back to article Competition? No way! AT&T says it will sue to keep Google Fiber out of Louisville, Kentucky

AT&T is suing to block the city of Louisville from moving forward with its plan to bring in the Google Fiber service. The telecoms giant filed a complaint [PDF] in federal court on Thursday seeking to prevent the Kentucky's largest city, and Jefferson County, from allowing Google's contractors to access utility poles in order …

  1. Gannettt

    Bad losers. I love the way they cite FCC rules, rules that they or their trade association, lobbied hard for.

    I don't have any figures, but anecdotally wherever Google Fiber comes to town, a huge swathe of subscribers promptly jump ship to them.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      " anecdotally wherever Google Fiber comes to town"

      Or any other competition for that matter.

      People are only with AT&T because there's no other choice.

      "We don't care. We don't have to. We're the phone company"

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Bad losers

      More like corrupt winners. If as the incumbents claim, the following part of the law is true:

      Under the new ordinance, where a third party seeks to attach equipment to a utility pole in the rights-of-way and AT&T already has lines or other equipment on the pole, the third party may remove, alter, and relocate AT&T’s facilities as it deems necessary,

      It is unworkable, probably properly illegal under FCC rules, and unconstitutional to boot. Given they've claimed this as a fact in the court claims, and that presenting a lie as a material fact DOES constitute perjury, I think it is reasonable to believe this claim is accurate. You simply can't have third party contractors coming in and making changes to competitors cabling whilly-nilly. And given the crap some of the "professional installers" have pulled when I've had services installed, the city invited this lawsuit in not writing the law properly. The properly written law would ONLY give third party installers access to run their lines on the poles. Not the right to change (quite possibly breaking) a competitors lines.

  2. Mark 85 Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    If AT&T and the other few telcos left had fulfilled their promises and done the right thing would Google even be interested in rolling out fiber? The blame in this case, rests with them.

    Where I'm at, CenturyLink (formerlyQwest) has been saying for almost 10 years now that "you'll be getting fiber in the next 12 months. Hasn't happened. They haven't even started laying the backbone fiber yet.

    Fool me once, shame on you,. Fool me twice, shame on me. Lately that's all the telcos in the States have done is try to fool everyone from the FCC/FTC down to the customers. A pox on them.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      The telcos are having problems with POTS and DSL services being competitive with cellphones and cable/fiber services on this side. Mostly it is because they are run by two of the lowest life forms: shysters and beancounters. They have no grasp that they need to adapt or die a very slow, lingering death.

    2. Someone Else Silver badge

      @Mark 85

      ..or as a(n in)famous President once malaproped: Fool me once, shame on you,. Fool me twice ... won't get fooled again!.

      Can 'malaprop' be used as a verb...?

    3. Preston Munchensonton

      If AT&T and the other few telcos left had fulfilled their promises and done the right thing would Google even be interested in rolling out fiber?

      This isn't even the question to ask, since AT&T, the other telcos, and Google are not in business to "do the right thing", whatever the fuck that is.

      We should question why no one else has bothered to enter those markets when there's so much money to be made by whoever can introduce cheaper/faster/better services. All signs point to FCC rules protecting those big bad telcos. People can deny the "magic" of markets all they want, but no one can deny that large sums of money attract all comers to give it a shot to knock off the incumbent market participants. When that doesn't happen, it should be bleedingly obvious to anyone willing to ask such questions.

      1. P. Lee

        >We should question why no one else has bothered to enter those markets when there's so much money to be made by whoever can introduce cheaper/faster/better services.

        Because few companies have the spare cash and the inclination to. The physical networks are expensive to set up. To succeed in an established business these days, you have to already have a vastly profitable other business to fund it. Google could only move into phones because Search was so lucrative. It could only move into infrastructure because Search is so lucrative.

        At best you have to deal with lawsuits like this which aim to be a legal block. Small, less well funded competitors can be wiped out with expensive lawsuits alone, regardless of the outcome. Medium-sized competitors can be killed with a short-term price-war. Knowing that previous vast profits and profits from other geographical areas can fund future competitive efforts against new entrants, is often enough to stop anyone trying.

        This is the problem with mega-companies: too much profit prevents small competitors from growing.

