Comcast and AT&T have sued the city of Nashville, TN, over an ordinance that would allow internet providers to quickly add new lines to utility poles—something that would benefit new entrants to the marketplace like Google Fiber. Under current law, each existing provider moves their own lines on the utility pole to make room for another company’s new line—a process that can take months for each line.
Comcast, AT&T, the electric company, and anyone else who owns a cable that’s in the way has 30-60 days to move it. But multiply that by each utility pole and it could be years or decades before a competitor has a clear path to install new service. Under the new law, called “One Touch Make Ready,” the company installing a new line can move all of the existing lines at once. Nashville passed the law after lobbying from Google Fiber, which plans on introducing service in the city.
Comcast and AT&T argue that the city lacks authority to regulate the utility poles because they fall under the jurisdiction of the FCC. This mirrors arguments made in lawsuits filed by AT&T and Charter challenging a similar ordinance in Louisville, KY.
The FCC, however, sent a letter to the Justice Department, saying that FCC regulations do not conflict with local ordinances to streamline access to utility poles. In fact, the FCC says, it is the very heel-dragging delays that laws such as “One Touch Make Ready” resolves that deter new service providers from entering the marketplace.
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