from the pouting-and-crying dept
Like any good incumbent broadband ISP, Cox Communications' first reaction wasn't to welcome the challenge of a new competitor, it was to whine like a petulant child about the fairness of it all:
"It's unfortunate that the Tempe City Council is willing to favor a new entrant into the market, and in doing so appears to have violated federal and state law. The waivers granted by the City also give Google Fiber a free pass on obligations that affect public safety; such as emergency alert messaging and protection of subscriber privacy."Cox has subsequently followed up this early whining with a new lawsuit accusing the Tempe city council of violating the law. According to the suit (pdf), Tempe violated federal law "by establishing a discriminatory regulatory framework" that gives Google Fiber preference over traditional cable companies:
"Tempe’s bald assertion that Google Fiber is not a cable operator is incorrect," Cox argued. "And based on this incorrect assertion, Tempe’s regulatory scheme allows Google Fiber to provide video programming service to subscribers in Tempe under terms and conditions that are far more favorable and far less burdensome than those applicable to Cox and other cable operators, even though Cox and Google Fiber offer video services that are legally indistinguishable."Here's the thing though: reports out of Arizona indicate that the Tempe city council's vote opened the door for companies like Cox to negotiate their own, new agreements with the city. Indeed, nothing stopped incumbent ISPs from striking new gigabit fiber deployment deals before Google Fiber, they just lacked the competitive incentive to do so. And while some mega-ISPs originally whined about these deals, they quickly quiet down once they realize these new potential deals let them cherry pick broadband deployment (read: just wire high-end developments), something that pre-Google Fiber days used to be considered a bad thing. Note these recent comments by AT&T:
"In the past if we wanted to go into a city environment, the requirement was you build out the entire city," Stephenson explained in a keynote at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference. Doing that requires a huge capital investment, one that AT&T felt it couldn't make, he noted. Google's entry into Austin, in particular, enabled AT&T to ask the city for the same terms as Google Fiber received. "Google came in and was very targeted in where they wanted to deploy fiber, and they got municipal endorsement (on that). …We said we'll take the same deal that Google got. And we got the same deal that Google got," Stephenson said."So yes, under the din of enthusiasm over Google Fiber there is a conversation nobody seems to want to have about the problem of cherry-picked next-gen broadband deployment, but that's obviously not what Cox cares about. Cox sees something in local Tempe law that will allow it to bog Google Fiber's progress in Tempe down in the courts (Google Fiber is also slated for Cox's turf in Phoenix, where it has not filed suit). Cox could simply take Google Fiber's market entry as a challenge to negotiate a new citywide deal and up its own game, but apparently the cable operator thinks that hand-wringing and wasting everybody's time with lawyers is the more sensible tactical option.