Nashville Council Member Admits AT&T & Comcast Wrote The Anti-Google Fiber Bill She Submitted
from the hired-marionettes dept
We’ve been talking about how the next great battlefield in broadband is utility pole attachment reform. In many cities, the incumbent broadband provider owns the utility poles, giving them a perfect opportunity to hinder competitors. In other cities, the local utility or city itself owns the poles, but incumbent ISPs have lobbied for laws making it more difficult for competitors to access them quickly and inexpensively. Google Fiber has been pushing “one touch make ready” rules in several cities aimed at streamlining this bureaucracy by letting a licensed, third-party installer move any ISP’s gear (often a matter of inches).
And while incumbents like AT&T and Comcast will often breathlessly proclaim they’re all for streamlining regulations, in this instance they’re actively preventing the streamlining of these rules in a feeble attempt to slow Google Fiber down. In Louisville, AT&T sued the city after it passed one touch make ready rules. And in Nashville, both Comcast and AT&T have been actively working to prevent Google Fiber from getting similar rules passed. In a recent blog post explaining the stand off, Google Fiber highlights just what this entrenched, anti-competitive regulatory capture looks like in graphical form:
This week Nashville’s city council is planning the final in a series of votes to approve Google Fiber’s one touch make ready rules. But AT&T has already promised to sue the city if Nashville passes the ordinance. Meanwhile AT&T and Comcast have taken another route to try and delay Google Fiber; they’ve urged a Nashville city council member to propose an alternative city resolution that would supplant Google Fiber’s plan with a plan that doesn’t appear to actually do anything outside of stalling the Google Fiber proposal.
Under this alternative “right touch” proposal, pole attachment would see only modest changes, leading Nashville city councilman Jeremy Elrod to deride the move as little more than a last gasp effort by AT&T and Comcast to protect their duopoly fiefdom:
“Google Fiber service and other competitors will be forced to rolling out their service at a trickle, when under the One Touch ordinance it will be like opening the floodgates,” Elrod said in an emailed statement.
“This resolution coming at the last minute, to be considered the same night as third reading of the One Touch bill, just shows it?s the last gasp of Comcast and AT&T, desperately trying to hold on to their top place on the utility pole. “These two companies should not be the gatekeepers that get to decide when and where their customers get access to a competitor, but (a Memorandum of Understanding) like this one enshrines that they stay that way. Comcast and AT&T would win, and competition and consumers would lose.”
AT&T and Comcast’s competing resolution was proposed by Nashville council member Sheri Weiner, who amusingly admits to Ars Technica that the incumbent ISPs wrote the proposal, and while she intended to edit some of it herself, that just didn’t happen:
“I told them that I would file a resolution if they had something that made sense and wasn?t as drastic as OTMR,? Weiner told Ars in an e-mail today, when we asked her what role AT&T and Comcast played in drafting the resolution. Weiner said she is insisting on some changes to the resolution, but the proposal (full text) was submitted without those changes.
When asked why she didn’t put her suggested changes in the version of the resolution published on the council website, Weiner said, ?I had them [AT&T and Comcast] submit it for me as I was out of town all last week on business (my day job).” Weiner said an edited resolution will be considered by the council during its next meeting.
Yeah, whoops-a-daisy. If the AT&T and Comcast proposal passes, it will likely delay Google Fiber’s market entry by a notable margin. If it doesn’t, AT&T will simply sue the city of Nashville, insisting the city council overstepped its authority. Either way, Google Fiber gets delayed thanks to regulatory capture. And note this is all occurring while AT&T lobbyists happily mock Google Fiber for receiving “government favoritism.”
Again, this is all par for the course for American broadband, where beholden lawmakers on every level from city council to state legislature work tirelessly to make sure incumbent ISPs like Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and Charter never have to work too hard, lest the campaign contributions stop flowing. And again, while any day of the week you’ll find these companies’ executives and lobbyists prattling on at length about how they despise “onerous regulation,” when push comes to shove you’ll repeatedly find them aggressively supporting just such regulation — if it protects them from having to actually compete.