        1. tom dial Silver badge

          Much of the problem has to do with exclusive franchises to cable operators that municipalities arranged years ago. Those that still live are a significant restriction on potential competitors. Without such a limitation and with a business plan able to convince a banker, a potential competitor might not need deep pockets to deploy new service, although tactics like at&t's in this case could throw additional sand in the gears if they own the poles.

          Where I used to live, at&t a few years ago made a push to compete with Cox by promising more (channels and speed) for fewer dollars. Initially they got a good deal of uptake with a free-for-a-month-cancel-at-no-cost offer. I tried it, and was quite irritated that their installer apparently made a conscious effort to destroy Cox's cabling, along with part of mine. I would have kept it, though, if it had not provided lower speed than Cox as well as significantly lower than the "up-to" speed on the contract. When I reverted to Cox, the installer said they were doing that quite a lot, and a number of my neighbors reported experience similar to mine. In this case, the power company owned the poles, and at&t already had wires on them. They simply wouldn't or couldn't compete with cable, possibly because they were using the POTS drop to the houses.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "but no one can deny that large sums of money attract all comers to give it a shot to knock off the incumbent market participants."

        Yeah, right that's how it works.

        Maybe you could put a few million up and start laying fibre and see how long it takes for the big boys to suddenly realise that their plans to lay fibre have just become economic and pump in many more millions and get their system upgraded before you've barely started. Oops, you just lost your investment. Or they may let you finish to prove they aren't a monopoly and then they'll "compete" on price. Until you go bust.

        THAT'S how it works. You have to be big enough to win before you even start, or at least be prepared to risk losing.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "Or they may let you finish to prove they aren't a monopoly and then they'll "compete" on price. Until you go bust."

          And then they buy up your assets for pennies on the dollar.

          Unsurprisingly, this is how AT&T built their network in the first place and is what led to the 1930s antitrust settlements.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "All signs point to FCC rules protecting those big bad telcos. "


        It's happening at state level.

        The Public Utilities Commissions have granted legislated local monopolies to the telcos almost forever and it's pretty clear that some pretty larges amounts of backscratching is going on, given the promises being made in exchange for those concessions (and large sums of state govt money) that keep getting broken, yet the PUCs continue to add more rights and toss more money at the telcos without asking any questions.

      4. Tom 13

        Re: All signs point to FCC rules protecting

        No they don't.

        I went home to visit my folks this weekend. Dad finally decided to switch from FIOS to Comcast. They've had FIOS for the last 5 or so years. When they moved in, they said they hadn't rolled out the tv service component yet, but were going to shortly. Since it was supposed to be soon he picked up Dish for satellite. It has the usual problems, signal goes out during thunderstorms about 25% of the time and they get thunderstorms often enough that it's annoying. He'll save $50/month in the process.

        There's no FCC reason stopping Verizon from delivering tv service. There's no cost of running lines because the fiber has already been run. It simply boils down to Verizon running the numbers and deciding they wouldn't make money running the tv service after taking into account the start up costs for the service center to do it.

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Where I'm at, CenturyLink (formerlyQwest) has been saying for almost 10 years now that "you'll be getting fiber in the next 12 months. Hasn't happened. They haven't even started laying the backbone fiber yet."

      The 10 trillion dollar scam is that the telcos have been getting concessions and grants from state governments for these rollouts, not doing it, then going back for more. AT&T has managed to reassemble itself (in 2 parts to avoid the FTC taking action) without that pesky "universal service to all" obligation from the last antitrust settlement and shut down all competition in the process. There are no CLECs left in the USA.

  3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Just the American Way

    If you can't compete sue the comptition.

    Lawyers, don't you just love them (not)

  4. All names Taken

    ". Lately that's all the telcos in the States have done is try to fool everyone from the FCC/FTC down to the customers. A pox on them."

    Aha! Here is the UK our big (and only?) telco (BT) has been using similar tactics but BT is not that,well, bright (?) so I wondered where it was getting the examples from.

    Now I know ...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    When you can't innovate--litigate!!

    AT&T, you might actually consider competing on the basis of service offerings, quality and customer service, instead of the size of your legal team.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: When you can't innovate--litigate!!

      Given my experiences when attempting to add a internet only service to my house from one of these triple play vendors, AT&T is quite right to be concerned that Google's installers will maliciously destroy cabling if given the chance.

