Google causes turf battle in Nashville

Posted: October 13, 2016

The arrival of Google Fiber in Nashville created a turf battle on the utility poles — as it has elsewhere — as the internet giant works to expand gigabit internet service and existing broadband providers fight to hold the high ground.

In September, the Nashville Metro Council approved an ordinance known as “One Touch Make Ready” that AT&T and Comcast are expected to challenge in court. The ordinance changes rules governing who can make wire changes on a pole.

Insteading of waiting for an incumbent provider’s crews to move wires to make room for a new ISP, a single company can make all necessary wire adjustments on a pole. The goal, according to lawmakers who supported the move, is to make it easier for companies such as Google Fiber to expand quickly.

A legal response from the incumbent providers is anticipated, as Nashville is not the first community to create such an ordinance. In an effort to block a similar law earlier this year, AT&T sued Louisville and Jefferson County, Kentucky, governments in U.S. District Court.

About 15 months after Google Fiber announced it would roll out in Nashville, The Tennessean reported that only four apartment buildings had been connected. The goal for Google, however, is to connect most homes, including single-family houses and multi-family complexes, in the metro area. The Google Fiber website indicates the service will include all of Nashville, as well as smaller cities within the metro area: Forest Hills, Oak Hill, Berry Hill and Belle Meade.

Elsewhere, Google Fiber is available in at least portions of Atlanta, Georgia; Austin, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Provo, Utah; and both the Missouri and Kansas portions of Kansas City. The Triangle area of North Carolina also has access.

Google Fiber is more than a provider of internet service. The company also sells television and phone service, as well as packages targeted to businesses.
While “One Touch Make Ready” was seen as a way to add competition to the market, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry did not expect the new ordinance to pass without push-back from the incumbents.

She told The Tennessean that she hoped the providers could reach a solution on their own, but she now hopes legal challenges will end swiftly. Meanwhile, ARS Technica, a technology news website, reported Google Fiber’s parent company, Alphabet, had offered to share its lawyers with Nashville as the legal challenge starts.
The battle for access to the poles is only beginning.