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Judge throws out AT&T lawsuit challenging Louisville utility ordinance aimed at luring Google Fiber

August 29, 2017 By Molly White in

As seen in Insider Louisville: U.S. District County Judge David Hale issued a summary judgement against AT&T in its lawsuit against the city on Wednesday, which had challenged Louisville’s “one touch” ordinance passed last year in order to lure Google Fiber into expanding its broadband network to the city.

Local officials praised the ruling as affirming the city’s control over its own rights-of-way, though AT&T might still appeal the judge’s decision and keep the case going as Google Fiber begins its infrastructure work within Louisville.

The “one touch” ordinance passed last year allowed any telecommunications company to temporarily rearrange any existing infrastructure of its competitors on utility poles in the city rights-of-way, speeding up what was often a lengthy process that required multiple crews from different companies to be present at the same time when such work was done.

Google Fiber, which was considering an expansion into Louisville at the time, heavily lobbied city officials for the ordinance, while other providers such as AT&T and Time Warner Cable opposed it.

AT&T — which has greatly expanded its own fiber network throughout Louisville since that time — eventually sued the city over this ordinance, claiming that it did not have the authority to do so without permission from state and federal regulators. The FCC would eventually side with the city, and Judge Hale affirmed in his ruling Wednesday that Louisville’s government had the authority to do so, as it “has an important interest in managing its public rights-of-way to maximize efficiency and enhance public safety.”

In a very brief statement, Mayor Greg Fischer’s spokesman Chris Poynter would only say that “the city is very please with the ruling.” Joe Burgan, the local spokesman for AT&T, said that the company was “currently reviewing the decision and our next steps,” but declined to say whether AT&T would appeal the decision.

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell, who defended the city in the lawsuit, issued a statement that the ruling “affirms that the citizens of Louisville still have control over the roads and rights of way that they own. We believe the decision is well-reasoned and trust it will survive any potential scrutiny.”

Councilman Bill Hollander also said the ruling was good news for Louisville’s residents, calling the one touch regulation “common sense regulation of the public rights-of-way, reducing the traffic and sidewalk disruptions required when multiple crews perform work on the same utility pole.”

A spokesperson for Google Fiber said the company was “thrilled” with the ruling,” as it had long said that “local governments have the right to determine how to manage their rights of way and create processes that pave the way for broadband choice for their residents.” The Google spokesperson also encouraged other cities to take the lead of Louisville by creating similar utility pole regulations, calling the one touch ordinance “an example of how cities can be leaders in lowering barriers to broadband deployment in their communities.”

Chip Pickering, the CEO of INCOMPAS — a national trade association advocating for competition policy across all internet networks — called the court decision in favor of Louisville’s city government “a win for competition, consumers and local communities who have been leading the fight against broadband monopolies who are blocking faster speeds, better service and lower prices.” Read More