AT&T and Loudoun County, Virginia, residents tangle over network building placement

AT&T (NYSE: T) has found itself defending against claims from Loudoun County, Virginia residents over claims that the telco's planned building extension is going to be a new data center.

Local community members, according to a report in Data Center Dynamics, were able to delay plans to get a building permit for what AT&T said is a "utility substation."

AT&T said that this substation is part of a "regional interconnecting grid system" providing for the "transformation, switching and distribution of both transmission voltage and/or distribution voltages, transmits natural gas, television or telephone signals."

What drew attention from the local residents and environmental groups were the specifications. Under AT&T's proposal, the utility substation, as they called it, required eight generators, 11 air coolers and 60 staff operating 24/7 in a building that was 35 feet high, 433 feet wide and required 160,000 square feet.

One of the residents told the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors that local leaders weren't asking enough questions to AT&T about the facility's planned uses.

"If it looks like a data center, if it's comprised of all the elements of a data center, if it uses electricity like a data center, it's a data center," said Lindsay Mohler, a Lovettsville resident and local attorney, according to a Loudoun Times-Mirror article. "The county has improperly classified this sites' purpose as a utility substation, however, AT&T does not provide public or private utility services to Loudoun county residents."

Loudoun County leaders made an effort last year to curtail the amount of data centers service providers could build in the area after local residents cited concerns on how construction could affect quality of life.

Earlier this week, AT&T sent a letter to the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors to suspend its plans to build the substation, emphasizing that the facility was not a data center.

"The upgrades would have provided Loudoun County businesses and residents additional opportunities to receive a wide variety of services such as Wi-Fi, entertainment, high speed internet, and eventually, enhanced wireless broadband services," AT&T said in a letter. "And, contrary to speculation, the site is not a data center and our planned upgrade would not have converted it into one."

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors will make a decision on how it wants to proceed with AT&T's proposal during their meeting on June 23.

For more:
- read the Data Center Dynamics article
- see the Loudoun County filing (PDF)

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