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Could Jax Google Fiber deal fall through?

In late October, Jacksonville public officials trumpeted Google considering Jacksonville for Google Fiber implementation.

In the past two months, meetings between public officials and Google representatives have laid out terms, point by point, and a review of city emails reveals a potential sticking point: the pole attachment agreement.

Paul Cosgrave, PIO for JEA, lays out the issue in an email to city officials.

JEA had a meeting last week with them to go over the Pole Attachment agreement.  Google has proposed a 10-page addendum to our standard agreement and after a four-hour discussion we have pretty much worked out and agreed to the additional terms. One issue that we have agreed-to, but they feel very strong about and may bring to your attention is a provision in the agreement: item 4.2 entitled “One-Touch-Make Ready.”

This provision allows a carrier to move other carriers wires and facilities within the communications space on a pole in the event that they must install a new pole due to an overload of an existing pole or due to other issues such as the other carrier having installed their lines incorrectly, or other issue. This is a standard term that we are attempting to get into all the pole attachment agreements and it is quite complicated so I won’t get into all the details.

Google feels it is critical because they believe that other carriers have used the lack of this provision as an anti-competitive technique to slow them down. The result of not having this agreement in place is that we can end up with multiple poles in the same exact location and/or the carrier gets blocked from installing their equipment. Clearly, having to have two poles standing side-by-side for a long period of time, is an issue that we all wish to avoid, as there can be safety as well as appearance issues, and from Google’s perspective, they clearly don’t want to get blocked by their competitors.

This is something we have been attempting to get into all the pole attachment agreements for a number of years, but have been blocked by one vendor in particular (AT&T), who has claimed that only their CWA union people are allowed to move their lines/equipment. Google claims this has been a real issue with AT&T in other jurisdictions. We are in the process of renegotiating AT&T’s and Comcast’s agreements, and we have informed Google that we will push them both to agree to the suggested Google wording in their agreements. We are not sure if they will accept our stated position, and they may be looking for CoJ to mandate the “One-Touch-Make-Ready” terms. I think we would all like to avoid getting to that point, as that will most likely stir up additional issues with the other carriers.

Notable about the October news conference was Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry insisting that  Jacksonville’s current capabilities just aren’t enough … a contention most users of broadband Internet locally share. Google Fiber, he said, would “enhance speed up to 85 times faster,” which would be a “big deal on the economic front” and “make Jacksonville a destination city.”

Twenty-first century needs seem to be at direct war with 20th-century approaches to infrastructure. It is entirely possible that the existing vendors, whose operations are larded with legacy costs and union obligations, may make the cost of doing business for Google prohibitive.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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