Google Fiber secures pole deals with Oregon utilities, signaling FTTH buildout intentions

Google Fiber (NASDAQ: GOOG) has struck deals with Oregon utility companies Portland General Electric and Pacific Power to get access to their poles to install fiber, overcoming a major barrier to deploy FTTH services in the state.

The two utilities confirmed they reached agreements with Google Fiber, but would not discuss the terms of the agreement.

Steve Corson, a PGE spokesman, told The Oregonian that Google Fiber has established an umbrella agreement to get utility pole access, but it will still be required to submit requests for each pole it wants to use. Google also has to disclose the equipment it will install on the poles as well.

One of Google Fiber's first targets would be Portland, Ore., a city where it has been talking about bringing its 1 Gbps service since 2014 to battle incumbent telcos CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) and Frontier as well as cable provider Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA), all of which offer a similar service.

The service provider's plans were held up by a 2014 Oregon Supreme court ruling that required revolving around Oregon's tax formula that values companies' property based on their brand and other "intangible" assets. Earlier this month, a report in The Oregonian revealed that Oregon state utility regulators approved tax breaks for Comcast, Google Fiber and Frontier.

Chris Taylor, Google Fiber's Portland manager, said the service provider is "making progress" in the city, adding that it will provide an update "soon," but did not provide a specific timeline of when it would start building out the network.

However, Google has not come to an agreement with CenturyLink, the incumbent telco that owns a large portion of utility poles in Portland.

"We continue to work on the pole attachment agreement with Google and intend to have a final agreement in the near future," CenturyLink said in a statement.

Google Fiber may have not launched service yet in Portland, but already its planned presence has driven CenturyLink, Frontier, and Comcast to launch their own 1 Gbps service in the city.

Pole access has been an ongoing issue for Google Fiber. Being able to leverage existing utility poles means that Google Fiber and other competitors can forgo digging up streets in a new market, a process that can cause disruption to businesses and residents.

The service provider is currently embroiled in a battle to get access to utility poles in Louisville, Ky.,where incumbent telco AT&T has filed a lawsuit against the city over a new ordinance that would streamline the pole attachment process.

AT&T (NYSE: T) maintains that its suit is not about blocking Google Fiber, but rather that  the city does not have the right to dictate how its utility poles can be used, reflecting a move to thwart Google Fiber (NASDAQ: GOOG) from bringing its service to the city.

Less than a week after filing a suit against Louisville, AT&T announced its own plans to install 1 Gbps service to select subdivisions.

For more:
- The Oregonian has this article

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