Cox Sues Tempe, Arizona For Its Nefarious Plan To Bring Google Fiber To Town

from the pouting-and-crying dept

Google Fiber continues to expand and bring much needed competitive pressure to (and public conversation about) duopoly-logjammed broadband markets. Most recently the company stated it was striking preliminary agreements with San Diego, Irvine, and Louisville, negotiating “fiber hut” placement, coordinating install logistics, and getting cities to sign off on franchise deals. The company also recently announced that it had struck a preliminary deal with Tempe, Arizona, laying the groundwork for the deployment of thousands of miles of new fiber in the city, bringing Google Fiber’s potential footprint to sixteen cities.

Like any good incumbent broadband ISP, Cox Communications’ first reaction wasn’t to welcome the challenge of a new competitor, it was to whine like a petulant child about the fairness of it all:

“It’s unfortunate that the Tempe City Council is willing to favor a new entrant into the market, and in doing so appears to have violated federal and state law. The waivers granted by the City also give Google Fiber a free pass on obligations that affect public safety; such as emergency alert messaging and protection of subscriber privacy.”

Cox has subsequently followed up this early whining with a new lawsuit accusing the Tempe city council of violating the law. According to the suit (pdf), Tempe violated federal law “by establishing a discriminatory regulatory framework” that gives Google Fiber preference over traditional cable companies:

“Tempe?s bald assertion that Google Fiber is not a cable operator is incorrect,” Cox argued. “And based on this incorrect assertion, Tempe?s regulatory scheme allows Google Fiber to provide video programming service to subscribers in Tempe under terms and conditions that are far more favorable and far less burdensome than those applicable to Cox and other cable operators, even though Cox and Google Fiber offer video services that are legally indistinguishable.”

Here’s the thing though: reports out of Arizona indicate that the Tempe city council’s vote opened the door for companies like Cox to negotiate their own, new agreements with the city. Indeed, nothing stopped incumbent ISPs from striking new gigabit fiber deployment deals before Google Fiber, they just lacked the competitive incentive to do so. And while some mega-ISPs originally whined about these deals, they quickly quiet down once they realize these new potential deals let them cherry pick broadband deployment (read: just wire high-end developments), something that pre-Google Fiber days used to be considered a bad thing. Note these recent comments by AT&T:

“In the past if we wanted to go into a city environment, the requirement was you build out the entire city,” Stephenson explained in a keynote at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference. Doing that requires a huge capital investment, one that AT&T felt it couldn’t make, he noted. Google’s entry into Austin, in particular, enabled AT&T to ask the city for the same terms as Google Fiber received. “Google came in and was very targeted in where they wanted to deploy fiber, and they got municipal endorsement (on that). ?We said we’ll take the same deal that Google got. And we got the same deal that Google got,” Stephenson said.”

So yes, under the din of enthusiasm over Google Fiber there is a conversation nobody seems to want to have about the problem of cherry-picked next-gen broadband deployment, but that’s obviously not what Cox cares about. Cox sees something in local Tempe law that will allow it to bog Google Fiber’s progress in Tempe down in the courts (Google Fiber is also slated for Cox’s turf in Phoenix, where it has not filed suit). Cox could simply take Google Fiber’s market entry as a challenge to negotiate a new citywide deal and up its own game, but apparently the cable operator thinks that hand-wringing and wasting everybody’s time with lawyers is the more sensible tactical option.

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Companies: cox, google

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Comments on “Cox Sues Tempe, Arizona For Its Nefarious Plan To Bring Google Fiber To Town”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Cox has only advertised 1gig speeds

The extant of Cox’s fiber rollout is limited to advertising only. We see the commercials but I’ve yet to find out where it is being offered. We also have century link and their Prism TV. I don’t know where that is being offered either. The only locations that can use these kick-ass services are the households in the ads.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Cox has only advertised 1gig speeds

I know there are places in Chandler and Scottsdale with Prism but don’t know anyone with it. I wouldn’t use CenturyLink if it was the last ISP on the planet, I’d rather use smoke signals. They are beyond incompetent.
I have also seen the Cox commercials and also have no idea where it’s available. I just went to their site and initiated a Chat support session and asked if they have Gig service at my house. Surprise, they don’t! Awesome they’re spending ad money on something I can’t purchase.

wallyb132 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Cox has only advertised 1gig speeds

i live all the way out in gold canyon and centurylink prism tv is available here at my house, right now. you may think centurylink is incompetent, which at times they may be, who am i to judge, but i will take their incompetence over cox’s willful disdain of customer service and other bullshit all day long.

centurylink has difficulties getting service established, but once you weather the storm that is the installation process, their service is rock solid, i have and / or manage accounts at multiple locations throughout the valley all using centurylink and they all run solid day after day without problems.

cox on the other hand, i spend more time on the phone with their customer service than i do with any other isp, and i have 4x more clients using centurylink than i do cox, cox are a bunch of cocks…

Anonymous Coward says:

since when has a US company ever done anything other than what benefits itself? they get to do whatever they like because of the ‘donations’ made to members of Congress who dont give a flyin’ fuck about the people they represent! from the time they get into office, the only thing considered is how much money can be put into personal bank accounts out of US jurisdiction!! hence the complete lack of competition in just about any industry you can think of and the total, in this instance, shit broadband service in the whole of the country!!
businesses and politicians should be ashamed at what they’ve done and be held to account!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Google Fiber TOTAL is just sixth tenths of the subscribers Comcast LOST last month!

That it’s expanding is flat out lie.

The company also recently announced that it had struck a preliminary deal with Tempe, Arizona, laying the groundwork for the deployment of thousands of miles of new fiber in the city, bringing Google Fiber’s potential footprint to sixteen cities.

That’s the most slanted sentence EVER! Full of hedging but still implying work is actually being DONE! Just TOO typically Techdirt! I’m starting 300 mph rail service to 92 “potential” cities. Want in on the ground floor?

From this one would think Google is digging right now, but it’s not. POTENTIAL.

Techdirt doesn’t complain that Google Fiber cherry-picked locations for only partial builds. That’s not the utility model that YOU the public needs, it’s the elitist model. YOU are not served by Google Fiber, now are you?

Then goes into the usual Techdirt attack on other-than-Google cable companies, but if facts are as stated, then Tempe’s special deal here is just the kind that should be stopped.

By the way, Google was able to buy Provo’s existing network at far below cost on promise of big investment, which has not occurred.

Google is at most ONE IN TWO THOUSAND cable subscribers. It’s not big, it’s just demonstration.

The companies that have actually built serve tens of millions each, and Techdirt highlights the few problems.

And what corporation “sponsors” Masnick / Techdirt? Take the Copia link to see why yet another puff piece on Google Fiber just for potential not actual. They must get paid per fluff.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Google Fiber TOTAL is just sixth tenths of the subscribers Comcast LOST last month!

Why hasn’t Cox or any ISP reinvested into their own network to introduce 1gig before google anounces they are rolling in? It should be easier, they already have the infrastructure laid down. A series of outages could certainly be justified if progress is shown. Who deserves more scrutiny, the company that tries to enter into competition or the one that resists upgrade until a competitor rolls in?

Anonymous Coward says:

Just a note, having lived in Tempe for five year: you note that Google Fiber is also coming to Phoenix. Well, Tempe and Phoenix are almost one big city. The downtown Phoenix core is quite small. The two are right next to each other.

That whole area is one big clusterfuck of a giant sprawl. Glendale, Scottsdale, Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, etc., etc. The thing keeps spreading out like one big cancerous cell.

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