AT&T filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday alleging Louisville lacks jurisdiction to allow high-speed Internet service providers such as Google Fiber to install equipment on its utility poles.
The telecommunications giant says it welcomes competition in providing Louisville residents with faster online access but that the so-called "One Touch Make Ready" ordinance passed this month is unlike any other in the U.S. and violates state and federal rules.
"AT&T pursued this course of action because the Metro Council has no jurisdiction to regulate pole attachments," spokesman Joe Burgan said in an interview Thursday. "Because of this, the ordinance is invalid."
High-speed Internet providers are now allowed to install their new equipment on utility poles owned by AT&T and possibly move other companies' installations thanks to the measure, which Mayor Greg Fischer's office supported as a way to lay the groundwork for Louisville's fiber-optics network. The council approved that measure unanimously over objections from AT&T and Time Warner Cable, which lobbied heavily against the proposal.
In the 11-page suit, AT&T asks for a federal judge to clarify that the authority to regulate poles are reserved to the Kentucky Public Service Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.
Fischer's office declined to discuss the suit when reached by a reporter, saying it does not comment on pending litigation. Claims made in a lawsuit represent only one side of a case.
Neither AT&T nor Time Warner Cable will stand for Google Fiber coming into Kentucky, and locking down utility infrastructure is how AT&T can effectively make it impossible for Google or any other fiber optic provider to ever do business in an area. Louisville's OTMR ordinance goes right around that, and AT&T has figured out that unless the law dies screaming in lawsuits, Google fiber will move right on in and put overpriced internet out of business.
Ted Smith, the city's innovation chief, told The Courier-Journal this month that Google Fiber was making "very good progress" in assessing whether it can install a fiber-optics network. If installed, city officials have said it could mean Internet speeds around 20 times faster than conventional broadband that tech entrepreneurs and others have said would bring faster times for downloading material, streaming movies, gaming and other activities.
20 times better for the same price? You'd better believe AT&T will do everything they can to crush that utility pole ordinance. There's a reason why America has the most overpriced, least competitive and outright oligarchical internet system in the industrialized world, folks, and it's because big companies like AT&T own so much utility infrastructure.
If this ordinance stays on the books, they are done, and they know it.