  6. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    LIst AT&T board of directors

    ..under the heading "these people are terrorists ... shoot to kill on sight."

  7. Captain DaFt

    Hey, AT&T!

    The demand's been there for years, the fiber's been there for years, and you've done sweet F-all.

    And now that someone else is willing to use the fiber to meet the demand, you're squealing, "No fair!"?

    Go play leapfrog with a unicorn already!

  8. Justin Pasher

    Pole dancing

    So who owns the poles? Did AT&T pay to install them or was it paid for by the city. If AT&T paid for them, I can see their argument (to an extent). If the city paid for them, why does AT&T think they have the ultimate authority over them (barring any other agreements from when the poles were first installed).

    Now I do see how the authority given to the third parties in regards to putting up their lines can be a little concerning, especially since AT&T is the ones that have to "pay" for any outages.

    1. leexgx

      Re: Pole dancing

      it is the cheapest way to do it with fiber they norm have fiber Pots that sit just below the top of the poles (or one of them) so they can then quickly then get that to the premises (if its underground it can take months for them to do it so most in the UK will not offer FTTP unless it drop cable serviced, or the Ducts under the ground are new and clear)

      in the UK if you're not served by a pole expect a poorer service and don't expect fibre in the next 20 years if your cable comes from under ground

      they local state gives out permission to companies to use the poles and AT&T just wants to maintain their monopoly (so what a lot of states are doing is giving google its Own category , "like Lease line internet only company" which is not a cable service, so to bypass local monopoly agreements that norm prevent other ISPs from moving in)

      if AT&T or who ever owns the monopoly in that area can't be bothered to offer Fibre or higher speed DOCSIS service (COMCAST....) or even Bother to maintain their copper network (other news) then here comes google fibre it's Cheap as well (i wish they would come to the UK)

      1. Preston Munchensonton

        Re: Pole dancing

        "it is the cheapest way to do it with fiber"

        It's also the safest, given the number of times that these shysters digging trenches end up hitting natural gas or water lines.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Pole dancing

          But sometimes, you have no choice but to go underground. For example, if you're in a storm-prone (by that I mean hurricane/typhoon/cyclone) area or a very northern latitude where freezing is frequent. Or you're near an airport or other place where airspace is restricted. Of course, if you're in a quake-prone or rocky area or have a high water table, underground is no-go.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Pole dancing

          " given the number of times that these shysters digging trenches end up hitting natural gas or water lines."

          On the other hand....

          cars and poles don't mix.

          Nor do ice stroms or other forms of heavy weather.

          Cities tend to try and underground their services for practical reasons (downed poles close roads) but precious few of them do the obvious thing and put their own ducts in, then lease to the telcos.

        3. kiwimuso

          Re: Pole dancing

          Why would they need to dig trenches?

          Haven't they heard of horizontal drilling? All the fibre laid here in NZ is done with that. They lay the initial ducting first, then pull through the cable at a later date.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Pole dancing

        "i wish they would come to the UK"

        Unlikely. BT own their poles and their ducts. Virginmedia own their ducts. Google would have to find another way to run cables cheaply, probably involving renting sewer access.

        On slightly brighter note, VM have started cabling up new areas now so competition might be hotting up a bit.

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Pole dancing

      AT&T can't prohibit the city from giving Google access to the poles. That isn't the objection. The objection is that the city gave Google the right to move AT&T's already installed equipment. The city was wrong to grant that right, and you should expect the courts to properly bitch slap them for it. You sure as hell wouldn't be all in if AT&T were moving into a Google fiber area and got the right to move Google's fiber whenever they felt like it.

  9. IanTP

    So the most advanced country on the planet (citation needed) still hang wires from poles? Over the pond here they are out of the way underground. :) Well its Friday and i'm on the beer :)

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. whoseyourdaddy

      Its faster, cheaper, and easier to hang them above than bury them below.

      San Diego residents discovered drawbacks of underground fiber when Spr*nt decided to dig a trench through ten miles of freshly paved road to exercise their right/contract to do such a thing.

      6 months of large steel plates and traffic snarls while they sloooowly did their thing.

      Fail, Spr*nt.

