by AT&T and Louisville Gas & Electric.

According to AT&T, the ordinance violates a number of state and federal laws.

So what's Frontier's stake in this process?

While other cities have developed local regulations to enable third parties like Google Fiber to string their fiber on existing utility poles, Frontier said in a brief filed last week in U.S. District Court that this ordinance is "unprecedented."

"It drastically expands the rights of third parties to use privately owned utility poles … in some cases [without the owner] even having knowledge that such third-party intrusion on its facilities is occurring," Frontier said in the brief that was obtained by Louisville Business First. "And Frontier says that if the ordinance is upheld in Louisville, other cities could follow.

In its brief, Frontier said it was not approached or paid by AT&T to offer its opinion on the subject. Instead, the telco is concerned that the concept might have an impact in its network footprint – one that it expanded through its acquisition of Verizon's assets in California, Florida and Texas in April.

One of Frontier's chief concerns is a provision in the Louisville ordinance that 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.

Frontier said that this provision might have "substantial" impact on local consumers and businesses because it gives "a totally unrelated third party having obviously less familiarity with the owner's property" access to facilities. As a result, Google Fiber or another provider could cause potential damage to the pole or its own existing wires.

Critics of AT&T's lawsuit maintain that the telco is just trying to keep a competitor out of one of its incumbent markets.

Interestingly, a report emerged a few weeks after AT&T filed its lawsuit that it plans to start building out its own 1 Gbps GigaPower service to Silver Oaks and Landherr Estates -- two of the city's East End subdivisions. 

For more:
- Louisville Business First has this article

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