AT&T Sues Louisville To Make City Less Attractive To Google Fiber

Google hasn’t even decided whether or not it will bring its high-speed Fiber broadband and TV service to Louisville. The Kentucky city is currently listed as merely a “potential” Fiber market. But that hasn’t stopped AT&T from suing Louisville administrators in an effort to make sure that Google will have a tougher time if it chooses to launch there.

Yesterday, AT&T filed a lawsuit [PDF] against the Louisville government over a recently passed ordinance that amends existing city rules about the use of utility poles and rights-of-way to give a new “Attacher” — like, say Google Fiber — the right to rearrange or relocate the existing physical facilities and pole attachments of other communications providers, which basically means AT&T.

If AT&T doesn’t own a pole in question and readjusting the existing AT&T hardware wouldn’t interfere with service, Google wouldn’t need to provide any notice before moving things around.

But if shuffling AT&T hardware around will impact service, Google would need to give 30 days written notice to the telecom giant.

“The Ordinance thus purports to permit a third party… to temporarily seize AT&T’s property, and to alter or relocate AT&T’s property, without AT&T’s consent and, in most circumstances, without prior notice to AT&T,” reads the lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Louisville.

AT&T argues that not having prior notice of these pole adjustments would deprive the company of “the opportunity to assess the potential for network disruption.” The company further contends that if a hardware move does indeed impact AT&T service, it “may be hampered in locating and correcting that trouble” because it did not have any notice about which poles were being worked on.

The lawsuit also points to existing FCC regulations stating that when a utility is prepping to do its new pole attachments, it “shall notify immediately and in writing all known entities with existing attachments that may be affected by the make-ready.” AT&T argues that the FCC rules would also require that it have 60 days after receiving that notice to make its own adjustments before anyone else can touch the AT&T hardware.

There is a catch in the law that does allow states to have different standards regarding pole attachments, but AT&T maintains that only state law — and not a city or county ordinance — has the authority to override the FCC rules.

AT&T is seeking an injunction to prevent Louisville from enforcing the new pole attachment rules, and for the court to declare the ordinance invalid and unenforceable.

“We have filed an action to challenge the ordinance as unlawful. Google can attach to AT&T’s poles once it enters into AT&T’s standard Commercial Licensing Agreement, as it has in other cities,” a rep for AT&T tells Louisville Business First. “This lawsuit is not about Google. It’s about the Louisville Metro Council exceeding its authority.”

Of course, there isn’t exactly a horde of bandit broadband and telecom providers looking to string their cables on Louisville utility poles; just Google, and even then that’s only a possibility. So AT&T’s claim that this is “not about Google” rings slightly disingenuous.

[via DSLreports]

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