AT&T Sues Nashville to Slow Expansion of Google Fiber

AT&T claims a new ordinance essentially allows other companies to “seize, alter or relocate AT&T property without the company’s consent.”

by / September 26, 2016
Installers for Google Fiber confer while working in Kansas City, Kan. (Keith Myers/Kansas City Star/MCT)

AT&T sued Nashville in U.S. District Court last week in an attempt to slow deployment of Google fiber in the city, according to Ars Technica.

The lawsuit is in response to a “One Touch Make Ready” rule passed earlier in the week intended to give ISPs faster access to utility poles by allowing them to make wire adjustments themselves rather than waiting on incumbent providers to make such changes.

Google Fiber launched in Nashville in April, but Google said earlier this month that it has not been able to get access to 44,000 poles in the city, slowing expansion of the service. Google Fiber says it is currently waiting on AT&T and Comcast to move wires on approximately 8,000 poles.

City officials say the intent of the “One Touch Make Ready” rule is to give customers more broadband choices. But AT&T claims the new ordinance essentially allows other companies to “seize, alter or relocate AT&T property without the company’s consent,” according to the lawsuit. AT&T also claims that Google Fiber crews don’t always follow appropriate safety codes.

AT&T said its long-standing contract with the Nashville Electric Service gives AT&T the right to “place, maintain, rearrange, transfer and remove its own attachments,” and does not permit Metro Nashville to “rearrange or transfer AT&T’s facilities (except in the event of an emergency) or to grant third parties such rights,” according to the lawsuit.

AT&T also claims the new ordinance is preempted by Federal Communications Commission pole attachment regulations, which require companies to provide 60 days’ notice to the public prior to modifying wires. Under the “One Touch Make Ready” ordinance, Google Fiber or other ISPs would only have to provide 15 days' notice before moving wires, as long as the move does not require a service outage.

Louisville, Ky., also recently passed a “One Touch Make Ready” rule to help Google Fiber expand in that city and is consequently now involved in a lawsuit with AT&T. The two companies also quarreled over utility pole access in Austin, Texas, but eventually came to a consensus.