AT&T puts downtown Louisville office building up for sale

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --  AT&T sued Louisville Metro government on Thursday to stop an ordinance the Metro Council passed this month to make it easier for new broadband providers like Google Fiber to attach their equipment to utility poles.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Louisville, AT&T said Louisville Metro does not have the authority to permit a third party like Google Fiber to remove, alter or move AT&T’s equipment on utility poles, as the city’s “One Touch Make Ready” ordinance purports to allow.

AT&T spokesman Joe Burgan said in a prepared statement that Louisville “has no jurisdiction under federal or state law to regulate pole attachments.” 

“Google can attach to AT&T’s poles once it enters into AT&T’s standard Commercial Licensing Agreement, as it has in other cities,” the statement said. “This lawsuit is not about Google. It’s about the Louisville Metro Council exceeding its authority.”

Louisville Metro’s ordinance represents a “drastic departure” from the regulations of the Federal Communications Commission, and in Kentucky, pole attachment issues are the “sole jurisdiction” of the state Public Service Commission, according to the lawsuit.

Supporters of the ordinance – including officials with Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration – have said it will reduce disruption in neighborhoods as Google or other broadband providers install thousands of miles of new fiber-optic cable throughout Jefferson County.

"We will vigorously defend the lawsuit filed today by ATT; gigabit fiber is too important to our city's future @googlefiber," Mayor Fischer tweeted Thursday night.

Metro Councilman Bill Hollander, the ordinance’s sponsor, said earlier this month that the changes “will make the whole (installation) process faster and make the community more broadband ready.”

Under current rules, each provider would have to send a contractor to move its equipment to make way for new services like Google Fiber, officials have said.

“Depending on where you are in Jefferson County and which pole you’re talking about, there could be five or six different trucks dispatched in six months or more to get everybody moving their lines to make room for the last attacher,” Ted Smith, chief of civic innovation for Metro government, told the Metro Council’s public works committee in early February.

But the ordinance, which was also opposed by Time Warner Cable, would allow a third party like Google to temporarily “seize” AT&T’s property – without notice, in most cases, according to the lawsuit.

Louisville is on the short list of cities that might get Google Fiber’s super-fast “gigabit” residential and business Internet and TV service.

Seeing it as a boon for the city’s economy and reputation in the tech sector, Louisville officials have been trying to streamline Google’s installation of the network. The California search engine giant has not yet fully committed to Louisville.

AT&T, meanwhile, is bringing GigaPower, its own “gigabit” fiber service, to Louisville’s residential market, though the company has not yet announced which neighborhoods will get GigaPower or when it will be installed.   

This story has been updated to reflect a statement from Mayor Greg Fischer.

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