Louisville’s largest cable and internet provider says the city is giving Google Fiber an unfair advantage, and it wants Mayor Greg Fischer to step in and ease key regulations in the coming weeks.
In a July 28 letter, Charter Communications told Fischer the city’s separate franchise agreements allow Google to operate under less burdensome rules despite the two companies offering local customers similar services.
“There is no justification for different regulatory treatment,” said Jason Keller, Charter’s government liaison. The letter was addressed to Fischer, the 26-member Metro Council and more than five dozen other mayors representing smaller suburban cities.
Charter representatives claim unlike Google, it is obligated to pay money to the city above and beyond the millions in tax proceeds Louisville receives; to provide free internet and cable television to dozens of city-owned buildings; and provide costly government channels, as well as a studio for public access channels.
Kellie Watson, Fischer’s general counsel, said in a statement that Charter “raised some interesting issues and ideas” but that the administration will need to consult with the county attorney’s office given the franchise agreement involves federal regulations.
Charter representatives said they are unaware of any federal regulatory or judicial determination that their and Google’s services may be subject to different franchise treatment. The cable company is requesting Fischer inform them if he will address their concerns by August 15.
“Consumers win when they have a fair choice of service providers,” said Mike Pedelty, a Charter spokesman. “That’s why Louisville Metro and the area’s suburban cities should make sure all like service providers are treated the same.”
Pedelty said services such as cable programming, on-demand offerings and high-speed internet will look the same as Google Fiber’s from the customer’s perspective.
Charter bought Time Warner Cable for $65 billion this year, making it the second-largest TV and internet provider in the country. It obtained the local cable-television rights to serve an estimated 140,000 households last December when it pledged to greatly improve internet access and download speeds at a lower price.
Louisville has been at the center of an ongoing battle between communication giants since the city passed a “One Touch Make Ready” ordinance that allows Google Fiber and other high-speed internet providers to install new equipment on utility poles owned by other companies. The measure was seen as an incentive for Google Fiber to select Louisville as one of its next destinations.
AT&T and Time Warner Cable lobbied heavily against the proposal, which they criticized as allowing Google to move their equipment to make way for their own. Both companies have filed suit against the city over the ordinance in federal court.
Reporter Phillip M. Bailey can be reached at (502) 582-4475 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Metro Council passes a measure to help make Louisville more attractive to Google Fiber and other fiber providers. Scott Utterback/The CJ