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Google Fiber Goes To Final Vote In Nashville, But A Lawsuit Is Waiting

An AT&T crew works on a utility pole in the Germantown neighborhood.
Tony Gonzalez / WPLN
An AT&T crew works on a utility pole in the Germantown neighborhood.

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A complicated and feisty Metro Council debate led to a surprisingly clear vote on Tuesday night — with the council voting assertively in favor of a “One Touch Make Ready” policy to govern how companies attach high-speed internet cables to utility poles.

The procedural vote — a second of three required for passage — is a win for Google Fiber. The company wants to bring its service to the city but says existing work policies are severely delaying its implementation and entrenching advantages held by Comcast and AT&T.

To even get to the council vote, members spent much of the afternoon discussing utility poles and then, at the full meeting, battled over two procedural matters.

But the bottom line, said Councilman Anthony Davis, is that residents “want a solution and they want it now.”

“Delay only services to perpetuate the problem and deny opportunity and choice for these residents of Nashville and Davidson County," he said. "You see they’re hear. You’ve heard from them. Calls and emails. They want a solution and they want it now.”

Davis has championed the policy, which he and Google say would streamline the process of attaching fiber wires. His biggest hurdle on Tuesday was to convince his peers to vote at all, as there was a push to defer the matter until December to allow the companies to continue discussing a compromise that didn't require legislation.

Councilman Bob Mendes led the push to delay for two reasons:

  • AT&T says it will sue if the bill passes
  • Google Fiber’s unwillingness to discuss options other than the council bill

“[Google’s] hard and fast rule was they would not discuss an agreement. They would only talk about an ordinance,” Mendes said. “This isn’t a delay forever. And it throws down the gauntlet to all the parties to find a solution.”

But Mendes drew out sharp responses. Councilman Jeremy Elrod said the companies involved are like “oil and water” and unlikely to agree. He also said Metro should not give in to a “bullying” lawsuit.

“These parties have all been speaking to each other on a national level for years," added Councilman Robert Swope. "They all go back and forth, but nothing gets solved.”

Despite extremely narrow votes on preliminary matters, and debates about several amendments, the council ultimately advanced One Touch Make Ready on a vote of 32-7.

Statements from the companies after the vote were expected: Google “pleased” and “disappointed" for Comcast and AT&T.

“The bottom line is, nobody wants this not to happen," Councilwoman Sheri Weiner said. "But we want a comprehensive solution, and we would like it to come from the players. You can’t come and ask us for legislation and then sit down and say I’m not going to talk.”

Copyright 2016 WPLN News

Tony Gonzalez, a reporter in Nashville since July 2011, covers city news, features inspiring people, and seeks out offbeat stories. He’s also an award-winning juggler and hot chicken advocate who lives in East Nashville with his wife, a professional bookbinder. During his time at The Tennessean newspaper, his investigative reporting and feature stories were honored in the state and nationally. Gonzalez grew up near Chicago and came to Nashville after three years reporting and editing at Virginia's smallest daily newspaper, The News Virginian.