Gigabites: A Love Letter to Nashville

The Music City is hoping for gigabit love from Google Fiber, but utility pole attachment rules may put that romance on ice.

Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video

September 2, 2016

4 Min Read
Gigabites: A Love Letter to Nashville

It's Gigabites, the Labor Day Weekend edition. In this week's report, Google Fiber and AT&T battle it out in Nashville; the FCC backs down from the municipal broadband fight; Comcast challenges Verizon in a ranking of broadband speeds; and more.

  • Who loves Nashville the most? Google Fiber Inc. says it has the city's best interests at heart in requesting a new One Touch Make Ready (OTMR) ruling from the city government. The OTMR ordinance would make it easier for Google Fiber, and anyone else, to attach new broadband lines to local utility poles. In a blog post dedicated "To Nashville, with love," the company appeals directly to the city's residents asking them to support the ruling at a vote on September 6. Google Fiber says a positive vote would speed up the process of bringing Google Fiber to the Music City. So far, the company points out that only 33 utility poles have been made ready for Google Fiber attachments out of the more than 44,000 in the city that need work done in preparation for new fiber lines.

    The One Touch Make Ready ordinance sounds like a no-brainer, but AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and others have argued repeatedly in Nashville and elsewhere that changing the laws for utility pole attachments could lead to network disruptions and outages. Further, AT&T accused Google Fiber in its own blog post this week of seeking favoritism from local governments while incumbent operators have been forced to play by existing rules. AT&T highlighted in the post the amount of money it's spent on network investments nationally -- $140 billion between 2011 and 2015 -- and suggested more or less that Google Fiber stop whining and get to work. (See also Gigabites: Google Gigs Out in Nashville and Gigabites: Google Fiber Fights for Pole Position.)

    Google Fiber, AT&T and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) did reportedly try to come to an agreement over the OTMR ordinance in August. However, after a day of negotiations, there was no compromise in sight. Rich Riebeling, Nashville's COO, said: "While there was some positive progress to work on issues related to the speed at which fiber is rolled out in Nashville, there appears to be a philosophical disagreement between the parties about the need for and nature of legislation that would address the make ready process."

For more gigabit coverage and insights, check out our dedicated gigabit/broadband content channel here on Light Reading.

  • Meanwhile, elsewhere in Google Fiber land, there is no further word yet on whether the rumor is true that the company plans to cut half its staff based on disappointing operating results. (See Google Fiber Downsizing Not Confirmed.)

    However, the slow rate of deployment over the last five years appears to have hit not only new Fiber cities, but also non-profit organizations in existing areas where Google Fiber is doing business. According to a local NBC news report in Austin, multiple non-profits that were promised free gigabit connections back in 2013 are still waiting.

    • On another regulatory front, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has reportedly decided to back down on its push to stop states from throwing up barriers to new municipal broadband deployments. The agency lost its case in court to exert authority over the issue back in August, and according to a report by The New York Times, the FCC has decided not to appeal the decision, saying that an appeal "would not be the best use of commission resources." (See Is Wheeler's FCC Legacy Now in Doubt?)

    • In other broadband competitive news, PCMag reported this week that for the first time since 2010, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) now has serious competition at the top of the PCMag Speed Index. The publication ranks major ISPs based on a weighted number that combines 80% of average download speeds and 20% of average upload speeds. Verizon FiOS and Comcast are now mathematically tied at the top of that list with a weighted speed measurement of 49.6 Mbit/s.

    • And finally, a few new gigabit deployments kicked off around the country recently. Among them, Smithville Fiber announced an expansion of its gigabit service in the Bloomington, Ind. region, and the ISP Fatbeam donated fiber to provide long-term gigabit service to the University of Idaho's Research Park.

      — Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Mari Silbey

Senior Editor, Cable/Video

Mari Silbey is a senior editor covering broadband infrastructure, video delivery, smart cities and all things cable. Previously, she worked independently for nearly a decade, contributing to trade publications, authoring custom research reports and consulting for a variety of corporate and association clients. Among her storied (and sometimes dubious) achievements, Mari launched the corporate blog for Motorola's Home division way back in 2007, ran a content development program for Limelight Networks and did her best to entertain the video nerd masses as a long-time columnist for the media blog Zatz Not Funny. She is based in Washington, D.C.

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