Legal bills mount as Louisville defends 'Google Fiber' ordinance

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --  AT&T will not appeal a federal judge’s ruling upholding a local law Louisville Metro passed last year to make it easier for new Internet providers like Google Fiber to access utility poles in the city.

AT&T spokesman Joe Burgan confirmed the company decided not to appeal U.S. District Judge David Hale’s August 16 ruling upholding the so-called “One Touch Make Ready” ordinance.

The decision means a final victory for Louisville in the closely watched case, in which the city had the support of the Federal Communications Commission.

The ordinance gives new telecommunications providers the ability to rearrange existing providers’ equipment on utility poles, speeding up the deployment of new broadband networks.

The idea is for a new provider like Google Fiber to perform all the work with one crew, rather than waiting on existing providers like AT&T or Charter Communications, the local cable company, to make space on the poles at the request of their would-be competitors. 

AT&T argued the city-county government overstepped its powers by veering into the territory of the Kentucky Public Service Commission and the FCC.

But Hale ruled the law was within Louisville Metro’ authority to regulate its public rights-of-way.

The Metro Council adopted the ordinance in February 2016 when the city was trying to convince Google Fiber to begin construction of its network.

Google Fiber ended up starting work in May 2017, and earlier this month the company announced that it had begun service in three Louisville neighborhoods.

However, Google Fiber has not yet taken advantage of the utility pole ordinance.

So far, the company has cut narrow “micro-trenches” in the street to bury its fiber-optic cables instead of running them along utility poles.

But Ashley Kroh, Google Fiber’s team lead for the east region, said in an interview last month that the Louisville ordinance remains “an incredible tool to have in our toolkit as we go forward to build out the rest the of the city.”

While the company has so far relied on trenching, Google Fiber can string wires on poles or deploy wireless technology, Kroh said.

“We are going to continue to look at all of those options and depending on the circumstances of the neighborhood you are in and the complexity of whether there are really old streets or concrete streets or whatever it may be – brick streets in Old Louisville – there are different deployment methods,” she said.

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