FCC Lends Support To Google Fiber, Louisville In Fight To Access AT&T Utility Poles

from the beaten-by-bureaucracy dept

As we’ve been discussing, the hot new broadband battleground is the boring old utility pole. In most existing markets, a new competitor needs the incumbent ISP to move their gear and “make ready” the pole before a competitor can attach their own fiber. With every incentive to slow new competition, incumbent ISPs have long (ab)used this bureaucracy to their advantage. As a result, this preparation can take the better part of a year, especially if gear from multiple incumbents needs moving.

In a recent Google Fiber blog post, the company documented the end result of this logjam. In Nashville, the company noted that of the 88,000 poles in Nashville needed to deploy Google Fiber, over 44,000 will require make-ready work — but only 33 had been adequately prepped by incumbent ISPs. In response, Google Fiber has been pushing cities like Nashville and Louisville to pass “one touch make ready” rules, which allow an insured, third-party contractor to move any ISP’s gear (often a matter of inches), provided they give the incumbent ISP a 15-day heads up.

Unsurprisingly, the response from incumbent ISPs like AT&T and Comcast has been to breathlessly claim that their Constitutional rights are being violated, that Google Fiber is getting preferential treatment, and that these reform rules will result in a dramatic spike in internet outage (despite the fact that some incumbent ISPs often use these exact same contractors for pole work). They’ve also been quick to file lawsuits claiming that these cities are exceeding their authority and in some instances violating federal pole attachment rules.

In Kentucky, Google Fiber and Louisville this week got an unexpected ally in the FCC, which submitted a statement of interest (pdf) in Kentucky court effectively pointing out that AT&T and Comcast’s arguments are nonsensical (at least in Kentucky). According to the FCC, while it does have federal pole attachment rules, Kentucky was one of 20 states to have opted out of those requirements in order to implement their own rules:

“BellSouth maintains in its motion for summary judgment that the Louisville Ordinance conflicts with, and is therefore preempted by, the federal pole-atachment rules promulgated by the Commission under Section 224. That argument is wrong as a mater of law. The federal pole-atachment regulations do not apply in Kentucky because Kentucky has filed a certification invoking reverse-preemption under Section 224(c) and has thereby opted out of the federal pole-atachment rules.

That said, AT&T’s lawsuit against Louisville also claims that Louisville’s new rules violate Kentucky state law. As we’ve long noted, companies like AT&T have so much influence on state legislatures that they’re often allowed to quite literally write telecom law that specifically hinders competition, as they’ve done in states like Missouri and Tennessee, regarding municipal broadband. For those playing along at home, these are the same incumbent ISPs that whine endlessly about “burdensome regulations,” unless they’re the ones writing said regulations to hamstring competitors.

All told, this sort of bureaucratic protectionism is one of several reasons Google Fiber executives are pondering a pivot to next-generation wireless.

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Companies: at&t, comcast, google

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Comments on “FCC Lends Support To Google Fiber, Louisville In Fight To Access AT&T Utility Poles”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Nov 2nd, 2016 @ 7:16am

I would have said regulations “purchased” by the ISP’s but yea! That would be about it!

The FCC, AMA, FDA, and pretty much most of the other regulatory agencies are paid whores for those they regulate. How does this keep happening? Oh… that’s right. “We The People” keep letting it.

100% of the regulatory Agencies we create in government to PREVENT certain things from happening wind up working instead to insure that they do! I know people are bad at math but damn! That is a failure rate that only happens when all players are screwing it up.

Politicians = corrupt
Agencies = corrupt
Citizens = bankrupt

As long as we keep letting businesses do this, they have no reason to stop!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Nov 2nd, 2016 @ 7:16am

And without regulation you get the robber barons. Democracy has two problems:-
1) most people are not that interested in politics, so long as they can make their way through life.
2) Those who stand for office are often not interested in representing the people, but rather ruling them for their own profit.

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