      In the end, what's 1GB to the house good for besides a good DDOS attack?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "dig a trench"

        How very 20th century of them! Around here it all seems to be "trenchless digging" with steerable horizontal drill machines these days for new stuff. Roads only seem to get dug up to repair old gas/water/electrickery pipes/lines that have been there for years. I just watched a new gas main be installed that way over the last few months with little to no disruption. They drilled beside the road not on it.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        " Spr*nt decided to dig a trench through ten miles of freshly paved road"

        Sensible councils make all the companies involved sign an agreement that they won't touch the road for 10 years, hodling off the work until any trenching's done.

        Companies which break the agreement get to pay the full cost of making good on the damage, plus penalty charges. Even with code access this can be made to stick if the telcos have agreed that all work for the forseeable future is already done.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      It depends on what city you're in or even if you're in a city. Much is underground, much is hanging in the air overall. Where I am, there's almost nothing on poles... except dancers.

      1. leexgx

        there are exceptions to the pole rules as some places have large walk ways under the ground or lots of pipes

  10. Uncle Ron


    I find it hilarious that corporations--and many/most businessman--promote, plead for, espouse, demand, and lobby/bribe politicians, to obtain, "de-regulation." They literally WORSHIP at the altar of "de-regulation."

    Except, whenever something they don't like happens--then they go whimpering and sometimes screaming to the regulators to get them to regulate their competitors out of business, and/or enact further regulations for their own protection--very, very often, at the expense of you and me. Hilarious.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: De-regulation

      Except that the city DID overstep their bounds when they gave AT&T's competitor's the right to change AT&T's stuff. They should get bitch slapped for it. So should Google. They should have foreseen the problems with this wording and insisted on wording that wouldn't.

  11. Charles Manning

    Oh the Irony!

    Many of the people bleating here when competition serves them well and brings them better, faster, cheaper stuff are the same people that bitch like hell when competition comes to their area of business.

    Mexican comes to town and give us cheaper lawn care and tomatoes... great.

    Fibre coming to town $20/month less than anything on offer.... great.

    People using cloud instead of BOFHs... bad.

    Job being outsourced to India ..... bad.

    Personally I'm pro competition in our industry too. It helps weed out the idiots of which there are far too many in our midst.

    1. Mephistro

      Re: Oh the Irony!

      Those examples you gave in your comment are totally different and putting them in the same bag is a little bit disingenuous. What you're saying is that all competition is good, or that all competition is bad. Please allow me to dissect the examples you gave:

      - "Mexican comes to town...": That somehow gets balanced by the exports/imports balance between the USA and Mexico, and by the fact that Americans aren't exactly queuing for those kinds of jobs.

      - "People using cloud instead of BOFHs...": The 'cloud' concept has many serious issues -e.g. security, privacy, consumer lock-in, downtime, lack of control over company's IT, you name it - and this forum is full of people that understands and sometimes suffer those issues.

      - "Fibre coming to town $20/month less...": which may have something to do with the fact that in most places -not only in the USA- telcos work in a monopoly or oligopoly regime. Generally speaking, people doesn't like to be fleeced.

      - "Job being outsourced to India...": This forum is full of examples of the end results of said outsourcing. The quality of the code produced, the quality of service, the lack of security and privacy and the fact that American -in this case- workers have to compete against people that usually work for a pittance in less than ideal conditions, all these circumstances explain why "outsourcing to India" is not a popular concept in technical forums like these in ElReg.

      Apples and oranges, Mr. Manning.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh the Irony!

        I have to agree with Mephistro.

        All too often low quality outsourcing / cloud products are Plan A whilst freelance tech guys like myself are Plan B.

        I dont mind being Plan B, however, it does mean that there is significantly less cash in the budget when I finally do get called in.

        Id probably be living in a house rather than a shitty flat with my family if CEOs made the right choice and werent forced to hammer me down in price.

        Oh and its not the threat of competition thats the issue with outsourcing, I'll never feel threatened by unskilled cretins...its the spunking of caluable cash up the wall thats the problem.

  12. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    Two questions. Off a Google contractor causes an outage for another carrier's customers, who repairs and/or party's for the repairs? Google, the contractor or the affected carrier?

    And does the ruling stipulate that Amy compression should be payable to the affected customers?

