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Telecom Rollouts Raise Ire Over Utility Boxes

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the price-of-progress dept.

The Internet 284

Anti-Globalism points out this AP story, which notes: "As cable and phone companies race to upgrade services or offer video for the first time, they're doing it by installing equipment in boxes on lawns, easements and curbs all over American neighborhoods. Telecommunications rollouts have always been messy, but several towns and residents are fighting back with cries of 'Not in my front yard!' AT&T Inc.'s nearly fridge-sized units, which route its new U-verse video product to customers, are drawing particular ire. A few caught fire or even exploded. AT&T said it has fixed that by replacing the units' backup batteries."

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Caught fire? (5, Funny)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 5 years ago | (#24717999)

A few caught fire or even exploded.

It's obviously the fault of the filesharers. All those bits streaming through the equipment at the same time as video and legitimate Internet usage cause friction, see, and that caused the boxes to catch fire. Yet another arguement against the evil pirates!

Community Planning 101 (1)

Nymz (905908) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718237)

Community Planning 101
1) Company installs new service in cheapest manner possible (like a big ugly cell tower)
2) Residents notice (OMG! it's a big ugly cell tower)
3) Residents discuss in local government (Fix this shit!)
4) Company updates methods to meet requirements (hides new cell towers inside architecture)

Re:Community Planning 101 (4, Interesting)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718577)

And then you get this [google.com] . Yep, that's a knockoff of the Washington Monument. Compare it to this [google.com] or this [google.com] , which are at least architecturally interesting towers (move up and down the highway to get an idea of their appearance from several angles). At least the latter two aren't godawful monstrosities.

Re:Community Planning 101 (5, Interesting)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718689)

Maybe something like painting the utility boxes to make them be more like art than the boring single white/gray color they have.

Example 1: City of Surrey, BC [surrey.ca]
Example 2: San Diego [apf1.org]

And don't forget that many towns do have local artists. Using the utility boxes for nice art (work-safe imagery only please!) would be something that can take the edge of people and make them forget to be annoyed by the item itself.

Re:Community Planning 101 (1)

autocracy (192714) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718857)

3.5) Company comes up with cheap way of saying they did something to address it... like adding tacky fake green leaves and painting the tower brown.

Re:Caught fire? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24718487)

friction ??? obviously a high school dropout

Re:Caught fire? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24718875)

woosh!

oblig. (4, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718005)

Get off my lawn!

Re:oblig. (1)

mikael (484) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718317)

Is this a new slashdot meme?

Re:oblig. (3, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718411)

You must be new here

Re:oblig. (3, Funny)

LearnToSpell (694184) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718617)

Is that a new slashdot meme?

Re:oblig. (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718727)

Is this a new slashdot meme?

No, it's a very old meatspace meme. Grumpy old man yelling at kids to get off his property is a cliche probably over 150 years old.

Re:oblig. (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718561)

OK! I get under your lawn instead! But that means that I have to dig it up first.

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24718019)

first post!

They have to go somewhere? (1)

kaos07 (1113443) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718027)

Do these nodes etc. not have to go somewhere? Is there any tested way of safely and efficiently burying them or something? Obviously it would cost more. I wonder what customers would rather do, pay more to have them hidden away or complain that they have put up them.

Re:They have to go somewhere? (5, Insightful)

RoverDaddy (869116) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718093)

I could argue they don't have to exist at all. Shouldn't the people who live in the community have some say whether not these services are installed? I'm appalled that states are caving in to lobbying from the Cable and Telecom industry and taking away local control over these agreements. In Massachusetts, Verizon has been complaining that it's too expensive to negotiate with each town individually. I'm a fan of FIOS, but I still think the proper response is 'tough shit'.

Re:They have to go somewhere? (5, Insightful)

kaos07 (1113443) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718255)

If they don't exist, then you don't get the fast-speed services, right? So on one hand you have in the US bitching about the fact their internet sucks, and then you have them bitching when companies build the infrastructure to give them faster internet...?

Re:They have to go somewhere? (2, Informative)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718891)

I live in Canada where practically everyone has high-speed access and I've never seen such huge pieces of equipment, anywhere.

