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AT&T says slow pole access due to Google Fiber providing bad drawings

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Susan Montgomery/123RF
It’s not us, it’s them. When Google Fiber first informed cities that were on the list for service about a delay, many assumed it was because of the cost of putting cable underground and the well-publicized difficulties involved in gaining access to utility poles owned by other companies, specifically Comcast and AT&T.

Subsequent news that Google Fiber may be shifting its gigabit internet plans for other reasons notwithstanding, AT&T recently explained why it withheld pole access in an interview with FierceTelecom, as reported by Ars Technica.  The bottom line, according to AT&T, is that Google Fiber provided faulty information about where cables would be attached. In other words, “It’s them, not us.”

Nashville, Tennessee is a case in point. AT&T was getting heat for the slow Google Fiber rollout in Nashville. According to Joelle Phillips, AT&T Tennessee president, errors in required engineering drawings submitted by Google Fiber were the show-stopper.

“We have had some problems in that part of the process,” said Phillips. “Their drawings frequently would not engineer the job in the way we think is appropriate.” Sometimes, added Phillips, “they have our lines too low to meet the national safety code.”

Another issue is the “One Touch Make Ready” local ordinance Google Fiber has been trying to get approved in Nashville. A similar ordinance was passed in Louisville, Kentucky. AT&T is suing to stop the ordinance in Louisville and said it would likely sue if One Touch Make Ready was passed in Nashville.

Once Touch Make Ready allows one company to make any changes needed when moving cables around on utility poles. In this case, Google Fiber would be able to move AT&T cables while installing its own cables. AT&T doesn’t want Google Fiber contractors to move its cables, especially if it believes the engineering documents are wrong in the first place.

“Let’s assume they hire the very best contractors, if they give those engineering plans that we get in our application to that contractor I know that’s work that’s going to be done all over again,” Phillips said. “I am seeing many of those that have errors in them that would be corrected so it’s really not so much that they would hire bad contractors but that they might give them bad instructions.”

Against this backdrop of regulation, hesitation, negotiation, and litigation, changes may be coming. Google Fiber may be changing from all fiber optic cable to a high-speed point-to-point wireless technology or perhaps a hybrid of the two. Reports that Google Fiber is regrouping and cutting staff in half also surfaced this week, although nothing has been announced by Google Fiber.

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