Why this company is throwing its weight behind AT&T’s lawsuit

Why this company is throwing its weight behind AT&T’s lawsuit

Frontier Communications Corp. doesn’t serve the Louisville market, or even this state.

But the Connecticut telecommunications company is throwing its weight behind another major internet service provider that is fighting in a court case here. Frontier has filed a brief backing AT&T Kentucky in a lawsuit against Louisville Metro Government.

AT&T Kentucky filed the suit earlier this year in an effort to block an ordinance that is seen as making it easier for Google Fiber to enter the market with its gigabit internet service.

Louisville Metro Council passed a measure known as the “Google Fiber ordinance” or “One Touch Make Ready” on Feb. 11. The new rule lets telecom providers, such as Google, ask other companies to install its technology on their poles.

Although other cities have introduced their own local regulations related to allowing third parties to attach equipment to utility poles, Frontier ( NASDAQ: FTR) said in a brief filed last week in U.S. District Court that this one is “unprecedented.”

“It drastically expands the rights of third parties to use privately owned utility poles … in some cases [without the owner] even having knowledge that such third-party intrusion on its facilities is occurring,” the brief said. And Frontier says that if the ordinance is upheld in Louisville, other cities could follow.

Frontier says in its brief that it wasn’t solicited or paid by AT&T. It said it asked permission to weigh in because it thinks the issues raised in the case could have a big impact on its business.

Under the Louisville ordinance, new providers can apply for a city permit to hire a contractor to install the technology if the pole owner doesn’t answer its inquiry within 30 days. The new provider would have to give notice only if service interruptions were expected.

“The Ordinance strips the utility pole owner of the right to negotiate key terms of access that are designed to minimize disruption and delay to the consumer,” Frontier says in its brief. “These terms not only protect the public, but they also safeguard the pole owner’s rights and equipment, as well as the rights and equipment of already existing attachers.

Frontier says that could have a “substantial” impact on consumers because it gives “a totally unrelated third party having obviously less familiarity with the owner’s property” access to equipment. Frontier says that could result in mistakes.

According to Frontier, most cities have worked with pole owners and third parties to reach a mutual agreement on this issue. But according to the AT&T Kentucky suit, Louisville’s rule is out of bounds and beyond the authority of local government.

The suit, BellSouth Telecommunications LLC vs. Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government, claims the ordinance “conflicts with and is pre-empted by the pole attachment regulations of the Federal Communications Commission” and that passing it was beyond the authority of city government.

Several filings have been made in the case, including a motion to dismiss filed by Louisville Metro Government, alleging AT&T’s claims were unfounded. The case is ongoing.

Metro Council has taken other steps to clear a path for Google Fiber here, including passing an ordinance in June that grants Google Fiber’s Kentucky affiliate a franchise for public right-of-way access to install communications infrastructure. Another ordinance allows the metro and suburban cities to sign a common franchise agreement.

 

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