For more than a decade, Nashville has acknowledged that its economic vitality depends upon the adequacy of its broadband infrastructure. (See, Report of the Task Force on Telecommunications Innovation, August 2006). This acknowledgement has not led to the kind of private investment necessary to build out the network we need to compete in today’s economy.
Recently, Nashville has had a renewed conversation about this need with the so-called “One Touch Make Ready” ordinance which would expedite the private investment in broadband services. Google Fiber initiated this discussion as they saw how difficult it was to build out their proposed network. The ordinance has received overwhelming support from consumers, and it has already passed a recent Metro Council vote 32-7.
This Tuesday, the Council is set to have its third and final vote. I urge the Council to move forward without any delay.
Here’s what’s at stake. Today, Nashville residents have only two choices when it comes to broadband Internet access – an essential part of our daily lives and our community’s economic development. More competition means lower prices and faster speeds.
For a new company to provide service, it must construct a network across our city, mile by mile, utility pole by utility pole. Unfortunately, the process of attaching new fiber-optic cables to poles is fundamentally broken. Companies who already have their wires on the poles have to move those wires first, so that poles are “made ready” for a new entrant. Each company does this work separately and sequentially – that is, first AT&T will roll a truck into your neighborhood, move its wire, and only after that point will Comcast roll another truck in and move their wire, and so on. This may have made sense decades ago, but it doesn’t make sense in the 21st century.
This system stifles competition, risks our economic vitality and is fundamentally bad for the consumer. The proposed ordinance is a common sense way to address this problem. Rather than having many disruptions and possible safety hazards from multiple crews climbing up poles in our neighborhood, it proposes to have one crew, approved by the pole owner, do all the work in one touch of the pole.
Arguments against opening up our city to competition have abounded.
Why not let the parties hash out an agreement? Well, it’s the city’s responsibility to effectively manage its rights-of-way and only an ordinance can address the dozens of different parties who could be affected today, not to mention the potential future entrants into the market.
Some have argued that this would result in less work for communications workers. To the contrary, this change will result in more work for communications workers by enabling companies to deploy larger networks, faster than without the ordinance.
What if we get sued? The Nashville that I know won’t let a lawyer’s threat scare it away from a policy we think is best; doing so would set a dangerous precedent for the future.
The entrenched will always find an argument against change that threatens their dominance over the consumer. It’s up to the Council to stand up to those arguments on behalf of the consumer. There’s no one else who can.