Comcast Joins AT&T, Files Lawsuit Against Nashville To Slow Google Fiber

from the if-you-can't-compete,-litigate dept

We've been noting for the last year how the latest front in the quest to bring competition to the broadband market is the boring old utility pole. Under the current model, a company like Google Fiber needs to request an ISP move its own gear before Google Fiber can attach its fiber lines. Given that ISPs often own the poles, and have little incentive to speed a competitor to market, this can often take six months or longer -- worse if gear from multiple incumbent ISPs needs moving. Google Fiber notes this has quite intentionally slowed its arrival in cities like Nashville.

As such, Google Fiber has been pushing cities to pass new "one touch make ready" utility pole attachment reform rules, which let a single licensed and insured technician move any ISP's gear (often a matter of inches), reducing pole attachment from a 9 month process, to one that takes as little as a month. Needless to say, ISPs like AT&T feel threatened by anything that could speed up competition in these stagnant markets, so it has been suing cities like Louisville and Nashville for trying to do so.

Comcast has decided to join the fun, and has now filed its own lawsuit against the city of Nashville (pdf), claiming that these reform efforts "upset the existing, carefully designed make-ready process" allowing "encroaching attachers" to move Comcast gear with "only" fifteen days previous notice. This, Comcast claims, will result in "significant, irreparable injury" to the cable giant:
"...Comcast will suffer significant, irreparable injury to its property, operations, and customer relationships. By departing from the carefully balanced approach to the make-ready process embraced by Comcast’s contract with Metro Nashville and the comprehensive Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) regulatory framework, Metro Nashville’s Ordinance exposes Comcast’s network equipment to serious risk. It permits third parties to encroach upon, move, and potentially damage Comcast’s equipment, thereby imposing significant costs on Comcast and threatening interference with customers’ services and emergency communications—while offering Comcast no way to protect against these harms or even seek recourse after the fact.
Well, no. These aren't just errant idiots running around ripping and replacing expensive telecom gear like meth-addicted copper thieves. These are licensed and insured contractors doing the work; in many instances likely the same exact technicians Comcast uses for its own pole work. Comcast previously has tried to claim that network outages would jump 50% or more if this reform passes, but there's really no evidence to support this claim.

AT&T, meanwhile, has tried to accuse Google Fiber of government favoritism for pursuing these reforms, ignoring not only that the plan has the overwhelming support of the public, but the fact that AT&T has enjoyed decades as a government-pampered monopolist that quite literally gets to write protectionist state telecom law (when it isn't busy bone-grafting itself to the country's ever-expanding domestic surveillance apparatus).

Of course these incumbent ISPs can't just come out and say they oppose utility pole reform because they're terrified of competition, so instead we get entirely-unnecessary lawsuits that not only waste taxpayer dollars, but delay long overdue broadband infrastructure improvements.

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  • icon
    HegemonicDistortion (profile), 27 Oct 2016 @ 6:12am

    I'd install my own pole (so to speak) if it would help get my Google Fiber installation moving faster. I dream of how sweet that day will be when I finally get to kick Comcast to the curb.

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

  • icon
    Ben (profile), 27 Oct 2016 @ 6:43am

    really!?!?!

    "...Comcast will suffer significant, irreparable injury to its [...] customer relationships.They seriously wrote that down? Comcast? I know lawyers are professional truth spinners, but that *had* to hurt.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2016 @ 7:36am

      Re: really!?!?!

      Can't hurt what isn't there.

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

    • identicon
      Socrates, 27 Oct 2016 @ 3:17pm

      Captivity

      What if those in captivity in Guantanamo, the Palestinian territories, and famous concentration camps could just walk out on their tormentors when they did their thing?

      It would sever their relationship. It would hurt the tormentors feelings.

      Comcast is also a captor. Droves of citizens craving to leave have to hurt even if they're permanently unable to leave Comcast's net.

      But look to the sky and Tesla will provide. 4000-broadband-satellites

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

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 27 Oct 2016 @ 3:54pm

      Re: really!?!?!

      But encroachment!

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

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 27 Oct 2016 @ 6:51am

    This, Comcast claims, will result in "significant, irreparable injury" to the cable giant.

    I know it's generally not a good idea to accept Comcast's claims at face value, but in this case I'd be willing to make an exception: this is exactly why we should proceed with it ASAP!

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

  • identicon
    David Longfellow, 27 Oct 2016 @ 7:00am

    Here's what I think...

    I will use Google Fiber if it costs twice as much as Comcast and AT&T.
    That's how much damage they've done to their brand. Keep it up and I may pay three times as much to avoid using these scum.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2016 @ 7:10am

      Re: Here's what I think...

