Fiber Battle Heats Up in Louisville

Google Fiber said it’s “standing with Louisville” as the city faces an AT&T lawsuit filed Thursday alleging that the city doesn’t have the authority to streamline a pole attachment process that could make it easier for newcomers, such as Google Fiber, to deploy networks there.

AT&T, which has targeted Louisville as an expansion city for its fiber-based GigaPower service, holds that the city lacked jurisdiction when it voted, 23-0, on February 11 to adopt a "One Touch Make Ready" ordinance that would give Google Fiber and others accelerated access to utility poles and other city rights-of-way.

Under the ordinance, Google Fiber and other third parties would be held accountable for damage cost. But AT&T, which views the ordinance as invalid, argued that giving such access to those poles would cause "irreparable harm that cannot be addressed by recovery of damages." According to theCourier-Journal, Louisville estimates that AT&T owns between 25% to 40% of the city’s utility poles.

"We have filed an action to challenge the ordinance as unlawful,” AT&T said in a statement. “Google can attach to AT&T’s poles once it enters into AT&T’s standard Commercial Licensing Agreement, as it has in other cities. This lawsuit is not about Google. It’s about the Louisville Metro Council exceeding its authority."

Time Warner Cable also raised objections following the vote, arguing that the Kentucky Public Service Commission, and not the state, has jurisdiction on pole attachment terms, including rates.

Chris Levendos, director of National Deployment and Operations at Google Fiber, responded Friday to the AT&T lawsuit via this blog post, noting that Google Fiber “stands with the City of Louisville and the other cities across the country that are taking steps to bring faster, better broadband to their residents,” noting that the so-called “One Touch Make Ready” rule reduces costs, disruption and delays.

“Google Fiber is disappointed that AT&T has gone to court in an effort to block Louisville's efforts to increase broadband and video competition. We are confident the City's common-sense initiative will be upheld,” Levendos wrote.

Google Fiber currently labels Louisville as a “potential” expansion city. Though Google Fiber is deploying most of its networks from scratch, it has begun to enlist some new deployment strategies to accelerate service deployment, including the use of existing fiber to serve select parts of Atlanta and San Francisco. Google Fiber has also announced this week that it plans to offer services on a planned municipal fiber network being built in Huntsville, Ala.