Invasion of Giant AT&T U-verse Boxes, By Gary Weiss, EVNA Treasurer

For the last EVNA General Meeting, I put together a to-scale example of the AT&T utility boxes that are proposed for our sidewalks. It was enormous - 59” wide X 48” high X 26” deep. In addition, they would be mounted on a large concrete base, and have 2 steel bollards to protect them from traffic. The proposal is to place them within 300 feet of almost every existing AT&T box on our sidewalks - up to 726 of them citywide. They are to be painted a very pale green - perfectly inviting for graffiti “artists” - and they buzz all day long - similar to the sound of an electric toothbrush, according to Marc Blakeman, the AT&T rep.

History of AT&T’s system:
In the 1880s Alexander Graham Bell invented what's referred to as POTS - plain old telephone service. The system uses what's called “twisted pair.” One wire goes from the caller, the other goes back.

Fiber optic is a superior option in that it can carry multiple times the data in a tiny thread. It can also carry the signal for huge distances with no degradation.
The problem with AT&T's U-verse plan is that rather than going directly to the door, it would go to the new boxes and stop there. From there to the door, they would continue to rely on Alexander Graham Bell's twisted pair. Because of this, the maximum speed of the data being transferred would be about 1/5 of what Comcast (which spent tens of billions on their infrastructure) already has in place.

Other services such as Monkey Brains are able to provide superior service for a fraction of the cost - without needing to install these environmentally obnoxious boxes in the public right of way. A recent convert to Monkey Brains reports download speeds 36 times faster than what AT&T provided and upload speeds more than 151 times faster. His landline is no longer necessary. The cost: a flat $35/month. And humans answer the phones! Check out “internet service providers” on Yelp and see where AT&T comes in.

From a Google employee: “Wireless technology is on the verge of surpassing (and for some applications, has already surpassed) wired networks in terms of efficacy, and San Francisco should not have to ‘bail out’ AT&T by accepting this blight as a result of its inability to compete.”

In 2011 AT&T stated, on several occasions - including at a Board of Supervisors hearing - that if a neighborhood opposed installation of these boxes it would not get them. Now AT&T is ignoring those promises. When asked why, the response has been “things change.”

In order to prove that a neighborhood is opposed to having these giant boxes take over its sidewalks I have come up with wording for a survey (approved by Supervisor Wiener’s office and AT&T.) You can respond with a simple YES or NO. Please take a moment to express your support or opposition by answering the following survey:

AT&T Utility Boxes Survey
Several private utility companies provide digital service in San Francisco. In order to upgrade its network and offer its U-verse services to its subscribers, AT&T has proposed installing up to 726 utility boxes in San Francisco. In most circumstances, the only acceptable location for these boxes is on sidewalks. These boxes measure approximately 5 feet long, 26” wide, and 4 feet tall. They would be painted a pale green color. These boxes emit a small hum similar to an electronic toothbrush This hum complies with the City’s noise ordinance. Under State law, 6.25% of the revenue generated by subscription-based television from each box would be required to be paid to the City as a fee for use of the sidewalk.

The proposal by AT&T is to install approximately 37 of these boxes within Eureka Valley. Without these boxes, AT&T will unlikely be able to provide its U-verse product as proposed to Eureka Valley residents.

The locations proposed for these boxes was provided to EVNA by AT&T’s rep. (*denotes locations where new unit will be merged with smaller existing one):

601 14th *
721 14th
1003 14th *
1909 15th
2200 15th
3699 16th
3899 17th
4096 17th *
4299 17th
4496 17th *
3901 18th
4200 19th
4298 19th
4546 19th
3698 22nd *
3790 22nd *
3988 22nd *
4197 22nd *
419 Castro
800 Castro
898 Castro *
101 Chattanooga*
180 Church
999 Church *
1414 Clayton
288 Clinton Park*
98 Collingwood
2 Corbett *
339 Corbett
5 Diamond *
401 Dolores *
202 Douglass
10 Hancock
198 Henry
2801 Market
151 Sanchez
594 Sanchez

With this understanding, do you support the installation of these boxes on sidewalks in Eureka Valley, if AT&T commits to working with neighbors to identify locations?

Leave a Reply