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AT&T The Courts Communications Google Government Network The Internet United States

AT&T and Comcast Finalize Court Victory Over Nashville and Google Fiber (arstechnica.com) 122

"AT&T and Comcast have solidified a court victory over the metro government in Nashville, Tennessee, nullifying a rule that was meant to help Google Fiber compete against the incumbent broadband providers," reports Ars Technica. From the report: The case involved Nashville's "One Touch Make Ready" ordinance that was supposed to give Google Fiber and other new ISPs faster access to utility poles. The ordinance let a single company make all of the necessary wire adjustments on utility poles itself instead of having to wait for incumbent providers like AT&T and Comcast to send work crews to move their own wires. But AT&T and Comcast sued the metro government to eliminate the rule and won a preliminary victory in November when a U.S. District Court judge in Tennessee nullified the rule as it applies to poles owned by AT&T and other private parties.

The next step for AT&T and Comcast was overturning the rule as it applies to poles owned by the municipal Nashville Electric Service (NES), which owns around 80 percent of the Nashville poles. AT&T and Comcast achieved that on Friday with a new ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger. Nashville's One Touch Make Ready ordinance "is ultra vires and void or voidable as to utility poles owned by Nashville Electric Service because adoption of the Ordinance exceeded Metro Nashville's authority and violated the Metro Charter," the ruling said. Nashville is "permanently enjoined from applying the Ordinance to utility poles owned by Nashville Electric Service." The Nashville government isn't planning to appeal the decision, a spokesperson for Nashville Mayor Megan Barry told Ars today.

AT&T and Comcast Finalize Court Victory Over Nashville and Google Fiber

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  • I wonder how hard it would be for Nashville to use Eminent Domain to aquire all of the wires and poles then sell it all to Google or keep it if they can?

    • They don't need to use eminent domain, just existing utility easement laws in most states and municipalities allow creations of easements (unilateral use of private property) for the common good, in this case utility poles for competitive internet access. The utility can retain ownership of the poles, but the municipality can grant an easement to whomever it wants and it doesn't cost the municipality anything.

      • The utility can retain ownership of the poles, but the municipality can grant an easement to whomever it wants and it doesn't cost the municipality anything.

        Sure does cost the municipality something (if the utility chooses to enforce its rights).

        Granting an easement to someone else's property is a "taking" under the Fifth Amendment. Without the easement the utility could charge whatever it pleased for the use of a zone on its poles, refuse to grant it if they thought that was in their interest, insist the

        • Except that most utility poles are on public property (street shoulders, sidewalks, etc) and are owned by government approved monopolies. So explain to me how the electric utility, who is supposed to make their money exclusively through the selling of electricity under monopoly fiat approved by the government is getting screwed by being forced to share sections of their poles that are un-usable to them for electricity (specifically the region around 14' up the pole used for phone, cable and data).

          The reali

  • by houstonbofh ( 602064 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2018 @09:12PM (#55897773)
    Forget the FCC rules! This is the real problem. With real competition, filtering would not be an issue.
    • by Shados ( 741919 )

      Agreed. I mean, those people trying to limit NN do have a point: in some scenario, it can hurt customer choice. Like, if i wanted to pay for an internet package that only allowed Netflix and nothing else, but was drastically cheaper...why not?

      But that only really works if I can choose one of 20 providers, all with various price points, packages and features, all competing against each other. When there's 1-3? That can only go wrong.

      So NN is really not the first choice. It's the last resort.

      • by gizmod ( 931775 )

        Like, if i wanted to pay for an internet package that only allowed Netflix and nothing else, but was drastically cheaper...why not?

        Because the internet is NOT a collection of services. It is a tool. Your thinking only from the perspective of a consumer and not say something like a small business. It's narrow minded to think of the internet as an entertainment service only when it is sooooo much more.

        • Maybe. But to *many* consumers it's just a means of getting Netflix and Facebook. The OPs point is that they should have the option to do this if they want to. Most people hate the forced bundling of ESPN with basic cable for similar reasons. Why do I have to have an internet connection that is capable of delivering Hulu at high speeds when I would rather have a cheaper Netflix-only one.
          • by gizmod ( 931775 )
            Jesus, fibre/isp providers do not sell services/channels. Cable companies do. With your connection to the internet you have access to bazillions or resources. Hardly what I would call a bundled deal. Most people just don't understand the kind of power they would be giving away. The OP is an idiot. I'd rather pay a little more (come on, internet is god damn cheap) than cripple something that I think is a basic right, unfettered access to information and communications.
            • This was true historically and net neutrality rules kind of mandated that it stay this way. But now there are new pricing possibilities. It seems that the last mile is the most expensive part and that whatever is in the actual data center is so cheap by comparison that this wouldn't make sense. This is most likely to be used by the current cable providers to force you to pay for their TV service and I think the net neutrality rules were a good idea. Video streaming is high bandwidth though and watching
      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        Like, if i wanted to pay for an internet package that only allowed Netflix and nothing else, but was drastically cheaper...why not?

