Google has been making a serious push to expand their Google Fiber broadband internet service to more markets throughout the United States. Cities like Atlanta and San Francisco have already received the Fiber treatment (to some extent), and the company looks to target even more potential markets as the year goes on. One of those target cities is Louisville, Kentucky which passed an ordinance that would make it even easier for Google to expand into their city. The ordinance, which the Louisville Metro Council named “One Touch Make Ready”, essentially grants Google the ability to make attachments to utility poles (managed by other broadband providers) in order to expand their Fiber service throughout the city. One of those “other” broadband providers, AT&T, was none too happy with the ordinance, and they demonstrated as much by filing a lawsuit aimed at blocking it.
The crux of AT&T’s lawsuit boils down to this: it’s not the local government’s place to decide who can make attachments to these utility poles as only state regulators can make such decisions (specifically, Kentucky’s Public Service Commission). Basically, AT&T insists that Louisville’s city government has no jurisdiction to allow Google to make pole attachments without AT&T’s expressed consent and involvement. AT&T was also quick to point out that their lawsuit isn’t aimed at Google, but rather the city government’s “unlawful” practices.
Whether or not AT&T is picking a fight with Google, the company from Mountain View is certainly picking a fight with them. Google, in a Fiber blog post, expressed disappointment with AT&T’s recent actions while praising the City of Louisville for passing the ordinance. The company described how the ordinance alleviates several of the logistical challenges that usually accompany the implementation of a new broadband service. They also talked-up the benefits their Fiber service would bring to city residents, and even quoted Louisville’s mayor in saying that the city would vigorously fight the lawsuit.
Despite Google’s protestations, the lawsuit ultimately puts this dispute into the hands of the court, meaning that the judicial process will likely decide what happens next. If nothing else, the lawsuit probably puts Fiber’s deployment in Louisville on hold, at least for the time being. While the legitimacy of AT&T’s case is certainly a matter of debate, their actions represent a growing frustration amongst traditional telecom companies with Google’s aggressive Fiber expansion. Comcast, one of the largest cable and internet providers in the U.S., has already responded to the service’s expansion into Atlanta. With this latest challenge from AT&T, Google faces increased opposition from competitors as they try to bring their service to more markets.