AT&T and San Francisco square off on U-verse VRAD cabinet placement

AT&T (NYSE: T) and San Francisco's environmentally conscious residents are getting ready to battle again as the telco gets ready to extend its U-verse IPTV service into the city.

On one hand it's likely that area subscribers will be happy to see an alternative challenger to Comcast, which has enjoyed a near-monopoly on San Francisco's video market. However, neighborhood activists aren't happy that AT&T will have to install 725 six-foot-tall utility cabinets on sidewalks or in other public rights-of-way that house the Video Ready Access Device (VRAD) equipment to deliver the Fiber to the Node (FTTN)-based service.

As pointed out in Broadband DSL Reports, the protests from groups such as "Stop The Box" have been over aesthetics, safety and property value reduction. Before AT&T could complete its deployment of U-verse in Illinois, for example, it agreed to spend between $1500 to $2000 to surround the VRAD boxes with plants and trees in a number of the state's markets.   

Marc Blakeman, AT&T's regional vice president of external affairs, said in a SF Appeal article that this time around it is meeting with some 80-odd neighborhood, merchants and community groups to address concerns.

If the plan goes forward, AT&T said it could start installing what it says are slightly smaller VRAD cabinets to bring its "Lightspeed" service to neighborhoods ranging from Ocean Beach to the Excelsior by April.

Previously, AT&T decided gave up on bringing U-verse to San Francisco after facing strong opposition from preservation group San Francisco Beautiful, whose board member Milo Hanke said "there will be an appeal" of the city's decision to let AT&T install the cabinets.

To resolve the issue, the Stop the Box group has continually asked why AT&T can't put the VRAD and associated equipment underground. Blakeman said that putting the facilities underground would be far more expensive because they require more ventilation to work.  

For more:
- SF Appeal has this article
- Broadband DSL Reports gives its take

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