AT&T is suing Louisville, Kentucky over a new law that would make it easier for companies like Google Fiber to install gigabit internet networks throughout the city. The law, which was passed last week, would allow companies installing equipment on utility poles to move around the existing equipment during installation, rather than requiring each company with something installed on the pole to come out and move it on their own. AT&T and Time Warner Cable lobbied against the law, according to The Courier-Journal, and now AT&T has filed a lawsuit against it in a federal court, claiming both that Louisville doesn't have the authority to regulate utility poles under state law and that this law violates FCC regulations requiring notice before an installation.
The law is very much designed to let Google Fiber enter Louisville. After AT&T filed its suit, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer tweeted:
Google Fiber announced plans to explore expanding into Louisville this past September. Since then it's been working with the city to see what it would take to roll out fiber. The city has clearly been receptive to Google's pitch. The Courier-Journal reports that the utility pole law passed city council unanimously. In a statement following the vote, Fischer added that it "puts Louisville one step closer to becoming a Google Fiber city — and lays the groundwork for expansion of gigabit services by other providers." Under the law, internet providers who want to install lines along utility poles will now only need to get permission from the pole's owner, and they will only have to notify other companies with equipment on the poles in the event that a service outage is expected.
"This lawsuit is not about Google."
AT&T maintains that its lawsuit has nothing to do with the impending threat of a gigabit internet service from Google Fiber. "This lawsuit is not about Google. It’s about the Louisville Metro Council exceeding its authority," an AT&T spokesperson told the Journal. AT&T also tells The Verge that, "While we would welcome Google as a competitor, we feel they should play by the same rules that bind everyone else. In this case, we feel the city council's action in giving Google special rights and privileges violates the law."
As noted in the tweet above, Louisville's mayor has vowed to "vigorously defend" the law. The outcome could have implications for future Google Fiber rollouts. If this type of installation policy is prohibited under FCC rules, then it may be a more time-consuming process for Google Fiber — and other new internet providers — to begin placing cables throughout a city, even if that city wants to make it easy for them.