Re:Easement (4, Insightful)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718259)

Unfortunately, every local gub'ment has some form of "easement" clause in the title to your property. Initially intended for installation of sidewalks and public utility access corridors, it's being usurped by the private for-profit telecom companies. They've lobbied the city/county officials such that they get treatment like they're a public utility (e.g. universal telephone service, etc.) and then "embrace and extend" that access to the much more lucrative high-speed cable/fiber access. Unfortunately, the telecom companies are notoriously cheap, and wouldn't lift a finger to improve an installation's appearance if it meant spending an additional dollar. After all, they don't benefit from that expense, do they? Consider it part of the "Tragedy of the Commons," [wikipedia.org] only the "commons" has been extended into your front yard.

Re:Easement (3, Interesting)

ahmcguffin (1304183) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718441)

Easement clause is used in Kansas City by cable, phone, gas and electric companies. They are required to pay an additional fee for digging more than once a year or digging up roads paved less than 1 year. But they seem to find ways around the fee system. In the older neighborhood I live in, they use the excuse of upgrading for the two major hospitals in the area. They have actually damaged sewer pipes, caused driveways and sidewalks to sink to the point of having to be replaced, by the property owners and gotten away with not paying damages. The police are starting to openly complain that the larger boxes are being used by muggers to hide behind contributing to crime in the area. I think it will take the boxes getting vandalized for components to convince the companies to put them underground.

It isn't "fast internet" or "no internet" (3, Insightful)

coryking (104614) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718311)

It is simply requiring the telcos to bury their nasty shit like any company that respects the neighborhood it does business in. The only reason they dont bury them is because the local zoning lets them save $50k and plop their volkswagon sized garbage at street level.

The telco is *not* going to say "NO FIOS FOR YOU" if the community demanded they bury these turds. They will just jack the price up by $0.01 and amortize the cost over 20 years.

Re:It isn't "fast internet" or "no internet" (3, Interesting)

hrieke (126185) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718403)

First of all, it's not a VW sized box, it's a 4 by 4 by 2 foot box, which is the size of a smaller refrigerator. Second of all, to bury the box you have a whole different set of problems to deal with; access is harder, drainage becomes a problem, and the hole that they dig to bury the box will be the size of a VW. Plus the access cover will be huge. Then you have to either patch the street, or back fill in the yard, which means that $50k is a low end number.

Now, if the city is smart, has the population density, and can make the budget work, the ideal solution is to build an underground utility system. Then everything is out of sight; but most of these problems are happening out west where everyone has their yard and lives 30 minutes to 2 hours from anything.

Re:It isn't "fast internet" or "no internet" (3, Funny)

LearnToSpell (694184) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718633)

First of all, it's not a VW sized box, it's a 4 by 4 by 2 foot box, which is the size of a smaller refrigerator.

...or a larger VW.

Re:It isn't "fast internet" or "no internet" (4, Informative)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718429)

The telco is *not* going to say "NO FIOS FOR YOU" if the community demanded they bury these turds. They will just jack the price up by $0.01 and amortize the cost over 20 years.

You have no idea how much more expensive it is to bury all that equipment and then to maintain the buried equipment. Think factors, not percent. If the density in the target area is low, the telco would just as well leave the old copper and coax in place. That's what they are doing where my parents live -- low density, buried lines, no new services. Not even uVerse. Just live with your pretty copper and coax.

The cheaper it is to install new services, the faster and more widely deployed those services will be. That's just common sense folks!

Re:They have to go somewhere? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24718495)

I used to live in Acton, MA and our only options of Highspeed Internet and Television were DSL which thanks to the Exchange being located in another town meant unless you were on the town border you couldn't get above 1M speed. Or Comcast which thanks to the awful deal the town negotiated meant it was around $120/mo for High Speed Internet and television. I would of loved for the option of FIOS or another cable provider but the town had its ironclad deal with Comcast. There is something to be said for having just one statewide agreement.

Re:They have to go somewhere? (1)

wkk2 (808881) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718707)

The telcos need to limit the number of boxes. They should star wire fiber to a big common underground vault for the entire neighborhood. This would support faster service in the future and it would allow for better backup power. A single generator trailer could keep up the whole area if an extended outage depleted the batteries. Not that putting cables under ground is without risk. Last week a team was installing a VRAD cabinet a few blocks from my house. They had three fire trucks and an ambulance. I'm guessing they hit something with the horizontal bore.

Re:They have to go somewhere? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24718775)

states are caving in to lobbying

Caving in... I almost fell off my chair laughing. As if the business of government isn't getting a cut.

Re:They have to go somewhere? (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718621)

Even if they aren't buried they may get a design that allows them to be less conspicuous in the neighborhood or co-located with other equipment like power station and transformer station equipment.

