San Francisco community groups sue city over AT&T U-verse remote terminal boxes

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AT&T's (NYSE: T) bet on its U-verse IPTV and broadband products continues to pay off as one of its strongest wireline-based revenue generating services, but that growth is coming at a price as a coalition of San Francisco groups filed suit against the city this week.

AT&T U-verse utility box

A U-verse utility box. (Image source: San Francisco Beautiful)

The coalition, including community group San Francisco Beautiful, says that the placement of AT&T's Remote Terminal (RT) boxes that house its video ready access devices (VRADs) is ruining the aesthetics of the city.

Although the installation of the RT boxes on the city's sidewalks, which also house remote DSLAMs to deliver U-verse services to residents, are needed to deliver IPTV, the community group believes the 726 boxes are going to be an ugly distraction.

San Francisco Beautiful, whose earlier efforts dissuaded AT&T from expanding its San Francisco U-verse footprint, has been the loudest critic of AT&T's placement of the RT boxes.

"The boxes themselves are each four feet high, four feet wide, and about two and a half feet thick," said Milo Hanke of San Francisco Beautiful. The group wants AT&T to conduct an environmental analysis before installing the RTs. "These things from any angle, and at any color are ugly, and when you put 726 of them together, that's a cumulative effect."

However, it appears that AT&T has already gained the upper hand. In addition to conducting what it says was extensive outreach with community groups, as well as with the Department of Public Works and the Planning Department, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors previously voted to exempt AT&T from conducting an environmental review.

Fights between AT&T and community groups over the placement of VRAD boxes are not limited to the San Francisco market. Earlier this year, reports emerged that AT&T was placing the VRAD boxes right in residential yards in its North Carolina region. This is because if a resident's property has an easement, a utility or telephone company such as AT&T can install all kinds of equipment on that land.    

For more:
- CBS San Francisco has this article
- see this article in the San Francisco Chronicle

Related articles:
AT&T and San Francisco square off on U-verse VRAD cabinet placement
U-verse boxes draw more criticism
AT&T and Greensboro, NC residents fight over U-verse VRAD cabinet placement
U-verse boxes now rankling Greensboro, N.C. citizens, politicos

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to clarify the target of the community groups' lawsuit.