Meeting Held To Resolve Google Fiber Roll Out Issues

Posted at 9:40 PM, Aug 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-24 16:09:00-04

In 2015, Google's announcement that it was bringing Fiber quickly spread to excited residents in Nashville.

Yet, a year and a half later, according to the Google Fiber website, only a handful of apartments had access to Google Fiber. Hundreds more had the promise it's coming.

Last week, a company representative hinted Google might pull out of Middle Tennessee. He cited recent frustrations with obstacles to Fiber's rollout.

"There is a chance we could lose Google Fiber in the Nashville market," said Metro Council Member Anthony Davis, who has been working with Google on a proposal.

Councilman Davis proposed "One Touch Make Ready," to give Google access to utility poles without going through the current process that includes a crew from the pole's owner as well as a Google contractor.

"We wouldn't necessarily know in advance if that work had been done," said AT&T Tennessee President Joelle Phillips.

For AT&T, which owns thousands of poles and has it's own fiber program dubbed AT&T Gigapower, the proposal is fixing something that is not broken.

"We have a contract with Google and we're doing all that work on a timely basis that's consistent with our contract," Phillips said.

AT&T works with companies including Google, sharing access to its utility poles. Each has a separate team and a 45-day timeline to do its part.

Phillips said giving up control of AT&T's poles will destroy their promise to their union employees who work on them. She also said it's a safety issue.

"We've found a pretty fair number of times that the engineering designs that come with their application don't meet our standards," Phillips said.

Comcast has also expressed reservations. The proposal would let Google's approved contractors move their wires.

But Google's argument can be summarized as why send two crews when you can send one?

"It just makes the process a lot more efficient," said Councilmember Davis.

While the companies won't agree on the One Touch proposal, they accepted Metro's invitation to negotiate behind closed doors.

"It kind of lives up to our tradition in Nashville to work out a solution business to business rather than have the Council mandate a solution for us," Phillips said.

When asked what kind of compromises they might be willing to make, Phillips mentioned the possibility of changing the application process to make it faster, grouping several nearby utility poles together rather than requiring an application for each. She also said shortening their 45-day deadline might be a possibility.

Google declined an interview, but both it and Comcast said they were looking forward to the chance to work together. They sent the following statements:

“We’re looking forward to meeting in good faith to ensure Nashville citizens can benefit from efficient, quick deployment of super-fast Internet.” – Amol Naik, Google Fiber's Southeast head of external affairs.

"We appreciate Mayor Barry, Director Cooper and Mr. Jenkins bringing the parties together to devise improvements to the current permitting and make-ready processes. Comcast is coming to the meeting with substantive solutions to shorten the time line to deploy broadband in Nashville and ensure public safety that work for everyone, and we’re looking forward to a productive exchange with the other stakeholders." - Sara Jo Walker, Comcast Director of Public Relations

The meeting kicked off at 10 a.m. Wednesday, and Metro has been keeping the negotiations confidential.

Representatives sent this letter to those involved, outlining the ground rules for the negotiations.