The best way when planning for equipment like this is also to check with the neighborhood about reasonable place to place such devices, then plant the device there and surround it with some bushes or similar. And also have it in a less visible color so it isn't white - which just makes it stand out unless it's a snowy day.

Bzzzzzt! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24718029)

What happened to locating these boxes on the telephone poles themselves?

Re:Bzzzzzt! (2, Informative)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718089)

What happened to locating these boxes on the telephone poles themselves?

Some neighborhoods...my old one, for instance, have no telephone poles. Everything is underground.

Re:Bzzzzzt! (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718629)

And even underground powerlines are more and more common.

Hmmm... Maybe time to update your sig, it doesn't bite anymore!

Re:Bzzzzzt! (2, Funny)

sirambrose (919153) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718159)

I don't want a 4'x4'x2' box suspended from the telephone pole over my head. If it falls off it could kill someone.

Re:Bzzzzzt! (2, Funny)

mulvane (692631) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718233)

And the pole itself falling would bounce off someones head with no damage?

Re:Bzzzzzt! (1)

sirambrose (919153) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718307)

The pole is much less likely to fall over if it doesn't have a heavily loaded box the size of a pair of standard size racks strapped to the top. I doubt that a standard telephone pole is designed to hold that much weight at the top.

Re:Bzzzzzt! (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718645)

Some poles are heavily loaded with transformers and other similar junk, but I get your point.

I have never seen so many badly rooted telephone and powerline poles as when I was in the US last time. Many of them did look like they were planted by someone drunk or stoned.

Re:Bzzzzzt! (3, Interesting)

mad flyer (589291) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718751)

So you've never been to Japan...

In some towns you can barely see the sky between the wires. And it's not for earthquake reason. It's just because of the cost. Some forward thinking towns are now requiring all new wire to be buried. Make more sense against typhoon, safer in case of earthquakes (no fallen power wires) and you can see the sky.

Re:Bzzzzzt! (1)

LearnToSpell (694184) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718699)

That got me curious, so I did a little searching, and the winning keywords seem to be utility pole load capacity. [google.com] The RW Wolfe PDF on www.fpl.fs.fed.us (4th or 5th link) is pretty good.

Re:Bzzzzzt! (3, Funny)

moreati (119629) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718593)

Yep. Bouncing off someones head would inflict little or no damage to a telegraph pole

Re:Bzzzzzt! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24718599)

Well, all the times I've seen it happen on TV, it usually just hammers the poor guy into the ground. But it's OK, because in the very next scene he's fine, and already hatching another scheme to get that darn roadrunner...

Re:Bzzzzzt! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24718725)

It's conceivably falling within my line of site before the very last second, unlike a falling box

Re:Bzzzzzt! (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718747)

Don't worry! It'll explode on the way down into tiny pieces.

Looks (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24718031)

Who cares how it looks outside. When you have enough Television and a fast enough internet connection you don't need to go outside.

Re:Looks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24718199)

You probably tried to make a funny there, but I find it to be more and more true. Since januari 1st, I've only been outside on two (2) occasions.

It's not that I don't want to go outside, but frankly there is no need for it.

I've got everything I need right here. Groceries get delivered, I've got some fitness equipment, no problem.

Besides, when I go outside, I feel rather disconnected with the world. Weird that.

Wow, those are ugly (5, Funny)

cliffiecee (136220) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718045)

And you'd think AT&T could hire better graffiti artists to decorate [yahoo.com] the damn things.

Re:Wow, those are ugly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24718247)

Being such obvious targets for graffiti, the owner (AT&T) would be suject to the local anti-graffiti ordinances, such as: must cover markings within 48 hours or face fine, etc.

Re:Wow, those are ugly (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24718527)

... must cover markings within 48 hours or face fine, etc.

Well, that's how to get rid of those boxes. Break out the spray paint.

Re:Wow, those are ugly (1)

strength_of_10_men (967050) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718399)

Here in Ann Arbor, city development officials have asked local schools and artists to paint fire hydrants and traffic control boxes. [youtube.com]

There's no reason that these utility boxes can't improve the aesthetics of the landscape. AT&T and the like should just sponsor local artists to decorate these boxes. I don't know how well this kind of camouflage will work for neighborhoods, but for around town, it's actually pretty neat to see these little works of art on otherwise utilitarian objects.

