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FCC Comes To City's Defense In AT&T Suit

fiber internet
Creative Commons

The Federal Communications Commission is defending a controversial city ordinance that sparked a lawsuit after it was approved earlier this year.

The "one touch make ready" ordinance is seen as an effort to streamline the installation of ultra high speed Internet infrastructure by reducing time and work necessary to fit new cabling onto existing poles.

But AT&T argues the Metro Council lacks the jurisdiction to approve such an ordinance and filed a suit earlier this year hoping to prove it. The telecommunication giant contendsthe ordinance conflicts with federal pole attachment regulations.

The FCC, however, argues otherwise.

In a statement filed Monday, the independent U.S. government agency tasked with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable said AT&T is "wrong as a matter of law."

"The federal pole-attachment regulations do not apply in Kentucky," wrote Howard Symons, general counsel for the FCC.

Kentucky is one of 20 states to opt-out of the federal pole-attachment rules, Symons wrote in the filing.

Choosing to opt-out of the federal requirements allows the FCC to use states as testing grounds, of sort, to determine "what works and what does not work," Symons wrote.

And policies like Louisville's "one touch make ready" are considered something that works, too. Such policy can alleviate costs and reduce delays associated with building broadband networks, Symons wrote.

A spokesman for AT&T declined to comment on the FCC filing.

A spokeswoman for Google Fiber, an ultra high speed Internet service provider which is exploring an expansion to Louisville and is seen as the driving force behind the "one touch make ready" ordinance in Louisville, praised the FCC filing in a statement.

"We fully support the FCC's conclusion," she said.

A spokesman for the Mayor's office declined to comment on the filing or the lawsuit.

One touch make ready policy is a pivotal elementfor attracting ultra high speed Internet providers. Cities with such policies are considered easy to work with and willing to bend to bring the sought after service to their residents.

Google Fiber's interest in Louisville sparked the push for the ordinance, locally. The company also helped foster a sense of competition among existing service providers. Since Google Fiber announced  a potential expansion to Louisville, AT&T and Time Warner have announced plans to connect residents to fiber Internet.

Google Fiber has also come to the defenseof the city in the suit, which is no surprise.

Shortly after the suit was filed, the company issued a statement on its website pledging to confidence “the City’s common-sense initiative will be upheld.”

And attorneys for Google Fiber earlier this month filed a court briefing that, if approved by a judge, would allow the high-speed Internet service provider to take part in court proceedings and provide its own perspective about the suit filed in February.

Jacob Ryan is an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.