Judge Scraps Nashville Law Aimed At Boosting Google Fiber

A federal judge in Nashville has struck down a law that was supposed to make it easier for Google Fiber to roll out Gigabit broadband service in the city.

The "one-touch-make-ready" law, passed by Nashville Metro Council in September 2016, allows a single contractor to move all of the equipment on a pole, including equipment owned by incumbent broadband providers.

Comcast and AT&T sued to vacate the law the following month, arguing that the city lacked authority to issue the ordinance. The companies specifically contended that the "one-touch-make-ready" measure violated their contracts with the city, and that the ordinance was trumped by federal law.

U.S. District Court Judge Victoria Roberts in Nashville agreed with the incumbents. She ruled in November that Nashville could not apply the ordinance to AT&T's poles, which she said are "subject only to the FCC’s rules and regulations."

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Late last week, U.S. District Court Judge Aleta A. Trauger ruled that the ordinance did not apply to poles owned by the Nashville Electric Service. Trauger wrote that the Nashville lawmakers lacked authority to pass the ordinance.

AT&T owns around 20% of the utility poles in the city, while Nashville Electric Service owns the remaining 80%.

Google Fiber, which had backed the Nashville law, said the company has "made progress with innovative deployment techniques in some areas of the city." But the company added that pole access "remains an important issue where underground deployment presents challenges."

Nashville isn't the only city to pass "one-touch-make-ready" laws. Lawmakers in Louisville, Kentucky approved a similar measure in 2016. Unlike the Nashville law, the Louisville ordinance survived a court challenge by AT&T last year.

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