Stop the AT&T boxes!


By the League of Pissed Off Voters

More than 60 people showed up on the steps of City Hall May 21 to demand that AT&T engage in the same old basic planning process that even small-scale businesses have to go through.  (Read: even little people without expensive corporate lobbyists.)

Neighborhood organizations, disabled and senior representatives and environmentalists all pushed the supervisors to make the sensible vote at tomorrow's full board meeting: support a full Environmental Impact Review of the consequences of 726 giant metal lockboxes cluttering up our public sidewalks.  As Julian Davis, a longtime community activist put it: "Why would you plunk down 726 giant Buicks all over the city when you have a perfectly good underground high speed rail?"

True that.  San Francisco currently has miles of fiber optic cable pulsing beneath our city streets, and even that is already becoming outdated.  So now AT&T's brilliant idea is to litter our sidewalks with what amounts to giant crusty supercomputers? And what happens when they’re obsolete?  Basically, taxpayers just got stuck with a bunch of metal junk on our sidewalks, while AT&T expanded its profit margins.

Why do small cafes have to pay hundreds of dollars in permit fees to put two piddly tables outside their shops, while AT&T gets a blanket "categorical exemption" for almost no money to nail down ugly boxes that will block the sidewalk and attract graffiti?  (Hmm, we can probably think of some choice graffiti actually…)

The last time we heard from the folks at AT&T, they were helping the NSA wiretap our private calls from a secret room in their headquarters, so excuse us if we're a little hesitant about giving the company a free pass to put creepy lock boxes in front of our homes. 

According to the Department of Public Works at the last public hearing on this issue, DPW staffers are relying on AT&T's "expert analysis" to guide them on whether or not AT&T should receive a categorical exemption – in other words, DPW is relying on AT&T to do its job, and the community just got cut out of the process.  An independent EIR is necessary to address these blatant conflicts of interest. 

Speaking of conflicted interests: The latest scuttlebutt inside City Hall has some progressive supervisors desperately looking to cut a deal to save face in the midst of election season.  And what would that deal look like?  Cutting the number of boxes and giving neighborhoods an opportunity to decide whether they want 4'x4'x7' lock boxs on their blocks. 

So, basically, if your block doesn't have a home owner association advocating on your behalf, guess what you're going to be walking around everyday?  As Juan Monsanto of San Francisco Beautiful pointed out, most of these boxes will be installed in less affluent communities without strong representation at City Hall.   AT&T's sweetheart deal gives the supervisors cover to punt their responsibility to administer public space safely and equitably. 

So, to recap: we are now officially a city that will arrest human beings for sitting or lying in the middle of the sidewalk, but the board is working overtime to try and figure out how to exempt AT&T from city oversight process so it can stick giant immovable metal boxes in our right of way?

Oh, it's okay because they're going in the Bayview. Or in a neighborhood that already has a bunch of blight, so what's a little more?  Lame.  Call your supervisor today and tell him or her to get a backbone.  It's tough being the swing vote, you know?  Help 'em out, let 'em know you're watching – and voting.

The San Francisco League of Pissed-Off Voters is the local chapter of the League of Young Voters, a national organization that engages young people in the political process, organizes around progressive issues and takes it beyond just "get out the vote." 




Can we get rid of the Free Paper stands too? They litter the place, are targets for graffiti, bad for the environment, and the publications in them are mostly poorly written crap. If they can’t sustain themselves on-line then who gives a shit?

Now I don't want to be a petty fuck, but I will be. May be next time don't say last I heard then point to an article that is 5 years old. If that’s the last you heard, you went deaf quite a long time ago.

Posted by Chris Pratt on May. 23, 2011 @ 4:59 pm

I enjoy going by news racks and seeing what the headlines are or what information they have to offer. I don't have any postive feelings at all about these metal boxes.

Posted by Dirk on May. 23, 2011 @ 7:42 pm

When has the guardian been FOR any change to our urban environment?
Seriously, something like 90% of the "work" our progressive politicians do is dedicated to stopping something.

Posted by Guest on May. 24, 2011 @ 9:40 am

Thats a good question

If we are to believe our urban planner experts from the various universities that progressive like to cite selectively, we should be doing as much as possible to build denser. Yet the progressives bemoan any and all projects that would add to density, often citing class or race.

Progressives bemoan the lack of taxes yet bemoan anything that will add to the tax base, often citing class or race. Tourism isn't a way to base a cities finances yet they bemoan any attempts to create other bases of employment, unless it is creating more government jobs, but then you have to go back to the tax base thing and their obsession with class and race.

The progressives bemoan citizens of the city traveling off to google for work, then they complain that people are coming to work in the city and use up services, so we need a city income tax. Any attempts to get and retain google type jobs is met with their obsession with class and race.

They try to elect people who hold these same "values" and thus continue the spiral, a narrower and narrower tax base, to make up for this they want to raise taxes on hotels and other businesses that can't leave.