Re:Wow, those are ugly (1)

bdenton42 (1313735) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718815)

Wow that looks ripe for a car to run into it accidentally.

Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24718081)

At least they're dressing up those dull boxes with some neat designs.

Lazy, Cheap, or Indifferent (5, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718083)

AT&T really has no excuse. Here in Las Vegas there are dozens of cell phone towers that really look like palm trees. All it takes is a little effort to camouflage these boxes and place them with a little more intelligence.

That picture is one ugly job. A little landscaping, fencing, whatever would solve 90% of their problem. Considering how much those boxes cost with their contents you would think a few thousand dollars each for cosmetics would be a drop in the bucket.

Re:Lazy, Cheap, or Indifferent (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718263)

save a dime, burn a dollar...

DRGAF (2, Informative)

Nick Driver (238034) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718811)

I've worked with many tech folks from (insert name of big telecom company here) ranging from the engineers who architected the systems down to the grunts who actually perform the installation of the hardware on-site. From the top to the bottom, they mostly tend to all operate on the DRGAF (Don't Really Give A F*ck) principle.

Oh, and also anytime their equipment or cabling fails or malfunctions, it's always the end-customers or the customers' equipment at fault. The telecom company's equipment always "tests good from their end", even when smoke is pouring out their fibermux cabinet.

Trick or Treat? (1, Funny)

Mister Transistor (259842) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718121)

A few caught fire or even exploded

This must be the modern equivalent of the flaming bag of dog poop left on a doorstep.

This sounds familiar (1)

glindsey (73730) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718135)

Seems awfully close to the commercials DirecTV has been putting out about the horribly ugly, semi-truck-sized boxes required for cable and fiber-optic connections.

waah waah! (3, Insightful)

too2late (958532) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718139)

"we want our high speed internet and tv but you can't put the equipment for it HERE!!!"

Fibre can go how many miles without repeaters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24718145)

I don't think these boxes are really a technical necessity. More likely they're used to split out services so that the customer doesn't see it's all just digital data.

Your fault... (1)

corychristison (951993) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718169)

...for living in a suburb with no alley ways (aka. backroads)

These things are really huge (4, Informative)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718195)

As someone who just had one of these installed at the end of our block, I can attest to the size and noise of the things. They are about twice the size of a standard telephone box, with a footprint of about 5'x5'x5'. They are actively cooled, so you can always hear the fan churning away. They also have diagnostic leds on the outside, so in the middle of the night, you can still see their ugliness.

Unfortunately, the volume of these things makes it impractical to hang them from a utility pole and the need for maintenance and cooling precludes burying them.

The real shame is that the one in my neighborhood got installed on someone's easement, meaning that she's now responsible for mowing around the damn thing.

Re:These things are really huge (1)

coryking (104614) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718279)

and the need for maintenance and cooling precludes burying them.

If the electric company can bury massive transformers, there is no reason the phone company cannot either. The only reason the telcos don't bury these eyesores is because they are cheaper to install at-grade and the city zoning lets them get a way with it.

This is an issue solved with intelligent zoning by your local municipality. I mean shit, here in Seattle if you want to put a cell tower on the top of your 10 story structure, you have to go through the same design review process as for a new building. They have to schedule a public design review meeting an everything (I assume so the hippies can bitch about "evil" radio waves giving their 20 cats cancer or something)

In short, this is a failure of your local zoning code. Keep the pressure up on your city officials and hopefully they'll require telcos to bury these giant eyesores.

Re:These things are really huge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24718365)

Those damn hippies! Or maybe people want to have a say about a big ugly tower going up in their neighborhood. The nerve of people caring about their community. Those selfish swine!

Re:These things are really huge (1)

coryking (104614) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718435)

Or maybe people want to have a say about a big ugly tower going up in their neighborhood.

I was being somewhat facicious, but cell towers bring out some serious hippie-dippie nut balls. For example, we used to do a yearly vacation up in the San Juan Islands. The specific island we would stay on (Lopez) for *years* refused to let companies install cell towers anywhere on the island. Why? "evil radio waves".

As of last year, I still get one bar of reception, and only when I'm on the shoreline leeching off a neighboring islands cell tower.

