ATT sues City of Louisville after Google was granted access to poles for fiber deployment

AT&T has filed suit in federal court alleging that officials in Louisville, KY, overstepped their authority in giving access to AT&T-owned telephone poles to Google Fiber and potentially other competitors, reports the local Courier-Journal.

As one of the communities Google Fiber has selected for potential provision of its gigabit fiber to the home (FTTH) services (see “Google Fiber sets FTTH sights on three new cities”), Louisville officials had passed unanimously a “One Touch Make Ready” ordinance that would enable Google Fiber and other broadband services providers in the future to access city utility poles and attach the necessary hardware to provide services themselves. AT&T owns between 25% and 40% of those poles, the Courier-Journal reports, and the ordinance potentially would allow its competitors to move AT&T’s equipment on the pole to make room for the new infrastructure.
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The lawsuit asserts that the authority to regulate pole access resides only with the Kentucky Public Service Commission and the Federal Communications Commission, and therefore the city exceeded its authority in creating and passing the ordinance. Incumbent cable operator Time Warner Cable also filed objections to the provision while the city’s Metro Council considered the ordinance, but has not as of yet joined the lawsuit.

An AT&T spokesman the Courier-Journal interviewed said that the lawsuit was not intended to prevent Google Fiber or other competitors from offering service in Louisville; incoming operators could license access to the poles AT&T owns, the spokesman explained. Instead, the lawsuit was about the city overstepping its authority, he asserted.

Google Fiber, via a blog post from Chris Levendos, director of national deployment and operations, said it was “disappointed” to learn of the lawsuit.

“Google Fiber stands with the City of Louisville and the other cities across the country that are taking steps to bring faster, better broadband to their residents,” Levendos continued. “Such policies reduce cost, disruption, and delay, by allowing the work needed to prepare a utility pole for new fiber to be attached in as little as a single visit — which means more safety for drivers and the neighborhood. This work would be done by a team of contractors the pole owner itself has approved, instead of having multiple crews from multiple companies working on the same pole over weeks or months. One Touch Make Ready facilitates new network deployment by anyone — and that’s why groups representing communities and fiber builders support it, too.”

For more information on FTTx equipment and suppliers, visit the Lightwave Buyer’s Guide.