        Because you assume it's going to be cheaper, and the ISP will not make sure you're forced to buy a bunch of extras as well.

        You assume it's cheaper because it's just one service. ISPs will ensure you're paying at least what you're paying now, just for less.

        If you and everyone else wanted Netflix, your ISP will be happy to give you just Netflix. And have you pay exactly what you'r

    • by spitzak ( 4019 )

      Competition would certainly lower the cost of Internet a lot. However I really doubt it will cause NN, despite that being a common claim from the libertarians here.

      Even in countries where competition works, there are at most a dozen ISPs and usually only 4 to a given location. I don't see why they won't all choose to charge Netflix the standard "fast lane" price. The idea that enough customers will choose an ISP because it is neutral to make it a success, despite it being more expensive and Netflix is slowe

      • by Sique ( 173459 )
        No. In countries, where competition works, there are many small, regional providers, often grown out of a local utility. And then the local mobile phone providers are also in the competition and offer internet access via UMTS or LTE, where you get a small box in your home with an UMTS/LTE antenna and WiFi/Ethernet.

        So you have a very fragmentared market, and Netflix will rather decide not to contract any of them for a fast lane because the sheer amount of fast lane contracts, each of them for a different p

        • by spitzak ( 4019 )

          Orange is a small regional provider? Thanks for providing the laugh of the day.

          • by Sique ( 173459 )
            That's not what I wrote. I wrote, that there are the small regional providers growing out of utilities. And then there are the local mobile phone providers.
  • by bobstreo ( 1320787 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2018 @09:13PM (#55897781)

    If google purchased Nashville Electric Service (and the contractors authorized to work on their power poles, and prioritized AT&T and Comcast installs and repairs accordingly.

    • by currently_awake ( 1248758 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2018 @11:28PM (#55898337)

      Google needs to buy the power company (nation wide). The power company owns their own private Right-of-Way to every single house in the country. With ownership of that Google can implement a national fiber to the home network ending in a "Tripple play" box at the house, then rent bandwidth to anyone who wants it. Because Google would only be running a generic data network (not cable or tel) they would be exempt from all the regulations and the monopoly deals the cable and ISP's have made with State/local governments. Without owning the wires Google will always be paying the local ISP for customer data and fighting companies that want to compete with them by excluding them from the market. Owning the wires lets them see all the data (maximize revenue) and prevents the competition from locking them out of the market. Owning the wires is the only SANE long term strategy for Google to follow.

      • by jon3k ( 691256 )
        The reason Google isn't fighting this, in my opinion, is for three reasons. One, they've switched to microtrenching which has been a viable alternative and two Google has backed away from fiber deployments anyway. Second, wireless is a better option long term for Google, with 5G right around the corner delivering extremely high speeds for fixed mobile broadband, if they want to continue to try to provide internet service. Third, the goal of Google Fiber was just to force carriers into providing high spee
  • The Supreme Court settled this in the 80's. The pole owner HAS to rest space to others on the poles. The local municipality can not limit the number of providers. As I recall limiting providers was like (akin?) to licensing only one newspaper for a specific area.

    You have access to the poles. If the owner is providing slow support to move wires, cables, etc., then that is another matter.

    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      If the owner is providing slow support to move wires, cables, etc., then that is another matter.

      That was exactly the matter that OTMR was intended to address. How else would you have addressed this matter?

      • If the owner is providing slow support to move wires, cables, etc., then that is another matter.

        That was exactly the matter that OTMR was intended to address. How else would you have addressed this matter?

        Take them to court. That's why you pay your lawyers.

        • by mishehu ( 712452 )
          The incumbents still win. The court case will stall the competition indefinitely, and the incumbent knows they'll just receive a slap on the wrist at the end.
        • If the owner is providing slow support to move wires, cables, etc., then that is another matter.

          That was exactly the matter that OTMR was intended to address. How else would you have addressed this matter?

          Take them to court. That's why you pay your lawyers.

          Uh they did. And they lost? Expect slow or no support on moving wires in the future.

        • by spitzak ( 4019 )

          They *did* take them to court, and lost!

    • Wow do you have that wrong.

