ISPs Are Blocking Google Fiber's Access To Utility Poles In California

from the deregulatory-hypocrisy dept

Last month, we noted how entrenched broadband providers had found a new way to try and prevent Google Fiber from bringing much-needed competition into their markets: blocking access to carrier-owned utility poles. AT&T recently sued the city of Louisville for embracing so-called "one touch make ready" policies that dramatically streamline the pole-attachment process. The rule rewrites allow third-party contractors to move (often just a few inches) multiple companies' gear, dramatically reducing the cost and time frame for new deployment (in Louisville by an estimated five months or so):
In the case of one touch make-ready, companies that own poles agree on one or more common contractors that could move existing attachments on a pole (‘make ready’ work), allowing a single crew to move all attachments on a pole on a single visit, rather than sending in a unique crew to move each attachment sequentially. Sending in separate crews is time-consuming and disruptive to local communities and municipal governments. One-touch make-ready polices would ease this burden.
And while this is generally an idea that would benefit all broadband providers, it would benefit new providers like Google Fiber the most. That's why companies like AT&T, Comcast and Time Warner Cable have been blocking this pole-attachment reform, in some cases trying to claim such policies violate their Constitutional rights. The ISPs figure that if they can't block Google Fiber from coming to town, their lawyers can at least slow Google Fiber's progress while they try to lock customers down in long-term contracts.

In addition to skirmishes like this in Austin and Louisville, AT&T, Comcast and Time Warner Cable have been fighting pole-attachment reform across California, where Google Fiber is eyeing San Diego, Irvine, Los Angeles and portions of Silicon Valley as potential expansion markets:
Mountain View-based Google has been fighting before the California Public Utilities Commission for the right to use publicly and privately owned utility poles because burying fiber cables is expensive and in places impossible. AT&T and the cable TV association representing Comcast and Time Warner Cable have told state regulators that Google has no such right. And Google contends that a group that controls many Bay Area utility poles, and includes Google competitors as members, also has been blocking access to the poles.

...The Northern California Joint Pole Association has refused to grant membership to Google, according to (Google lawyers), and membership is required for access to the group's poles. Among the association's members are AT&T and Comcast, both expanding their own gigabit-speed Internet services.
In addition to thwarting streamlined pole attachment rules, both companies have played a starring role in crafting state level protectionist laws -- some of which hinder Google Fiber or other companies' ability to strike public/private partnerships. As such, it's worth remembering the next time you hear companies like AT&T or Comcast complaining about "onerous regulations" -- that they're consistently in favor of just such regulations -- if they protect them from having to actually compete.
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Filed Under: california, google fiber, isps, pole access, utilities
Companies: at&t, comcast, google, time warner cable


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  1. icon
    Andrew (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 7:10am

    Is it just me, or does that sound a tad bit like collusion to restrict competition in a marketplace by exploiting dominant positions in the market.

    Section 2 of the Sherman act - "Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several State..."
    Certainly sounds like it applies to the NCJPA

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