Google Fiber’s Nashville make ready ordinance passes, company braces for AT&T legal challenge

Google Fiber pole attachment screencap

Google Fiber won a major victory in Nashville as its One Touch Make Ready ordinance, which allows for a streamlined method to attach fiber to existing utility poles, passed the second reading at the city’s Metro Council meeting.

With this plan in place, new service provider entrants like Google would be allowed to move existing utility lines from AT&T and other service providers.

Google Fiber has maintained that before the One Touch Make Ready ordinance, the traditional method to install fiber along existing utility poles would be accelerated if the internet giant could hire its own contractor to move lines to make room for its fiber. However, under the current law, new entrants like Google Fiber have to wait months for existing providers like AT&T and Comcast to move their lines themselves.

Previously, the council voted 32-7 to approve Google Fiber’s proposal, which is designed to ease its access to utility poles to string fiber to homes and businesses.

Not surprisingly, the passing of the ordinance drew mixed responses from Google Fiber and AT&T.

Chris Levendos, director of national deployment and operations with Google Fiber, said the new ordinance could help the service provider accelerate its network rollout.

“Improving the make-ready construction process is key to unlocking access to a faster internet for Nashville, and this ordinance will allow new entrants like Google Fiber to bring broadband to more Nashvillians efficiently, safely and quickly,” Levendos said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing our work with NES and other attachers to bring our service to more homes and businesses in Nashville, faster.”

AT&T and Comcast have been critical of the ordinance, saying that it would cause safety and potential outages.

Joelle Phillips, president of AT&T Tennessee, said that the ordinance violates existing agreements it has not only with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union, but also with local utility NES and Google.

“As amended, the ordinance is at odds with our collective bargaining agreement with the CWA, our joint use contract with NES and even the contract we have with Google,” Phillips said. “Those contracts relate to some of the most important parts of our business - our employees and our network. While we are disappointed with tonight’s outcome, we will continue to advocate for a non-legislative solution ahead of the final vote.”

It’s likely that AT&T will file a suit challenging the ordinance. The telco has filed a lawsuit in Louisville, Kentucky, to strike down a similar ordinance there.

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