Comcast sues Nashville to halt rules that help Google Fiber

(Comcast/Xfinity)

(Comcast/Xfinity)

Comcast sued the Nashville metro government and mayor this week to stop a new ordinance designed to give Google Fiber faster access to utility poles.

Comcast’s complaint in US District Court in Nashville is similar to one already filed by AT&T last month. Both ISPs are trying to invalidate a One Touch Make Ready ordinance that lets new ISPs make all of the necessary wire adjustments on utility poles themselves instead of having to wait for incumbent providers like AT&T and Comcast to send work crews to move their own wires. The ordinance was passed largely to benefit Google Fiber, which is offering service in Nashville but says that it hasn’t been able to deploy faster because it is waiting to get access to thousands of poles.

Nearly all the Nashville utility poles are owned either by the municipal Nashville Electric Service or AT&T. Because Comcast has wires on many of the poles, it has some control over how quickly Google Fiber can expand its network. When Google Fiber wants to attach wires to a new pole, it needs to wait for ISPs like Comcast to move their wires to make room for Google Fiber’s.

The Nashville One Touch Make Ready ordinance “permits third parties to move, alter, or rearrange components of Comcast’s communications network attached to utility poles without Comcast’s consent, authorization, or oversight, and with far less notice than is required by federal law and by an existing Comcast contract with Metro Nashville,” Comcast’s complaint said. Comcast asked the court to declare the ordinance invalid and permanently enjoin Nashville from enforcing it.

The pre-existing Make Ready process “seek[s] to ensure that all providers can share available pole space cooperatively and safely, without interfering with or damaging any provider’s equipment or services,” Comcast said. The new procedures mandated by Nashville “are so intrusive that, tellingly, Metro Nashville has wholly exempted its own utility pole attachments from the Ordinance’s coverage.”

Specifically, the ordinance exempts Nashville government pole attachments “that consist of cameras, radios, or any equipment used for emergency communications,” and equipment used for traffic signals.

Comcast had this to say in a statement released on Wednesday, October 26th: “From day one, we have been committed to working with local stakeholders on a collaborative solution that improves the pace of broadband deployment in Nashville. Unfortunately, the City Council has chosen to adopt an ordinance that violates existing FCC rules, creates significant safety concerns and increases the likelihood for service disruptions. We prefer a business-to-business agreement that reduces permitting times, eliminates unnecessary requirements, improves field coordination between parties and speeds up the overall rate of make-ready work. One Touch creates enormous problems for consumers that we cannot let stand, and we have no choice but to pursue legal action that protects our customers and our network.”