Basically, I'm not dissing the design review process. In fact, I wish in our city it was stronger--in Vancouver, design reviews are essentially legally binging and if the community doesn't like your shit, it doesn't get built. In Seattle, our design reviews are merely suggestive. The architects are free to ignore the community input--the only thing that matters is the building meets the local zoning codes. Of course, the danger in putting teeth in design review meetings is it might give too much power to "activists" who are hell-bent against any kind of urban growth or densification because their hipster bar might get torn down... but now I'm off topic :-)

Re:These things are really huge (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718359)

Bury them and run the cooling up the pole.

Problem solved.

Re:These things are really huge (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718543)

and the need for maintenance and cooling precludes burying them.

Actually, they would have lower cooling needs underground, and what cooling they did need could be done much more efficiently with a small ground loop (versus a radiator and fan blowing air).

As for maintenance, things like water lines and sewers have similar needs... We all know what a "man hole cover" is. It would be rather simple to have them below ground, with a ground-level panel for extremely easy access.

Re:These things are really huge (1)

f_raze13 (982309) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718641)

Strange, because i have U-Verse, and i most certainly do not have a refrigerator sized box sitting in my back yard. As a matter of fact, they simply made use of one of the old boxes that was already there and not in use. I think. Not positive on that, I was too busy making sure the installation guy that was inside didn't steal anything. Point is, there are no new ridiculously oversized boxes on my lawn.

Re:These things are really huge (1)

Tuoqui (1091447) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718643)

Yeah all you need is some sort of lift system and you can put them underground and lift them up to the surface only when you need to service them.

you get what you pay for (4, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718215)

You want cheap comms, the price is eyesores.

People put up with telegraph poles and electricity pylons for the benefits (electric power and telephones). If you want your broadband and services at rock-bottom prices, you can't expect the utilities to shell-out for NIMBY-approved landscaping.

According to the article, only a few boxes are fridge-sized, most are much smaller. Give it a year ot two and they'll be covered in bushes, to disguise the fact that the residents want all the up-to-date services they offer.

Re:you get what you pay for (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718793)

You want cheap comms, the price is eyesores. People put up with telegraph poles and electricity pylons for the benefits (electric power and telephones). If you want your broadband and services at rock-bottom prices, you can't expect the utilities to shell-out for NIMBY-approved landscaping.

I think that is an oversimplification of the issue, as we're talking about for-profit companies taking advantage of what really belongs to the public.

That said, your point about NIMBY types being cheap is perfectly valid. Where I live, for example, the area is quite scenic (surrounded by mountains) and the power lines run between the streets so the poles are effectively behind everyone's house. When the neighbourhood was built, the utility company allocated funds to bury the lines but the agreement required each and every homeowner to contribute a few thousand dollars toward the total cost.

Granted, telephone poles tend to fall in the "acceptable blight" category, but who wouldn't want them buried (thereby increasing their property values, among other things)? Well, it seems my entire neighbourhood doesn't. Why? Because it costs money. And as with most initiatives, irrespective of how enlightened they are, if there's money involved, the knee-jerk reaction is to reject them outright.

The underlying issue, however, is the sad state of broadband in the US. The "let the market take care of everything" folks continue to rule public opinion so no one should be surprised at the ad hoc nature of improvements, warts and all. As for anyone trying to find the middle ground between the free market and NIMBY forces, I'm sure they'd be up against bumper sticker style complaints from all sides.

R.I.P. George (1, Funny)

Sebilrazen (870600) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718227)

'Not in my front yard!'

N.I.M.F.Y.!

Not quite as exciting as nympho, but then again if they were putting a nympho in my front yard the neighbors might complain. I wonder, could I squeeze that under the code enforcement definition of 'lawn ornamentation' or 'yard decoration?'

Halloween would be easy enough, I'd just refer to the goings on as what happens when a Sasquatch meets a mermaid - I'd even have the external speakers blasting 'Part of Your World' as the neighborhood children walked by, expecting candy but getting the seeds of a million nights of nightmares instead.

Bury them (3, Interesting)

jmichaelg (148257) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718229)

These structures are going to be in place for decades to come.

It certainly costs more to bury them but there's a very good reason that almost every new housing development chooses to bury [irvinehousingblog.com] utilities rather than display them.

In the long run, older neighborhoods will elect to bury the unsightly mess so it doesn't make sense to muck up an existing neighborhood for a short term cost savings.

Re:Bury them ... and they'll fill up with water (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718471)

They need service access so they can't be sealed solid - some kind of service hatch/door will be a must. Obviously they'd have seals, but these perish and water will get in.

Re:Bury them ... and they'll fill up with water (2, Insightful)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718859)

They need service access so they can't be sealed solid - some kind of service hatch/door will be a must. Obviously they'd have seals, but these perish and water will get in.

