AT&T got annoyed this week by a City of Austin plan aimed at making it easier for Austin-area competitors to attach to city utility poles. The Austin City Council planned to vote this week to change rules that would now require AT&T let Google lease space on their towers. The City Council argued this change was necessary to minimize disruptions, and prevent redundant pole installations as Google begins to install its 1 Gbps network.
The city of Austin owns about 80% of the city's telephone poles, and AT&T owns the other 20%. Austin appears well within their right-of-way rights to require AT&T share their poles, and Google says they're happy to pay. At the same time, AT&T appears well within their rights to argue Google technically isn't a telecom company
, and therefore that under current laws AT&T doesn't have to share their poles:
The proposed action has ruffled feathers with AT&T officials, as the telecommunications company says shouldn't have to allow the Internet giant access to its poles across the city...Tracy King, AT&T’s vice president for public affairs, said in a written statement that Google "appears to be demanding concessions never provided any other entity before."
While AT&T might be arguing an accurate technicality (depending on Google's standing in Texas), the telco (with a long history of anti-competitive behavior in its back pocket) has every motivation to slow Google's build since they're deploying their own, competing fiber to the press release service to select high-end developments
in Austin. AT&T this week announced
they're providing $70 1 Gbps service in Austin -- but only if
users are willing to have all of their web behavior monitored with deep packet inspection.
Regardless, AT&T's protests now appear irrelevant as Google and AT&T are close to hammering out a pole attachment agreement
without the need for Austin to change any rules
. Just not before a little whining from AT&T.