      No need. Comcast or AT&T can just double or triple their own rates for you instead. So who needs competition?

      /s

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2016 @ 7:13am

        Re: Re: Here's what I think...

        They're just responding to their customers! Comcast customers say they'd be willing to pay more for a competing service, so they must be demanding higher prices!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2016 @ 7:10am

    Comcast previously has tried to claim that network outages would jump 50% or more if this reform passes...

    Either 50% more outages is a significantly high number, in which case Comcast already has a huge problem on their hands, or this is a low number because Comcast's service is good enough to not suffer many outages.

    So Comcast is either claiming their service is awful or they're being willfully disingenuous and deceitful.

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

  • identicon
    mcinsand, 27 Oct 2016 @ 7:37am

    can we have a review of the wireless path?

    As I understand it, Google is looking at wireless as an alternative to fiber, and these anticompetitive motions might help to drive the direction shift faster. My wish is that wireless could help Google transition in as a new ISP faster, but what is the balance between spectrum space and transceiver reach? If feasibility looks good, the ISP's may well have pushed Google towards technology that they can't slow down. While I would like to see AT&T burn to the ground (fortunately no experience with Comcast), we are in this mess because of a lack of competition. I am hoping that Google can establish itself as an alternative without driving the others to total collapse.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2016 @ 7:40am

    'the fact that AT&T has enjoyed decades as a government-pampered monopolist that quite literally gets to write protectionist state telecom law'

    the best defence is attack! but what is really needed is all the politicians who are in the pockets of the likes of AT&T need taking to task for NOT doing what they should and encourage the development of better communications and internet! why no one has managed to find out who is receiving what from which company/industry/corporation and make it public is beyond me! there is virtually nothing that is private anymore and the biggest reason is the USA in the forms of it's government, it's politicians and law makers/executors! privacy cant be removed from everyone else except those above!!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2016 @ 7:41am

    "Comcast will suffer significant, irreparable injury to its property, operations, and customer relationships."

    That achievement was unlocked years ago.

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

  • icon
    Jeremy Lyman (profile), 27 Oct 2016 @ 7:49am

    Route around damage

    They own the poles blocking public right of way and are unable or unwilling to allow others use of them. Okay, fine. Next step is local loop unbundling, how do you like them apples? And before you complain too much, remember the next option on the list to fix the god-awful "market" is splitting all you ISP and content providers in half so we can regulate the SHIT out of the common carriage sector. We're running out of options, but leaving everything as-is or allowing you to just buy up more competing companies isn't one of them.

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

  • identicon
    RK57957, 27 Oct 2016 @ 7:56am

    Won't anyone think of the profit margins!

    I think what he meant to say was ...Comcast will suffer significant, irreparable injury to its profit margins.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2016 @ 8:35am

    I wonder what AT&T, Comcast, etc... will try when/if Google can get wireless rolling sufficiently.

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

  • icon
    Chris-Mouse (profile), 27 Oct 2016 @ 9:53am

    "...Comcast will suffer significant, irreparable injury to its property, operations, and customer relationships."

    For once Comcast might be telling the truth. After all, if Comcast is forced to compete there will ge irrepairable damage to the profit margins, Comcast would also be completely unable to maintain the current levels of customer service.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2016 @ 10:51am

    Can't the city just eminent domain the poles?

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

  • identicon
    Shawn, 27 Oct 2016 @ 12:52pm

    sounds likes kids bickering to me

    These companies sound like children bickering that one is loved over the other simply because the other has gotten his/her way once and the other didn't like it.

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

  • identicon
    Andy, 28 Oct 2016 @ 2:10pm

    Wireless!

    Google really needs to invest a few billion in developing and implementing a wireless broadband network in every city.

    Give it away free to everyone for 10mb speeds and less than $50 for 1gb speeds.

    But what they have to ensure is that they have the system in place everywhere and it goes live on the day it is advertised so that no isp can interfere in there plans.

    I would love to see the likes of Comcast and at&t ceo's when they receive an email saying that they have in one day lost over 5 million customers who have moved to google wireless broadband.

    And when they eventually come out complain of unfair treatment every single ex subscriber can write to them or the fcc and advise that Comcast could not or refused to give a half decent service or customer service and that they moved because of that not just because they were getting a cheaper more stable and efficient service with excellent customer service centres.

    Come on Google you know you want to do wireless broadband and it is nowhere near the cost of fibre or nowhere near the hassle, start doing it already.

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


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