    Here in the UK a contractor damaging infrastructure is billed for the costs of the damage which would include any service credits the Telco had to pay.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: Two questions

      First up, minor nit. oes the ruling stipulate Since it's the city government, it's the rule or law. The courts are the ones being asked to issue a ruling, which is different.

      No it doesn't. If it did it would be transparent that the law was poorly written and ought to be tossed out. In the US AT&T would have to take Google to court and win the case to recover the damages. Which sort of moots recovering the costs in most instances (because winning the case will cost as much or more than just fixing what got broke and paying service credits).

      So in all all, two thumbs up for spotting the actual potential issues with the rule and not just jumping on the freetard bandwagon. Even if it does wind up being AT&T that is defended.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm more surprised they still use poles...

    ... I wonder when US will actually modernize its infrastructure instead of keeping on append cables to poles - more modern countries put them underground - also less issues when weather gets really bad, and less vulnerable to bad people and drunken truck drivers.

    Google could have dug its cable trenches, instead of trying to use old Samuel Morse... ehm, AT&T poles.

    1. ITS Retired

      Re: I'm more surprised they still use poles...

      When Google strung their fiber through my neighborhood, there was literately no way they could have buried their fiber in the right of way. You can't even walk through back there. Between lack of room between fences, garages, sheds and other outbuildings, there was no way to get any kind of trencher through there. Hand digging is out of the question as too expensive and too hands on.

      So they strung it on the excising power poles, that already hat AT&T and cable hung on them. They were here and gone from the neighborhood in a couple of days, instead of several weeks.

      Except for one burn-in equipment failure in the beginning, the Internet service has been up 100% for a couple of years now.

      Oh, and the excising competition has up their speeds and lowered there prices. So every on is happy except for AT&T and the cable companies.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm more surprised they still use poles...

        US is not the only country with such issues, just everybody else bury them. Venice has fibers, and not on poles, despite being flooded from time to time. Machinery to quickly dug cables trenches exists too. There are countries were buildings are far more ancient and closer to each other than in the US, narrow roads, and cables still get underground.

        It's just like US railroads, another ancient infrastructure US are utterly unable to modernize despite everybody else switching to high-speed trains (and usually high-speed cables are also laid down besides high-speed lines, and not on the poles...). It's the "we just need quick money immediately" mindset that is slowly killing US.

        Being a modern country goes beyond having some fiber networks, especially if they still hang on wooden poles.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'm more surprised they still use poles...

          Venice doesn't suffer earthquakes the way California and other places, too. The United States is actually very well-trained in getting above-ground infrastructure back up during a disaster, which is not so easy when an underground line corrodes or breaks (a big problem with underground infrastructure, as anyone who's had to live through a sewer or water main break can attest, including yours truly).

          And when it comes to trains, everybody else is a lot SMALLER. Distance matters with trains. Unless you can show a country that can do high-speed trains thousands of miles...over mountain ranges...

          1. Danny Roberts 1

            Re: I'm more surprised they still use poles...

            erm, China?


            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: I'm more surprised they still use poles...

              Distance I'll grant you. They're probably short on short-haul air infrastructure (whereas America has plenty) and are more patient. But I don't think any of these routes traverse mountain ranges.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: I'm more surprised they still use poles...

      Whether to go up or down is left to each locality, and each one makes the call depending on the local conditions, which in the United States varies considerably.

      - New York already has a lot of underground infrastructure designed to handle running new stuff, so going down isn't hard.

      - Most of Florida has a high water table. Colorado's up in the Rockies where the bedrock's hard granite. Trying to go down there is too expensive.

      - Going down is not recommended in parts of California due to its problem with earthquakes.

      - Going down OTOH may be worth it if you're in a weather-prone area.

  14. Thrudd


    Poles in NA come in a variety of flavors. Morses telegraph poles paralleled rail lines.

    Bell's telephone network followed roadways and byways. Electric utility lines aka hydro as it is at times refered to had its own right of way and is thanks to Sir Adam Beck and that Tesla fellow.

    In the intervening decades telegraph was retired, phone lines and power got buried except in cash strapped areas or those under a strong monopoly. Now wireless is the Telcom cash cow and copper et al is being abandoned yet competition of any sort is anathema so must be brutally quashed by any means available.

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