Charter Files Lawsuit To Slow Rollout Of Google Fiber In City Where It’s Not Even Offered Yet

Image courtesy of frankieleon

Seven months after AT&T went to court to put up a roadblock to the deployment of Google Fiber in Louisville (even though it’s not yet a market for Fiber), the folks at Charter have laid down their own legal challenge, accusing the city of being unconstitutionally biased in favor of Google and AT&T.

The lawsuit [PDF] was filed last week in a U.S. District Court in Kentucky by a Charter subsidiary named Insight Kentucky Partners II (this time it’s personal).

Charter says it doesn’t oppose competition from Google Fiber and AT&T in Louisville, it just thinks the city is letting these competitors enter the market without the sort of regulatory hazing that Charter/Insight had to go through.

The complaint alleges that when AT&T brought its U-Verse pay-TV service to Louisville in 2009, the Louisville Metro authorities allowed U-Verse to operate “without any local franchise or local regulation.”

Even though Google Fiber has yet to confirm that Louisville will eventually get the high-speed broadband service (the city is currently listed as a “potential” Fiber site), Charter claims the company is still getting unfair, preferential treatment.

According to the complaint, during Google’s negotiations with Louisville Metro, the city allowed Fiber to “avoid almost all of the regulatory burdens under which Insight has been operating for decades without offering Insight the opportunity to operate on those same terms.”

Charter says it has asked the city to make the same regulatory concessions to Insight, but that Louisville Metro has “refused to do so.”

The lawsuit also takes issue with a recently passed Louisville Metro ordinance that would allow Google to rearrange or relocate the existing physical facilities and pole attachments of other communications providers.

This was the main issue in the AT&T lawsuit filed last February, with the company arguing that allowing Google 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,” could result in disruption of the incumbent telecom network.

Charter doubles down on that claim, saying that it faces double the opportunity for disruption because it would allow two companies to tinker with its lines without having to go through a complicated approval process.

The company argues that this so-called “One-Touch” approach “could allow Insight’s competitors (intentionally or unintentionally) to damage or disrupt Insight’s ability to serve its customers, creating an inaccurate perception in the market about Insight’s service quality and harming its goodwill.”

This is where we remind you that Charter does not exactly have a great reputation for “service quality” or “goodwill.” The company recently came in among the lowest-rank broadband/cable companies in Consumer Reports’ annual ratings, and the American Customer Satisfaction Index give Charter below average scores for both pay-TV and internet service.

Among the few companies that consistently rank worse than Charter is its new merger partner, Time Warner Cable, which — as we’ve pointed out earlier — is not a good sign for things to come.

Getting back to the Louisville lawsuit, Charter claims that the city is violating the company’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by providing a playing field that is allegedly unbalanced in favor of the newer competition.

A rep for Charter used a sports analogy to explain his company’s argument to the Courier-Journal.

“The current situation is like requiring the University of Louisville to use the NBA 3-point line, while its opponents use the closer college line,” said the rep, presumably while miming some sweet hoop-shooting. “More burdensome regulation inevitably means a higher cost to do business and ultimately higher prices for customers. We’re simply asking the court to ensure the equal treatment state and federal law require.”

[via DSL Reports]

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