Judge Rejects AT&T's Challenge To Louisville Law That Boosts Google Fiber

A federal judge has rejected AT&T's challenge to a Louisville, Kentucky law aimed at making it easier for Google to launch Gigabit fiber service in the city.

The "One Touch Make Ready" law, unanimously passed last year, enables potential broadband providers like Google to install new equipment on utility poles owned by other companies. Time Warner Cable and AT&T strongly opposed the measure. AT&T Kentucky, which owns many of the poles, said in a letter to Louisville lawmakers that the bill was likely to disrupt service, according to the Courier-Journal.

In February 2016, AT&T sued in federal court in Louisville to prevent the law from going into effect. The company made several arguments, including that city officials lacked authority to pass the measure, because the Kentucky Public Service Commission has exclusive jurisdiction to regulate utility poles. AT&T also argued that the local measure conflicts with Federal Communications Commission regulations regarding utility poles.

When the telecom filed suit, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said via Twitter that the city will defend the measure, adding: "Gigabit fiber is too important to our city's future."

On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge David Hale rejected AT&T's arguments, ruling that Louisville officials have the authority to pass measures that affect public streets.

"A one-touch make-ready approach inherently regulates public rights-of-way because it reduces the number of encumbrances or burdens placed on public rights-of-way," Hale wrote. "The one-touch make-ready ordinance requires that all necessary make-ready work be performed by a single crew, lessening the impact of make-ready work on public rights-of-way."

Hale also ruled that the FCC's utility pole regulations don't apply in Kentucky, given that the state successfully opted out of those regulations by certifying that it regulates pole attachments.

Even though Google recently scaled back its ambitions to roll out Gigabit fiber networks, the company says it still plans to launch a network in Louisville.

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