Cox sues Tempe over deal with Google Fiber

Posted at 9:01 AM, Sep 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-22 12:01:30-04

Cox Communications is suing the City of Tempe over its deal with Google Fiber to provide gigabit-speed wired internet service to the city.

The company, which already provides gig-level internet speeds in parts of the Valley, wants a judge to halt the city’s Google Fiber deal.

The lawsuit claims that the city broke federal law when it exempted Google from certain regulations that Cox, and other cable companies, must follow.

That’s because the city does not deem Google Fiber to be a cable operator, like Cox. But, Cox contends that, legally, “Google Fiber’s proposed video offering is indistinguishable from Cox’s cable service offering,” in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said the city has no authority, under federal law, to exempt Google from franchising and other obligations that other cable operators aren’t.

In July, when the city approved the video services license agreement with Google Fiber, we told you that Cox was not happy. They told ABC15 then that they believed Tempe had violated the law in striking the deal. 

Cox said they have invested $150 million in their infrastructure in the Valley in the last five years, including 3,000 miles of fiber. And, they were planning to continue their growth in the market even if the city decided to favor Google Fiber over Cox.

Now, the company is arguing that this is also in the consumer’s interest.

“Tempe residents should have the opportunity to get subscription television and internet service from providers who are willing and able to meet the same government rules and regulations, especially those that protect customer privacy and property rights,” the company said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, Tempe created a different set of rules for a new provider that waived important customer privacy and property protections," the statement said.

A City of Tempe spokesperson told ABC15 Monday that they City cannot comment due to pending litigation.

Cox has said that the City of Tempe thwarted their efforts to bring gigabit speed internet service to Tempe residents for nearly a year, while they waived consumer protection standards for Google Fiber. 

Cox told ABC15 Monday this was different than a similar deal passed by the City of Phoenix recently.

In early September, the City of Phoenix approved a cable license to Google Fiber to provide ultra-high speed internet in the city. That’s different than the video service provider license that was approved by Tempe. 

But, Cox said Phoenix assured other cable licensees, including Cox, that the same rules and regulations will be applied to all cable providers in a nondiscriminatory manner.