Better Internet Requires Ugly Street Boxes

By Matt Baume
|  Tuesday, Mar 1, 2011  |  Updated 12:00 PM PDT
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Better Internet Requires Ugly Street Boxes

An AT&T Internet box. Photo: Mark Butt on Flickr

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Which is it going to be, San Francisco: modern Internet or clean streets? You can't have both.

AT&T is itching to install its new "U-verse" service, now renamed "Lightspeed," in San Francisco.

There's just one catch: the service requires large ugly utility cabinets. Nearly a thousand of the sidewalk boxes would go up in front of homes and businesses if AT&T has its way.

The cabinets could, of course, go underground. But that would be expensive and inconvenient for AT&T -- so much so that it might not be worth it.

While the company conducts outreach to try to win residents' approval, many are left feeling conflicted. On one hand, it would provide an alternative to the "much-loathed" Comcast, according to the Appeal. On the other hand, that alternative would be much-loathed AT&T.

Neighborhood groups like San Francisco Beautiful have vowed to block the sidewalk land-grab.

In the mean time, the city continues to languish with shoddy telecom infrastructure.

So far, the City's been permissive, with the Planning Department allowing AT&T to circumvent the environmental review process. Installations could start next month.

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