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SF Supervisors Vote On AT&T Boxes Delayed Again

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AT&T Utility Box. (CBS)

AT&T Utility Box. (CBS)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A plan to upgrade AT&T’s network in San Francisco was again delayed by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday over concerns about the boxes that would be installed around the city to house the technology.

Supervisor Scott Wiener said at Tuesday afternoon’s board meeting that AT&T asked for a five-week delay on the vote so it can propose a scaled-back version of the plan.

AT&T’s proposal had included the installation up to 726 boxes to house its “Lightspeed” high-speed data transmission technology that will improve its U-verse Internet, cable and landline phone service in the city.

San Francisco’s Planning Department in February gave the project an exemption from the usually lengthy environmental review process, but opponents appealed the exemption to the board, saying the 4-foot-tall boxes would impede pedestrian traffic, inconvenience property owners, and reduce the aesthetic appeal of the city.

AT&T spokesman Lane Kasselman said AT&T does not want the plan to undergo an environmental impact report because “an EIR delays the process well beyond our bill plan. Everyone knows it can take two or three years, and our plan is to roll it out in the next year.”

But opponents of the plan, including the groups San Francisco Beautiful and the Planning Association of the Richmond, have argued that the cumulative impact of the hundreds of boxes is enough to warrant the environmental review.

When the issue first came in front of the board at its April 26 meeting, AT&T officials pointed out that the company would still have to get a permit from the city’s Department of Public Works for each individual box, and would work around neighborhoods that did not want the boxes.

Supervisors at that meeting voted to delay a vote on the project for four weeks, and after Tuesday’s delay, the item will not come in front of the board again until June 28.

Kasselman said the company will use that time to “work with the various supervisors, work with the residents in their neighborhoods, and work with the community groups to figure out where the cabinets should go.”

He said the new proposal would likely include a “significant decrease” in the number of boxes since “there are definitely some supervisors who have made it clear that they’re not interested in having it in their neighborhoods.”

Nevertheless, he said, “We are glad the supervisors are willing to work with us … to finally bring U-verse to people who want it.”

When Wiener announced the delay of the vote, he said, “I hope (AT&T) will think outside the box, literally and figuratively, and come up with something we can live with.”

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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