AT&T is crying foul over being forced by the city of Austin to lease their utility poles to Google in order to enable Google to roll out their 1 Gbps fiber service. The current situation is that the City of Austin and Google are preparing to roll out the second phase of Google’s Fiber roll-out, being the second city after Kansas City to get the service from Google. But, in order for Google to be able to deliver fiber to people’s homes, they have to be able to run the fiber all the way to people’s homes, which in many cases results in Google needing to use utility lines. Since, running Google Fiber over utility lines is far easier and cheaper than trying to dig fiber to people’s homes.
According to the Statesman, the City of Austin owns approximately 80% of the utility poles in the city and AT&T owns the remaining 20%. The Austin City council was to vote on the issue on Thursday, which would bring about a new city ordinance that would amend the city code regarding utility infrastructure joing-use agreements pertaining to right of way. Essentially, the City of Austin is claiming that it would cause too much trouble for Google to have to put up their own utility poles in the areas where AT&T owns them and that it would make sense to make AT&T lease their poles to Google. This amendment would pave the way for a much quicker deployment of Google’s fiber network, but is clearly an attempt on AT&T’s part to stifle competition and prevent Google’s fiber deployment.
As per the City of Austin’s council meeting action notes, the ordinance amendment was postponed until January 23rd as per changes and corrections. From what it looks like, it appears that AT&T has successfully postponed the passage of this city ordinance for a later date in order to buy themselves more time to fight off Google. Looking at the city’s minutes for their meeting, the topic had never actually even come up once, which means that it had been taken off the voting block before it was even brought up as an issue before the council.
But AT&T is challenging the notion that Google is even a telecom company, since the rules that Austin and the federal government go by are regulatory of telecom companies only. As such, AT&T’s representative Tracy King argued to the Statesman that, ?Google has the right to attach to our poles, under federal law, as long as it qualifies as a telecom or cable provider, as they themselves acknowledge. We will work with Google when they become qualified, as we do with all such qualified providers.? Yet, somehow, Google didn’t have to butt heads with AT&T in Kansas City, since Time Warner was the primary ISP in the area. AT&T is clearly trying to stall Google’s efforts and unfortunately for the people of Austin (and the world) it appears to be working.