      1) Nashville wasn't restricting who could use the poles. In fact, they wanted to add an additional user (Google) to the two that were already using the poles (AT&T and Comcast)

      2) This ordinance is entirely about that "another matter". AT&T and Comcast are refusing or otherwise massively delaying moving the "wires, cables, etc" so that Google can not complete their rollout.

      • > AT&T and Comcast are refusing or otherwise massively delaying moving the "wires, cables, etc" so that Google can not complete their rollout.

        IANALawyer, but I would think the correct solution would be in the terms of pole access. Say, a requirement to either perform within a reasonable period at a reasonable fee any requested maintenance relating to other tenants' use of the infrastructure, or be billed for the pole owner's chosen vendor to do it for you. With a penalty clause for failure to compl

        • by spitzak ( 4019 )

          What you are describing is what they were attempting to do. It got shot down. Now AT&T can just refuse to ever move the wires (in effect making the "reasonable fee" infinite) and Google is blocked.

        • The giant, gaping hole in your solution is 'reasonable' has no fixed definition. So 6 months is 'reasonable'. So is two-and-a-half years.

          The ordinance was an attempt to fix the problem that 'reasonable' left plenty of room for AT&T and Comcast to slow down the work.

          • My solution included the term 'reasonable' because anything I choose - not being an industry expert - is likely to be laughable.

            In a contract for pole use, I'd expect limits to be specified in days.

  • Easy solution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wyattstorch516 ( 2624273 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2018 @09:25PM (#55897821)

    The city directs Nashville Electric to perform all work on the utility poles. Nashville Electric then bills Google for the expense. The work is done properly without some fly by night contractor coming in and breaking other people's stuff.

    Why didn't Google propose this? Maybe they don't want to pay Nashville Electric to hire qualified people to do the work and just wanted to have low paid contractors?

    • Re:Easy solution (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jeff4747 ( 256583 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2018 @09:45PM (#55897903)

      Because they're still AT&T and Comcast's wires, so Nashville Electric can not move them. This ordinance would allow Nashville electric to do so, but hey, it just got thrown out.

    • Re:Easy solution (Score:4, Interesting)

      by slack_justyb ( 862874 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2018 @11:27PM (#55898331)

      Why didn't Google propose this?

      Because that's exactly what they did. [bizjournals.com] Except Google is still the one who does the work. Outside of that one difference, yeah Google and NES worked on an alliance to get the fiber laid without OTMR, but even then AT&T and Comcast have already extended the local appeals process to seven years for make ready work. This is literally why AT&T can't extend into the Comcast only region I'm in. There's a fiber optic end point only 300 feet from where I live and AT&T can't extend it because we're only four out of the seven years into it. Even then, there's been talk to extend the appeals process even more. Pretty much all the local folks who were going to work on the Google fiber project have pretty much conceded that AT&T and Comcast are ready to scorch earth the process just to ensure that people like Google can't make any headway in the future. Shit, they already quake at EPB in Chattanooga. It's clear, neither want a fair market and all the politicians here in the state are more than happy to let them have it. Even if that means that AT&T can't draw that final 300 feet of fiber or the other hundreds of examples like that in the Comcast monopoly zones.

  • Yikes! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 )
    While it is always popular to chant about increased competition, it is no wonder that AT&T and Comcast opposed this.

    To put it in terms we might understand, it is like if you wrote an important piece of software, then a competitor demanded the right to come in and change your software, but you still had all of the responsibility for it. If the competitor made errors and there were lawsuits, they would be held harmless and you would take the hit.

    Moving pole infrastructure involves a lot of effort and

    • Re:Yikes! (Score:4, Informative)

      by slack_justyb ( 862874 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2018 @11:30PM (#55898343)

      If the competitor made errors and there were lawsuits, they would be held harmless and you would take the hit.

      No. [bizjournals.com]

      • If the competitor made errors and there were lawsuits, they would be held harmless and you would take the hit.

        No. [bizjournals.com]

        Right. If your cable access goes away during Judge Judy, you're going to blame Google.

        • If your cable access goes away during Judge Judy, you're going to blame Google

          I'm going to blame the cable company obviously, but then the cable company does that thing they are supposed to do because it's good business. INFORMED THEIR CUSTOMER AS TO WHAT THE SITUATION IS.

          However that aside, that doesn't change how wrong your initial statement was.

          If the competitor made errors and there were lawsuits, they would be held harmless and you would take the hit.

