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Google Fiber wins in Nashville

Google Fiber wins in Nashville
Image: 123RF stock photo

Nashville, Tennesee’s city council got a lot of attention for voting to decriminalize marijuana this week, but at the same meeting the council passed another measure that is also being closely watched by cities around the country.

Google’s One Touch Make Ready ordinance won final approval from the Nashville City Council, a vote that will almost certainly trigger a lawsuit against the city. AT&T has said that Google’s proposal is a simplistic solution to a complex problem, and that it is likely to result in service disruptions and safety concerns. The carrier sued Louisville, Kentucky, after it passed One Touch Make Ready, and has dropped strong hints that it will do the same thing in Nashville.

One Touch Make Ready would make it legal for one contractor to move all the equipment attached to a utility pole. When a new service provider, like Google, enters a market and wants to attach fiber to a pole, many cities currently require each company with equipment on the pole to move that equipment to make room for the new entrant. Google has to submit an application to each incumbent asking them to move their equipment, and each incumbent has 60 days to respond. The requests often have to be sequential, meaning that Google must wait 60 days for one incumbent to move its equipment, and then start the process with the next one.

“One Touch Make Ready means the new entrant will make all the moves at one time,” said John Burchett, Google’s director of public policy, speaking this week at the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors Annual Conference. Burchett said that Google Fiber came to Nashville 11 months ago and needs to attach to 90,000 poles in order to provide the envisioned level of service. So far, it has only attached to 33 poles.

“The existing system allows incumbents to be a gatekeeper to determine how long and how hard it is for new entrants to come into the marketplace,” said Burchett. “If Google Fiber struggles with it, frankly with the deep pockets we’ve got, how in the heck is any smaller new entrant going to do it?”

Burchett said that One Touch Make Ready is good for communities because it will mean fewer street closures and shorter wait times for those who want high-speed internet from Google Fiber. AT&T argues that if its trained crews are not working with its cables, customers could experience service disruptions.

AT&T also has union contracts to consider. The carrier may be unable to honor those contracts if it cannot send its own workforce to job sites in Nashville. Union workers are worried that if One Touch Make Ready makes its way into more cities, AT&T will be forced to change its commitments to the Communication Workers of America.

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