Handing a victory for Google Fiber and delivering a setback of sorts for incumbent broadband providers such as AT&T and Comcast, the city of Nashville on Tuesday (September 6) awarded preliminary approval of so called “one touch make ready" utility pole reform rules, according to The Tennessean.
Nashville’s Metro Council voted in favor of the legislation on a count of 32 to 7, the paper said, noting that it represented the second of three votes required to pass the ordinance, and that AT&T has already threatened to file a lawsuit if the ordinance was given the green light and follow legal steps already taken in Louisville, Ky., after that city approved similar rules (AT&T claims that Louisville lacks the authority).
“If this ordinance passes with the amendment that Google is in support of, we will be sued…I’m 100 percent sure of that,” Metro Law Director Jon Cooper said, according to the paper.
"This is an extremely big step forward, an extremely big net positive for Nashville, for internet competition," Councilman Jeremy Elrod, a bill co-sponsor said, per The Tennessean. "It increases competition, increases telecom and internet investment for we as a city and our citizens as a whole."
Google Fiber, which backed the legislation, claims that the new rules are essential to accelerate its deployment in Nashville.
In a blog posted last week, Chris Levendos, director of national deployment and operations at Google Fiber, outlined the reasons behind its “incredibly slow progress” there, arguing that the current “make ready” process/policy required to attach a new line to a utility pole was a key cause. Google Fiber claimed that that of the 88,000 poles required to attach Google Fiber for its rollout, more than 44,000 will require make ready work, but lamented that just 33 of them have been made ready.
The proposed ordinance, Google Fiber held, “will reduce delay and disruption by allowing the necessary work to be done much more efficiently — in as little as a single visit.. The work would be done by a crew the pole owner has approved, instead of multiple crews from different companies working on the same pole over several months.”
AT&T, meanwhile, isn’t buying into Google Fiber’s complaints, and believes that Google Fiber’s recent actions play into the fact that building broadband networks isn’t for the faint of heart.
In a blog also posted last week, Joan Marsh, VP of federal regulatory at AT&T, noted that Google Fiber was threatening to stop its build in Nashville if the ordinance wasn’t passed and was resorting to “finger-pointing” and “ultimatums” in exchange for service.
“Google Fiber will no doubt continue its broadband experiments, while coming up with excuses for its shortcomings and learning curves,” she wrote. “It will also no doubt continue to seek favoritism from government at every level…Instead of playing by the same rules as everyone else building infrastructure, Google Fiber demands special treatment and indeed in some places is getting it, unfairly.”
She also pointed to a report that Google parent company Alphabet, , amid the high costs and resources required to build wired broadband networks, was looking to reduce staff at Google Fiber amid the high costs and resources required to build wired broadband networks and its pursuit of less expensive wireless broadband alternatives. Google Fiber has not commented on that report, nor confirmed that it has any plans to reduce staffing.
Google has, however, asked the FCC to approve a plan to test high-speed wireless broadband services, and recently acquired Webpass, a company that leans on wireless systems to deliver broadband in several U.S. metro areas.