According to Marguerite Reardon, a veteran reporter on these matters now working for CNET, Google has retained Jim Baller. For reasons those of us in Lafayette can easily understand Google feels the need to hire seasoned council to defend itself against the incumbent legal onslaught that is sure to come as soon as they begin to consider actual locales. Baller was the national-level lawyer that defended Lafayette throughout our long battle…from the negotiations over the (un)Fair Competition Act to supporting the city through a long series of lawsuits. He’s earned his stripes and the fact that Google is retaining someone with his history shows that they are at least thinking realistically about the political as well as the technical and economic barriers they and their partner communities are likely to face. From the article:
“Even if Google isn’t planning to compete with broadband providers in the near future, it recognizes that network operators may still feel threatened. This could be why the company has hired Jim Baller, president of The Baller Herbst Law Group, as a consultant. Baller, who is working with Google on this project, has been battling incumbent broadband providers for more than a decade, helping municipalities develop projects to build-fiber-to-the home networks in their communities.
Incumbent phone companies and cable operators have lobbied state governments to pass laws to stop these deployments. Some companies, such as Qwest Communications International and BellSouth, which is now owned by AT&T, actually sued municipalities to stop some projects. Baller has been involved in many of these cases, defending municipal clients against phone companies and cable operators.
In some instances, the incumbent service providers have been successful. But in other instances, they have not. A handful of municipally owned fiber networks around the country have won their battles with incumbent network operators, including one in Lafayette, La., and another high-profile network called Utopia, which connects several communities in Utah. With new federal funding pouring into communities as a result of President Obama’s stimulus package, a new wave of projects is emerging.”
There’s likely to be more work than any one man or firm can handle. Google is smart to hire him on now.