          If there were lawsuits the agreement was that Google was the person responsible for showing up in court. Granted your average customer is dumb as a rock, but a group of lawyers who have contracts and agreements stating that Google is the

          • If your cable access goes away during Judge Judy, you're going to blame Google

            I'm going to blame the cable company obviously, but then the cable company does that thing they are supposed to do because it's good business. INFORMED THEIR CUSTOMER AS TO WHAT THE SITUATION IS.

            So you hit the nail on the head. It's your fault when someone screws up your equipment and your customers suffer. And all caps is really hammering the point home. Anger issues much?

            If there were lawsuits the agreement was that Google was the person responsible for showing up in court. Granted your average customer is dumb as a rock, but a group of lawyers who have contracts and agreements stating that Google is the one responsible is less likely to blame the wrong person. So yeah, if there are lawsuits then your statement is full of shit given that was the agreement Google had with NES. Now if you want to move the goalpost to make your statement more accurate, that is fine, but it doesn't change the initial one you made.

            Yeah - random guy on slashdot tells me my idea is full of shit when the owners of the Equipment and the courts agree that people who own the equipment should be the owners of the equipment.

            The point that random guy on Slashdot who is suffering badly from dunning-kruger effect is missing is that people who own infrastructure

            • It's your fault when someone screws up your equipment and your customers suffer.

              Clearly there's a massive difference between what you and I think the word fault means. Yes, companies have to inform customers of third party actions all of the time. Home Depot comes to mind. Home Depot took a hit in customer loyalty and in turn Home Depot took a piece of ass from the people who actually fucked up. That's what businesses do all of the time. You are literally acting like this doesn't happen.

              And all caps is really hammering the point home. Anger issues much?

              And? Your mama. People act like the term "anger issues" suddenly gives them a high ground. I

              • And? Your mama. People act like the term "anger issues" suddenly gives them a high ground. I find that you weak gotos interesting but still don't further your point and if anything makes it sound like I'm dealing with a 12-year old.

                Dude, unless you just fell into this universe, All caps is yelling. The only time it isn't is when used for initializations or acronyms. And it has been that way since the caps key was invented. By typing "anger issues much", I was being polite.

                Comcast is not wanting Google touching their stuff because they know, they wouldn't fuck it up. If you think differently you've obviously never worked in this industry.

                Well now, As for working in the Cable industry, My first job after graduation was working for a manufacturer during the early 1970's. Turnkey operations or just design. A lot of field work. But it is really good to know I have an expert here, so let's roll.

                Okay

    • by oic0 ( 1864384 )
      Since when has ATT or Comcast cared about outages? The ATT DSL service here gets spotty every time it rains and it rains a LOT.
    • It takes a certain amount of technology just to do the modifications and ensure everything is working again There simply will be outages.

      You speak as if would be the first time Google has done this. As if they are experimenting with installing broadband on existing infrastructure. Austin TX, Provo UT, and Kansas city all currently have Google fiber. In all of those cities this procedure was used. Perhaps there were outages caused by it but I was unable to find any reports of it happening.

      • It takes a certain amount of technology just to do the modifications and ensure everything is working again There simply will be outages.

        You speak as if would be the first time Google has done this. As if they are experimenting with installing broadband on existing infrastructure. Austin TX, Provo UT, and Kansas city all currently have Google fiber. In all of those cities this procedure was used. Perhaps there were outages caused by it but I was unable to find any reports of it happening.

        I speak of raising actively running components and having them continue to work after moving them. I think perhaps people are thinking of this stuff as just wires. They aren't. Trunk, bridge, distribution and extender amplifiers, eternal power supplies to feed them. Taps to the customers. If Google is doing this with no problems, as you insinuate, Comcast should hire them, because the Google people are better Field Techs and engineers than exist at the moment.

        • by jon3k ( 691256 )

          I speak of raising actively running components and having them continue to work after moving them. I think perhaps people are thinking of this stuff as just wires. They aren't. Trunk, bridge, distribution and extender amplifiers, eternal power supplies to feed them. Taps to the customers. If Google is doing this with no problems, as you insinuate, Comcast should hire them, because the Google people are better Field Techs and engineers than exist at the moment.

          This is already done by AT&T and Comcast technicians without interruption. The problem is they can drag their feet which significantly slows down the Google Fiber deployment. This isn't some black art. The whole point of OTMR was just to accelerate the process. Googles techs, ironically, probably sopme of the same subcontractors AT&T and Comcast uses in many instances, would just perform the work instead of asking AT&T and Comcast to do it. That's it.

          I'm not a lawyer so I'm not arguing

    • I think the bigger yikes is just how well the lies have spread about this.

      Such as:

      If the competitor made errors and there were lawsuits, they would be held harmless and you would take the hit.

