AT&T ordered to stop U-verse buildout in San Francisco

If you're a San Francisco resident waiting to get AT&T's (NYSE: T) U-verse service, your wait just got even longer as a San Francisco Superior Court Judge ordered the telco to stop deploying 726 U-verse video-ready access device (VRAD) boxes in public rights of way in San Francisco because there is a "fair argument" they could have an adverse environmental impact.

This order is in response to a lawsuit that was filed in August by a group of neighborhood associations that complained the utility boxes were an eyesore, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn ordered a stay of the city's approval to allow AT&T to expand the rollout of its IPTV service in the city.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn ruled that the installation of the boxes--which measure four feet by four feet and about two feet deep, and sit on concrete pedestals--have to be put on hold until the city completes a study about their potential environmental impact.

The ruling is a yet another setback that the telco has faced since it announced it was going to make San Francisco one of the first cities in California to get U-verse service in 2007. The service has continued to grow every quarter. In Q3 2011, the service provider added 176,000 new subscribers, a figure that would likely be bolstered if its buildout in San Francisco was allowed to go forward.  

Regardless of how long the buildout delay lasts, AT&T's loss is a win for the city's dominant cable operator Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), a service provider that has enjoyed a near-monopoly of the San Francisco video services market due to the lack of U-verse competition.

San Francisco, of course, is not the only city where AT&T has faced opposition from community groups and residents about the placement of its VRAD boxes. It has been dealing with similar issues in Greensboro, NC where some residents are fighting AT&T's right to deploy VRAD terminal boxes on their front lawns because of an easement on the property that allows utility companies, including service providers, to install gas, powerlines and VRAD boxes to support U-verse service.  

For more:
- San Francisco Business Times has this article
- here's FierceCable's take

Commentary: Utility cabinets are a necessary nuisance for fostering broadband competition

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