Google Quietly Argues Broadband Competition, Google Fiber Build Out Could Be Aided By Title II
from the the sky will not fall dept
While Google has been notably quiet on net neutrality as its lobbyists work to cultivate broader bi-partisan favor, the search giant broke that silence last week to file a comment with the FCC giving its thoughts on Title II. While the larger ISPs have (falsely) proclaimed repeatedly that the sky will fall, investment will drop and market innovation will collapse if strong Title-II based rules are passed, Google’s filing with the FCC (pdf) takes a somewhat different tone.
While Google’s filing never specifically throws its support behind Title II, it does specifically point out how Title II rules could come with some significant benefits. Specifically, Google’s director of communications law Austin Schlick argues that as a freshly-regulated telecom service under Title II, Google would gain access to utility poles and other essential utility infrastructure to aid expansion of Google Fiber. While the FCC has the right to forbear from these provisions, Google argues they really shouldn’t if they value improved broadband services:
“In determining whether forbearance is consistent with the public interest, the Commission must consider whether forbearance would “promote competitive market conditions, including the extent to which such forbearance will enhance competition among providers of telecommunications services.” Forbearance from allowing BIAS providers access to available infrastructure under Section 224 would have the exact opposite effect, maintaining a substantial barrier to network deployment by new providers such as Google Fiber, that telecommunications classification otherwise would remove.”
Bureaucratic pole attachment rights negotiations are already sometimes annoyingly cumbersome, but they’re also one of many ways incumbent ISPs thwart competitive efforts. Municipal broadband efforts in Utah, for example, were hindered by a litany of Qwest (now CenturyLink) lawsuits aimed at blocking local community ISP Utopia from having access to the company’s poles. In Austin, where AT&T owns around 20% of the city’s utility poles, Google Fiber ran into some initial obstacles getting pole attachment rights because AT&T argued Google wasn’t officially a telecom company.
This is a relatively big deal, in that while Google beats around the bush somewhat to avoid ruffling feathers, it’s noting how Title II ISP classification could actually be used to help break open the stubborn broadband duopoly to improved broadband competition. Note that’s in fairly stark contrast to all of the hand-wringing from ISPs and friends who claim Title II will only harm the sector. More than a few Title II opponents have also gone on ad nauseum about how we should really focus on reducing bureaucratic obstacles like pole attachment issues, when it’s Title II that Google argues would accomplish this most effectively.