Gimme a break. The phone companies have been burying copper POTS for 100 years without serious water damage issues. See, the trick is, you don't put the equipment rack directly under the manhole cover, and you include a sump pump. Granted, you clearly couldn't think of that, but I guarantee that AT&T has.

Re:Bury them (1)

flipper9 (109877) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718493)

It makes perfect sense for a company to care about short term cost savings, that's what companies do...eek out the most profit at any cost. They could care less about the blight they inflict upon the neighborhoods they sell to. This is why we need to have regulations of companies, because if they aren't regulated they would destroy the environment or inflict situations like this on the landscape as long as it helps the bottom line. It is up to us to fight back against company control of our laws and government for their own purposes, and make it work for us.

Re:Bury them (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718651)

In the long run, older neighborhoods will elect to bury the unsightly mess

Really? Find me one. I'd love to figure out how they got the companies to do it. Despite the fact that above-ground lines are susceptible to all sorts of weather and tree-related damage that underground lines are not, they don't bury them. The last massive wind storm around here knocked down lines all over the city; several were not just little neighborhood lines but main power-telephone-cable links for 30k people (about a tenth of the city). Solution? New poles.

Looks like we've moved from NIMBY to BANANA (3, Insightful)

Panaqqa (927615) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718293)

That is "Not In My BackYard" has become "Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody".

Re:Looks like we've moved from NIMBY to BANANA (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718349)

If its *my* property they can take a flying leap.

If they buy/lease a plot of land beside me, then they have every right.

Re:Looks like we've moved from NIMBY to BANANA (2, Interesting)

himurabattousai (985656) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718537)

What if they offered their services free of charge in exchange for the box on your grass?

Re:Looks like we've moved from NIMBY to BANANA (1)

coryking (104614) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718447)

That is "Not In My BackYard" has become "Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody".

There is a spectrum as wide as the pacific ocean between "No building" and "Fucking let them build anything anywhere". "Fucking let them build anything anywhere" results in strip malls, suburban nast, and all the problems associated with the lack of planning. "No building" results in... well.. stagnation.

Re:Looks like we've moved from NIMBY to BANANA (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718501)

That is "Not In My BackYard" has become "Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody".

Nobody is complaining about the upgrading communications, just the gigantic boxes being suddenly installed, rather than, say, burried as Verizon is happily doing.

I'd say the only thing that has really changed in the past decade or so, is that the public actually has some rights now, when a company comes in and decides to put up a gigantic eyesore in front of their windows, or dangerously close to the road or their driveway.

This is the polar opposite of what generally happens, as companies would go out of their way to put up a giant billboard, or a new apartment building that completely obstructs the view of other buildings, and often hanging a banner on the side saying "If you don't like looking at this brick wall, call to rent a new apartment from us."

Re:Looks like we've moved from NIMBY to BANANA (1)

mobets (101759) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718597)

Maybe if they were putting them in backyards rather than front yards it wouldn't be so bad.

What's the legality here? (1)

NoPantsJim (1149003) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718337)

My parents have had one of these things in their backyard right on the property line for at least two decades. Must be a cable box. Anyway, they put up a nice white fence around it and littered the fence with ivy, so it doesn't look like total garbage. Of course, they did it out of their own pockets.

My question is (and I did RTFA...) what legal right does a phone company have to dig up someone's property and put up a huge piece of equipment? As far as I can tell, it sounds like these things are going up on private property. Is there some kind of eminent domain issue at play?

Re:What's the legality here? (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718479)

Not 'eminent domain', but 'easement'. Eminent Domain is where the government can force you to sell the property. Easement is where the state/county/city/town/what ever has it written into law that there is an area around your property (typically at the street) where they can run various things. You know, water, sewer, electricity, telephone and other things. The cable companies also purchased/leased a portion of it from the locality to run cable there as well. Here's more info. [about.com] Remember, this is something that has existed for decades and is nothing new.

Re:What's the legality here? (1)

NoPantsJim (1149003) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718613)

Thanks for clearing that up. I totally get why that would be necessary for underground pipes and whatnot. Still seems fucked up to me for above ground stuff though.

Re:What's the legality here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24718535)

The utility installed their equipment on *their* easement through that property. The easement was probably purchased long before your parents ever saw the property.

