Charter Sues Louisville To Slow Non-Existent Google Fiber Rollout Citing Preferential Treatment

In the city of Nashville, Tennessee, Google Fiber is running into trouble with incumbents who are trying to slow its rollout of gigabit internet service. Google Fiber has limited service within the city, and is dependent on gaining access to utility poles to expand its footprint. However, Comcast and AT&T are making that process incredibly difficult.

Google Fiber is butting up against an even more peculiar problem in the city of Louisville, Kentucky. Charter Communications has sued the city for giving what it considers preferential treatment to not only Google Fiber, but also rival AT&T. Charter claims that both Google Fiber and AT&T are signing up for new sweetheart franchise deals with the city — deals that are superior in scope to the ones that Charter agreed to many moons ago.

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As a result, Charter (which operates in Louisville through its subsidiary, Insight) says that it shouldn’t be required to comply with its existing franchise contract and that it wants to renew with the same favorable terms afforded to Google Fiber and AT&T. Among the issues that Charter brings up is the fact that it must provide free internet access to dozens of city buildings and that its current contract "imposes substantial costs and other burdens.”

A Charter spokesman put the situation into terms that Louisville residents can easily understand. "[It’s] like requiring the University of Louisville to use the NBA 3-point line, while its opponents use the closer college line," said Charter’s Mike Pedelty. "More burdensome regulation inevitably means a higher cost to do business and ultimately higher prices for customers. We're simply asking the court to ensure the equal treatment state and federal law require.”

Comcast goes on to state in the lawsuit that it isn’t trying to stifle competition, just that it wants a fair shake in the marketplace:

Understanding that the video market place is increasingly competitive, Insight does not shy from the challenges offered by additional competition and expects to be successful wherever it stands on an equal footing with its competitors. But fair competition requires that the government, whatever its motives, treat similarly situated speakers the same and not unfairly weight one side of the regulatory scale.

So the bottom line is Charter signed a contract, its [potential] competitors were able to score more favorable terms, and now Charter wants to void its contract and start from scratch, instead of waiting for the contract period to end. The lawsuit also calls into question a Louisville Metro ordinance allowing Google Fiber and AT&T to move existing equipment attached to utility poles to install service (a problem that Google Fiber has run into in Nashville), which it says could potentially damage Charter equipment.

It should be noted that Google Fiber has only selected Louisville as a potential city to gain service. It hasn’t been given the go ahead for the city to officially join the Google Fiber fold.