Commentary

Google Defends Louisville Law That Could Boost Fiber Rollout

Earlier this year, lawmakers in Louisville, Kentucky unanimously passed an ordinance aimed at making it easier for Google to bring its Gigabit fiber network to the city.

The measure, "One Touch Make Ready," enables potential broadband providers like Google to install new equipment on utility poles owned by other companies. Soon after the bill passed, AT&T Kentucky, which owns many of the poles in Louisville, sued in federal court to prevent the law from going into effect.

AT&T argues that the law conflicts with other regulations regarding utility poles. The company also has warned that the measure could result in service disruptions.

AT&T obviously also has reason to be concerned about the prospect of new competition from Google Fiber, if the Louisville measure stands.

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Google is now seeking to weigh in on the battle. Late last week, the company filed papers asking U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Russell in Louisville to rule against AT&T.

"In many communities, the only practicable way to build a new fiber-optic network requires stringing Google Fiber’s new cable along existing utility pole lines," Google argues in a proposed friend-of-the-court brief submitted.

The company adds that its fiber network offers Web connections at speeds "considerably faster" than what's offered by incumbent Internet service providers. "Where Google Fiber introduces service, existing providers invariably increase the quality or lower the cost of their own services to meet the new competition," Google says.

Google also asks Russell to reject AT&T's argument that the Louisville ordinance is unlawful. "The Ordinance is a valid exercise of Louisville Metro’s unquestioned authority to manage construction activities in public rights-of-way, establishing a streamlined make-ready process that will enhance public safety while reducing disturbance and congestion," Google says.

AT&T isn't the only one trying to get the Louisville law nixed. Last week, Charter also filed a lawsuit over the law.

Meanwhile, battles like the one in Louisville could spread to other parts of the country, as officials in various cities try to encourage new broadband networks. Just last month, lawmakers in Nashville, Tennessee passed their own "One Touch Make Ready" bill. Several days after the bill was passed, AT&T filed a lawsuit against officials in Nashville. The company is asking a federal judge to declare the measure invalid. Nashville hasn't yet responded to AT&T's legal challenge.

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