Re:What's the legality here? (1)

s2k2vidguy (753453) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718559)

Eminent domain, no. What is at play here is something called an easement--specifically in this case a utility easement. Easements allow another the right to use property that the other does not own. Easements are typically marked out on the land plot recorded with the local government. The purpose of a utility easement is pretty obvious: to give the utility the right to place its pipes, cables, wires, etc. on the property and also to access them for maintenance, repair or replacement.

Re:What's the legality here? (1)

Ron_Fitzgerald (1101005) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718565)

I think the article hinted toward the telecom/provider using the municipalities easement laws to distinguish themselves as a utility and therefore allowed to do what they will for the sake of the 'utility'.

4x4 (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718339)

That should remove it from your lawn rather well.

I don't trust AT&T - boycott them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24718341)

How many of these allow for easy wiretapping? Vote with your money and avoid AT&T at all costs.

Make up your mind /. (4, Interesting)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718355)

Lamenting the sad state of broadband in the US (http://tech.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/08/13/1648211 [slashdot.org] ) is a common theme here, so you'd think we'd be gung-ho for any utility to start installing new gear. Instead, we get complaints that the new gear is ugly and that telcos don't want to negotiate a different standard with every little town. I hope we can at least agree that it's logical for the telcos to want one standard per state, at least for the sanity of their installer techs. I'm not objecting to making that standard rigorous, just so long as there's only one of them.

Personal experience, our town (Waltham, MA) was among the first to get FIOS strung up everywhere. It sits on the utility poles, which now carry power, copper, coaxial and fiber. It's not the prettiest set up in the world, but it's really not that bad. I used to live in a suburb that buried all our cables, which was considerably prettier. It also means that they aren't going to get fiber (installation costs aren't justified) and when there was an outage, it took weeks to get it resolved. I much prefer the uglier solution.

Re:Make up your mind /. (3, Insightful)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718545)

Instead, we get complaints that the new gear is ugly and that telcos don't want to negotiate a different standard with every little town. I hope we can at least agree that it's logical for the telcos to want one standard per state, at least for the sanity of their installer techs. I'm not objecting to making that standard rigorous, just so long as there's only one of them.

Sorry, but why exactly should the citizens of various local governments give up their right to determine standards for their community? To make it easier for a telephone company to turn a profit?

Boo hoo, I say. Large businesses consistently complain that following local rules is too complicated. I call bullshit.

There are some issues where it makes sense to have a statewide consensus - medical licenses, law licenses, etc. What is visually acceptable in a given community is not one of those issues. Maybe the folks in town X are fine with boxes on the street, but if the folks in town Y aren't, the telco has a choice: abide by their rules, attempt to convince them to change their rules, or don't run service there. Trying to go over local governments' heads at the state level is just lazy.

Besides, you can bet the lobbyists will be out in force to make sure those state regulations are awfully lax. It'll be much harder to do that on a local level.

And then what? The telco will eventually end up complaining that managing different standards over a dozen or 48 states is too complicated, and there should be a national standard (think car manufacturers). We already see this sort of consolidation happening with IP law - attempts to unify disparate national laws into a consistent worldwide whole that fails to take into account local differences. You can kiss federalism goodbye.

Re:Make up your mind /. (1)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718889)

Why should localities get to be the subset of people that decides? Maybe it should be the county or some other arbitrary division. Maybe my neighborhood should get a veto on it because our standards are different from those jerks across town. Maybe my block has different standards than the next block over. Maybe those evil telcos should customize their equipment suit the particular architecture of each house.

I'm not saying that you *cannot* impose these requirements. I'm saying that you have to understand there are important trade-offs here. As you make the requirements more stringent (and less uniform), you raise the price of implementation and thus slow down the rollout of new services (it suffices to say that I think that's a terrible result). There's no law that says they have to upgrade your copper/coax and, if they don't see a profit, they won't do it. That's how it is were my parents live -- they will have to live with copper and coax indefinitely while I have a fiber optic connection right to my house.

Catching Fire (1)

JeffAMcGee (950264) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718401)

"A few caught fire or even exploded."

Sure, AT&T claims it is the back up batteries. How do we know it wasn't the "Not in my front yard" crowd taking matters into their own hands?

The Shot Heard 'Round The World (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24718415)

For all those who claim that the average American is only an apathetic dreamer who will passively sit back and relent while his basic human rights and freedoms are being slowly dismantled, let this story be a lesson to you.

Fascists take heed. If pushed hard enough, the American citizen will strongly react.

