The Battle For Your Pole


If you look outside your home window there is a very good chance that you will see a utility pole with lord knows how many cables attached. It may be bringing power, phone, cable, fiber optic or all of the above. Why would this be of relevance to the Google obsessed like myself…well..let’s see.

If you follow the space you will have noted the FCC title II regulation kerfuffle. In short there is a heated (if very inside baseball) debate about whether Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should be regulated like the power companies as a utility as opposed to just another service. If they do end up being regulated that way then they will be limited to the extent that they can do things like charge more for certain kinds of service (like Netflix) or charge differently based on location, usage etc. Predictably the current monopolists like Verizon are fighting this tooth and claw…they hate this idea in the worse way.

Recently the president himself weighed in throwing his weight on the side of the “regulate as power company” faction. Enter Google. They are now arguing that if ISPs are to be treated as utilities then any ISP should have access to utility infrastructure like …the pole outside your window. Why would they want to?…well it’s simple. Google has amassed a huge network of fiber optic cables across the country but they have been stymied in the deployment of same in good part because whilst they have a substantial freeway network they lack the side roads to take that cable the last mile or so.  In many cases the cables which deliver to the household are up that pole. So if Google can persuade the FCC that ISPs are a utility (and as one of the largest lobbyist organizations in the US I think they can) and if they can also make the argument that those poles are a shared utility then instead of Google fiber creeping slowly Midwest town by Midwest town across the US, it might explode almost overnight. Their fiber product is cheaper and much faster than most in the market….which should force prices down and service up. So…fingers crossed!

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