Reading this article, one would think that everyone in the city is a progressive and that the authors speak for all of us citizens of the city, instead of a handful of bitter chronic complainers. If ATT wants to put their box in front my house, more power too them.

I also find it interesting that the Guardian has a picture of an art covered ATT box, look at the wonderful street art on that box, the city could have hundreds more of those to enjoy.

Posted by matlock on May. 24, 2011 @ 10:42 am

Let me guess're white.

Posted by Guest on May. 24, 2011 @ 11:50 am

all the writers for the Bay Guardian.

Granted this is an internet forum and you can respond to any part of my post you want. Still, if you base your entire "philosophy" on class and race and then try and limit all growth based on that world view, and yet you want to have a tax base to support your George Wallace/Eugene V Debs views.

Where is the money going to come from? You can blather your States Rights Party and soft core socialism all day, but who is going to pay for your agenda? This is where the rubber hits the road comrade.

Guest, let me guess, you're a product of taking classes where the only wrong answer is not agreeing with the professor?

Posted by matlock on May. 24, 2011 @ 12:11 pm

Some progressives have opinions that are different than other progressives!
That's a durn contradiction, right there!
It's proof that all progressives contradict themselves, and that progressives are exactly the same as conservatives.
You can be sure it's true, because it's Matlock's opinion. No need for facts or a shred of validation from any source other than pissed of conservative guy.

Posted by Guest on May. 24, 2011 @ 4:31 pm

You are contradicted by a leader in the movement in SF.

Posted by matlock on May. 24, 2011 @ 5:26 pm

And needs to take some communications classes.
Because your post makes no sense.
Do you have a point at all, little man?

Posted by Guest on May. 24, 2011 @ 8:50 pm

I'm trying to understand how AT&T's expenditure of however much money it requires to install 726 lockboxes increases its profit margins? I'm guessing that they serve some sort of function. Maybe the author of this piece should steer away from polemics and actually speak with a few telecommunications engineers as to the role these pieces of equipment play. Might be they actually serve a function.

As to being magnates for graffiti: Last I looked, buildings also attract graffiti. Perhaps we should tear down all buildings in SF? Maybe we should enforce graffiti laws. Or would the SFBG be opposed to that as well?

Posted by Huh? on May. 24, 2011 @ 12:13 pm

It's really quite simple. ATT wants to sell uverse, which bundles cable tv,
high speed internet and other services that work best on high speed networks. Verizon, when rolling out FiOS actually spent $4000/customer (according to the NY Times, 2008) because they ran fiber to the curb. ATT on the other hand is trying to leverage the copper it already owns rather than run fiber to every house. So they'll run fiber to the boxes and then use copper for the last bit. (For short distances, copper has lots of bandwidth). So they way the boxes enable ATT to make lots of money is twofold: First they save the money running fiber to the curb and Second, they get to sell a new service increasing their revenue. Probably it's cheaper to attach a box to the sidewalk than
dig a hole to put the box in--so that also reduces expenses.

Actually I wouldn't mind if Comcast had some serious competition. But inasmuch as ATT is going to make serious money selling uverse _and_ they want to install their boxes on the public right of way; _and_ SF needs cash in these times, I'd like to see SF get some serious money from ATT for the ability to install these boxes.

Posted by Bob W. on May. 24, 2011 @ 3:39 pm

The trouble with uverse is it's a short-term solution, it's an incremental improvement upon current DSL offerings --- DSL is distance sensitive --- these boxes basically bring a miniature version of ATT's central offices to your neighborhood and can thus provide more bandwidth for things like DSL and IPTV.

Some areas of our city could really benefit from any improvement in broadband offerings, but it's not a long term solution because it is limited by reliance on copper phone lines. While ATT is focusing on a solution that offers perhaps 20-30 megabits of download bandwidth, locales elsewhere in the world (even in places like Utah, Kansas City in the US) are investing in full fiber networks, capable of 1000 megabit or gigabit speeds.

Fiber deployment need not be as expensive as it has in the past, methods such as micro-trenching and sewer installation can keep the cost down and speed deployment.

A number of public and private proposals to bring a fiber network to SF:

Posted by SF Fiber on May. 24, 2011 @ 8:46 pm

That would be lovely, but do any of these have a real chance of being implemented. Why is it that communities like Sebastopol and some random place in Kansas have 100 Mbps connections to the curb, while San Francisco languishes with distinctly subpar internet offerings. Crap, I will take what I can get at this point.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 12, 2011 @ 7:23 pm

The city is full of AT&T boxes on sidewalks already. These boxes are for copper wire land lines - remember those?

Why not force AT&T to do some engineering and combine the fiber service boxes into their existing land line boxes?

I have one at the end of my block and I've seen the inside several times, it's a tangle of copper wires connecting phone and dsl service. A smart company like AT&T should be able to engineer a to combine uverse service into these existing boxes.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 02, 2011 @ 11:17 am
Posted by Guest on Jan. 12, 2012 @ 8:32 am

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