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.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    Andrew (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 7:10am

    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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2016 @ 7:58am

      Re:

      Laws have not stopped them yet, I am not expecting it will stop them now.

      Lets hope I am wrong, but hey... you never know!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 8:11am

      Re:

      Not just you, no. They set up their business and then slammed the door in the faces of anyone that might try to set up shop afterwards by claiming that to do business in the area you need to belong to their little club, and oh would you look at that, no competitors allowed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 11:40am

      Re:

      Nah, they just have to move the goal poles (ahem). Just bribe.. I mean, contribute to the right electoral campaigns.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 7:54am

    Sure is nice to see the champions of let the market sort it out working so hard to get government to protect them from any competition.

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2016 @ 10:27am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2016 @ 8:34am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2016 @ 9:01am

      Re:

      What you are claiming is that you can sign a contract that binds some other party, who was not part of the original contract, or a successor to those parties who signed. If that was enforceable, corporations could eliminate all new competition, and eliminate personal rights.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Andrew (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 9:04am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Flying Goat, 17 Mar 2016 @ 10:47am

      "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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 10:55am

        Re: "Poles privately owned"

        'You either open up the poles for use by others, or you lose the benefit of the laws that allowed you to purchase and/or place them in the first place. Good luck getting anything done without the benefit of those laws.'

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2016 @ 8:39am

    Unions too

    In Louisville the unions are also moaning about only they have right to move based on individual agreements with each telecom and how anti-american it is that they can't get paid multiple times for moving attachments.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2016 @ 9:00am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2016 @ 11:00am

    It's the all the stuff like this, the telcom and cable's level of service to their customers, and the amount of gouging going on in the billing, that make me say should Google arrive, kiss my ass good bye to those already providing internet services.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Hurricane Harry, 17 Mar 2016 @ 12:23pm

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Justin Otter Guy (profile), 18 Mar 2016 @ 10:43am

      Re: In the event of disaster

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

      Well, sadly, they will pry your pitchfork from your dead fingers!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Joe Random, 17 Mar 2016 @ 5:09pm

    Only one total cure

    There is one way Apple fend off future DOJ orders, and that is to lock ITSELF out of its "secure enclave". In fact, people who use Apple products because of its protection of privacy should be demanding this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Spy Hater, 18 Mar 2016 @ 10:34am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.