      Nope. The ordinance explicitly put liability on the people who moved the wires, with a statutory 150% penalty for outages and damage. The company could probably get more in a lawsuit.

      I'm sure AT&T and Comcast will get right to moving their wires in the next decade or so. Gotta do risk analysis, yanno. And when you complete that in 2 years it's out-of-date so you need to start over. And scheduling the work is really ha

      • I think the bigger yikes is just how well the lies have spread about this.

        Such as:

        Absolutely. A contract like the one that was signed By Google and NES held up nicely didn't it? You would think that it would be inviolable yes?

        There are lawsuits filed every day. Apparently some folks didn't like this contract either. And if Google caused outages caused say an outage during an important event and much of Nashville went without cable/internet during the event, Comcast and AT&T would be sued, NES would Be sued, and Google would be sued. That's just how things work.

        I suspect tha

        • Absolutely. A contract like the one that was signed By Google and NES held up nicely didn't it?

          *Facepalm*

          Ordinance. Not contract.

          As an ordinance, Google was not a direct party to it. They would be required to comply with it, just like AT&T and Comcast and any other user of the utility poles would be required to comply with it.

          I suspect that your attitude might be based on your dislike of Comcast, maybe AT&T as well.

          I suspect that your attitude is based on your massive misunderstanding of the situation, such as mistakenly believing there is a contract between the city and Google.

          If it were just installing fiber, it wouldn't be too bad. But having the freedom to move equipment around that is owned by other people is complicated, especially when there is a lot of active components involved. In some cases, if amplifiers are accidentally nuked, replacements have to be made from dwindling stock of some of the older systems. Which just moves rebuild time all that much closer.

          And if Google did that to Comcast's equipment, Google was not only required to make those repairs, Google w

  • States and cities can build own networks. No more paper insulated wireline telco monopolies getting court protection for their monopolies.
    Soon the more skilled gated communities, cities and states will have the freedom to build and extend their own networks.
    No more federal NN rules directing the use of one monopoly NN ready network.

    Freedom to design, connect and network all over the USA. The private sector and local people escaping federal NN rules that kept all their networks beholden to a select f
  • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2018 @10:18PM (#55897983) Journal
    A thought experiment...
    How could a local community escape the demand to use a telco monopoly?

    Dont got anywhere near the monopoly network.
    Talk to the electric company (consumer, city), rail road, power company (state), water company, local businesses, private land owners.
    Build a community network that spans out from different utility services, rail, power networks, land back to business and commercial real estate.
    An innovative private sector cooperative initiative that brings together everyone locally but the wireline monopoly telco. Let the locals support an ISP from the back of that new private network.
    Call it a network on a utility cooperative with local profits reinvested for network infrastructure. Any is ISP welcome from the same city, state, another state.
    City and local gov did nothing for the existing telco monopoly to get legal about.
    Some locals wanted a new network and they built it on private land that just happened to be linked by non telco private sector utilities.
    What can a monopoly telco do? Block the local gov, community broadband first? Then demand a stop to the private sector in the same community second?
    Thats a lot of monopoly power to enforce federally on both state, city governments and the private sector.
  • Like putting up their own metro fiber and building it to take all providers. Another change, even less expensive, is to not grant exclusive franchise agreements. For example, in Maine, if I declare myself a cable provider, I automatically get access to the poles. Also if I declare myself a CLEC and meet all the requirements for being a CLEC, (which Google could do, easily), I get access to the poles.
    • No, they can't.

      After Chattanooga's municipal fiber become so incredibly popular, Tennessee passed a law explicitly forbidding municipal fiber. So municipalities can't make changes is.

      Another change, even less expensive, is to not grant exclusive franchise agreements

      You would think the fact that there are two incumbents would have led you to understand there is not an exclusive franchise agreement in play.

      For example, in Maine, if I declare myself a cable provider, I automatically get access to the poles

      Access to the poles does not give you space for your wires. The incumbents usually have to move some of the wiring on the poles in order for you to run your fiber/wires.

      For some odd rea

  • Eminent Domain is clearly the answer. The city should buy the polls from AT&T and Comcast. They would then be free to regulate them at will.
    • You really should read the summary. This lawsuit is over Nashville Electric Service's poles, which are owned by the municipality already.
  • How possible would it be for the municipality to declare it was "Modernizing" their poles, and do a pole-by-pole replacement (paid for by Google, of course)? that would solve the issue of the existing renters being slow to move their equipment by giving a fixed schedule.
  • Here is a link to a part-time job i came across, Feel free to apply if interested in making an extra income. https://promotionaldrivecom.wo... [wordpress.com]

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