Mediacom Communications Corp. subsidiary MCC Iowa LLC this week filed a petition with the FCC seeking review of the rights-of-way management practices of the city of West Des Moines and what the company calls the city’s exclusive relationship with Google Fiber.
The petition was filed under Section 253 of the Communications Act of 1934. It focuses on what MCC Iowa says is a $50 million taxpayer financed conduit network that the city is building for the exclusive use of Google Fiber.
Mediacom filed a suit, which is ongoing, against the City of West Des Moines and the West Des Moines City Council in December 2020.
The filing with the FCC claims that West Des Moines is imposing discriminatory burdens on competitors and denying residents in developing areas of the city and elsewhere access to low-cost broadband choices. The filing claims violation of Section 253 in three ways:
- The city gave Google Fiber a large, exclusive subsidy that distorts communications competition in the market.
- The city granted Google Fiber exclusive rights-of-way access and other significant benefits that enable it to deploy its network far more cheaply and efficiently than other ISPs.
- The design of the conduit network forecloses its use by other providers and prohibits its use by competitors using alternative technologies.
The petition claims that the agreement materialized “shortly after Google’s primary Iowa lobbyist took his seat on the West Des Moines City Council” and that the service provider retained the mayor’s real estate company to secure office space.
Mediacom is asking the FCC to take steps including advising the city to halt construction of the conduit network pending its review and to amend the agreement between the city and Google Fiber to remove exclusive design, financial and permitting preferences and rights.
Rights-of-way is a vital issue. In March, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) released a Path to Gigabit plan, which the organization characterized as a “holistic” approach to making comprehensive broadband available nationwide. One element of the plan is providing infrastructure providers with appropriate rights-of-way and Dig Once policies.
Charter – which was the big winner when Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction when measured by locations – said in December that working with federal, state and local authorities to get access to poles and rights-of-way will be an enabler of its expansion plans going forward.