Google Says Obama Web Plan Gives It Better Path to Expand Fiber

Google Inc. said open-Internet rules being considered by the U.S. government should give the company’s Fiber project a right to use utility poles, removing a “substantial barrier” to expansion.

The Federal Communications Commission is writing rules to ensure Web traffic is treated equally. If the FCC adopts the utility-style regulatory approach backed by President Barack Obama, it should make sure broadband providers have the same access to poles, conduits and other infrastructure as cable-television and telephone companies, Austin Schlick, Google’s director for communications law, said in a Dec. 30 filing at the agency.

Some advocates have urged the FCC to adopt Obama’s approach but soften its impact by not applying some of the utility provisions. Google, based in Mountain View, California, is challenging companies such as Comcast Corp. and AT&T Inc. by providing Internet and television service and promoting network speeds that can be 100 times faster than current choices.

Fiber projects are already in progress in Kansas City, Kansas; Austin, Texas; and Provo, Utah. Google in February said it was exploring more service in nine regions that include 34 cities, from Portland, Oregon, and San Jose, California, on the West Coast to eastern U.S. cities Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina.

The FCC under Chairman Tom Wheeler is working to replace net neutrality rules voided by a federal court. Obama on Nov. 10 called for the “strongest possible rules,” and shares of Comcast and other broadband providers dropped.

Companies led by AT&T, Comcast and Verizon Communications Inc. say only light regulation is needed to ensure providers don’t block or slow Web traffic, and they say strict rules would squelch investment.

Public policy groups want tough regulations that guarantee all websites are treated equally and can be accessed by people increasingly reliant on the Internet.