ISPs Are Blocking Google Fiber's Access To Utility Poles In California

from the deregulatory-hypocrisy dept

Last month, we noted how entrenched broadband providers had found a new way to try and prevent Google Fiber from bringing much-needed competition into their markets: blocking access to carrier-owned utility poles. AT&T recently sued the city of Louisville for embracing so-called “one touch make ready” policies that dramatically streamline the pole-attachment process. The rule rewrites allow third-party contractors to move (often just a few inches) multiple companies’ gear, dramatically reducing the cost and time frame for new deployment (in Louisville by an estimated five months or so):

In the case of one touch make-ready, companies that own poles agree on one or more common contractors that could move existing attachments on a pole (?make ready? work), allowing a single crew to move all attachments on a pole on a single visit, rather than sending in a unique crew to move each attachment sequentially. Sending in separate crews is time-consuming and disruptive to local communities and municipal governments. One-touch make-ready polices would ease this burden.

And while this is generally an idea that would benefit all broadband providers, it would benefit new providers like Google Fiber the most. That’s why companies like AT&T, Comcast and Time Warner Cable have been blocking this pole-attachment reform, in some cases trying to claim such policies violate their Constitutional rights. The ISPs figure that if they can’t block Google Fiber from coming to town, their lawyers can at least slow Google Fiber’s progress while they try to lock customers down in long-term contracts.

In addition to skirmishes like this in Austin and Louisville, AT&T, Comcast and Time Warner Cable have been fighting pole-attachment reform across California, where Google Fiber is eyeing San Diego, Irvine, Los Angeles and portions of Silicon Valley as potential expansion markets:

Mountain View-based Google has been fighting before the California Public Utilities Commission for the right to use publicly and privately owned utility poles because burying fiber cables is expensive and in places impossible. AT&T and the cable TV association representing Comcast and Time Warner Cable have told state regulators that Google has no such right. And Google contends that a group that controls many Bay Area utility poles, and includes Google competitors as members, also has been blocking access to the poles.

…The Northern California Joint Pole Association has refused to grant membership to Google, according to (Google lawyers), and membership is required for access to the group’s poles. Among the association’s members are AT&T and Comcast, both expanding their own gigabit-speed Internet services.

In addition to thwarting streamlined pole attachment rules, both companies have played a starring role in crafting state level protectionist laws — some of which hinder Google Fiber or other companies’ ability to strike public/private partnerships. As such, it’s worth remembering the next time you hear companies like AT&T or Comcast complaining about “onerous regulations” — that they’re consistently in favor of just such regulations — if they protect them from having to actually compete.

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Companies: at&t, comcast, google, time warner cable

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Comments on “ISPs Are Blocking Google Fiber's Access To Utility Poles In California”

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Andrew (profile) says:

Is it just me, or does that sound a tad bit like collusion to restrict competition in a marketplace by exploiting dominant positions in the market.

Section 2 of the Sherman act – “Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several State…”
Certainly sounds like it applies to the NCJPA

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“The mind boggles at all of the things we could have if not for so much protection being paid for by the legacy players to retard the march of progress.”

Such as affordable ultrasound machines in the U.S., an ancient technology. No, FDA approval is necessary to sell one of these things in the U.S. and the FDA limits their approval rates and charges a fortune for approval which leaves prices high.

Anonymous Coward says:

Some of these areas have exclusive contracts with the telecom unions to service the poles.

IOW: the utility owns the poles and the union has an exclusive contract with the utility to work on the poles. These laws are in direct violation of the union/company contract AND the poles are privately owned. If the companies such as Google want to lay fiber they have to do so within the confines of the current contractual agreements.

Andrew (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“These laws are in direct violation of the union/company contract”

Yeah… laws don’t work like that.
You can’t write a contract that violates the law and then go ‘the law doesn’t apply, my private contract superceeds that’.

“and the poles are privately owned”
… on public easements, and erected through compliance with laws and regulations that allow for changes to outside access to be made.

Flying Goat says:

Re: "Poles privately owned"

Poles are generally either on public land, or on private land not owned by the “owner” of the pole, placed there by use of eminent domain, rather than through contract with the property owner. In either case, it seems like the government can reasonably impose further regulations on the poles for the public good.

Anonymous Coward says:

More multiple infrastructure issues

In my area new developments are not allowed pole services; everything must be buried. But I have seen pole services in other areas that makes me wonder how they would accommodate multiple providers. Right now it’s electric on top, telco in the middle, and cable on the bottom. There’s also a separation requirement so telco and cable cannot be run at the same height even if they’re different cables and junction boxes; surely no company wants their cable next to the electric cables! There’s also code requirements that pole-to-building drops not cross over/under another cable. So like buried services the cities/counties, and likely the electric utilities that own the poles, are balking at multiple infrastructures, and I’d bet if an ISP proposed erecting their own poles they’d get quickly denied.

Hurricane Harry says:

In the event of disaster

What is the process in the event of a natural disaster?

For example, a hurricane wipes out five miles of utility poles. Do the utilities have to use separate crews repairing / replacing each service or are single crews used in order to get everything up as quickly as possible?

And what if instead the utility poles were to come down at the hands of villagers with pitchforks?

Spy Hater says:

Unintended Consequences

Forcing g00GlE off the already existing poles may require additional poles which look like HELL when the only view a person has of the sunset is blocked bya tangled mess of ridiculously strewn about wires hanging from too many poles already, already.. g00GlE should be forced to run their network underground. Why make anything easy for them?

They have the money to virtually videotape evey fricking street in the world, complete with people scratching their crotches at their front doors, (I know this is true at least once) And when they get caught stealing passwords from unsecure home networks, they get a $1 fine and a slap on the wrist?

All new communication technology should be visually esthetic, non-reliant on antiquated utility infrastructure and SAFE, free from microwaves and wifi brain whistle static.

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