Old news? (1)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718439)

Wasn't this news a couple of years ago?

http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/12/18/214215 [slashdot.org] (http://arstechnica.com/articles/culture/u-verse.ars/2)
http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/08/11/1436206 [slashdot.org]
http://tech.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/08/25/1145216 [slashdot.org]

Simple Solution (2, Funny)

alohatiger (313873) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718531)

Paint "Free Copper Wire Inside" on the side of each box.

It's less annoying in rural terrain (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718581)

I have one of those out front at the main road. It's next to the County's sewerage lift pump, which is in a bigger and noisier rectangular box. It's not so bad if you're in an area that's rural enough that houses aren't right on top of the things.

What puzzles me is the growing size of traffic signal control boxes. Why does it take something with about three vertical feet of 19' rack space for one traffic light? Of course, there's a vision system watching the cameras, a network node, and maybe a UPS in addition to the basic signal controller. But there are enough signal controllers you'd think those components would be more integrated.

IMHO.... (1, Informative)

timtimtim2000 (884095) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718735)

I work for a company that builds cell networks for cell providers (such as Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, etc.). We have a right of way, provided by the FCC under the same laws that allow telephone companies to install poles and wires, to put out equipment nearly any where we please. We do try to stay out of the way of residents and maintain a low profile in the city. However, since cell tower location is an important factor in network coverage, some complaints by residents just can't be resolved.

People really want cell phones. They want them to work nearly everywhere with full reception. However, they don't want to see or hear any of the construction or upkeep of the equipment that is required to be placed in their neighborhoods. Obviously, these are conflicting desires. Something has to give.

AT&T probably did a poor job here in the placement of its equipment. But IMHO, most residents are unrealistic when they crave services but are unwilling to deal with the equipment required to run the services.

Confusing the issue (4, Insightful)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718883)

Thanks for the informative post.

  > But IMHO, most residents are unrealistic when they crave services but
  > are unwilling to deal with the equipment required to run the services

If the people "craving services" were the only ones getting utility boxes in their yard I'd see your point.

But in this case, monopolist carriers are unilaterally selecting random homes to bear the costs of hosting noisy eyesores, regardless of whether the family is their customer, regardless of the will of the neighborhood and local government.

Backup batteries belong in central facilities (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718749)

The marketplace is not very good at assessing declines in safety or reliability. People don't know what they're buying, and the sellers sure aren't going to tell them.

I've talked to half a dozen acquaintances who have been talked into switching off of copper by Verizon or Comcast. No a single one of them was making a free-market decision to trade off reliability in order to get reduced cost.

They had no idea that they weren't getting the kind of service they were used to... service that kept functioning for days, through power outages and the Blizzard of 1979 and the Northeast Power Blackout of 1965.

The communications companies are using small, local backup batteries with limited capacity, only a few hours. On the evidence of the story, they don't have the staff to monitor and maintain thousands of them. Battery explosions are not the best way to find out that batteries need replacement.

Backup batteries should be in a central location, like the dignified brick buildings of the old telephone exchanges, where they can be easily monitored and maintained, and where safety issues won't affect subscribers.

And, frankly, if a central outage takes out a whole town, my guess is that the phone company is more likely to deal with it promptly than if it just affects one neighborhood.

Bring it on! (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718809)

Hey, cable or telco guys! Please install all the dang boxes you want out here so we can get *some* kind of broadband. Those snooty yuppie rich places don't want it, they sayso -> "too ugly" "destroys the oh so darling neighborhood ambiance when we are having our wine and cheese soirées". See? Losers, come out where you'll be appreciated.

Thanks on behalf of the millions of people in the US who live outside the major cities and burbs.

But they're beautiful! (1, Interesting)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 5 years ago | (#24718831)

I don't know why people treat things like these utility boxes, utility poles, communications towers, and wind turbines as ugly. I think that they are quite beautiful, mostly because they provide the some of the most visible insights into how our society functions. Particularly so when you're fortunate enough to pass by a box when a technician is working inside of it. They also provide a character to a community that goes beyond the cookie-cutter houses that ravage our neighborhoods from coast to coast, and the immaculately trimmed green of lawns.

Perhaps NIBYism would be less of an issue if people avoided that knee-jerk reaction that anything unfamiliar is ugly. Any form of infrastructure that makes our society works is ugly. After all, NIBYism would then focus on real issues (e.g. health concerns) rather than vanity.

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