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Connecticut Agency: AT&T Needs City OKs For Boxes

9/05/2008 10:21 AM Eastern

AT&T will have to get permission from Connecticut municipalities before installing its refrigerator-size video equipment on utility poles and other properties, according to a draft decision from the state’s Department of Public Utility Control.

An AT&T VRAD boxThe DPUC said it expects to issue a final decision Sept. 29. The agency reviewed the issue after the cities of Bridgeport, Danbury and Stamford filed petitions to investigate the safety and placement of AT&T’s 5-foot-high video-ready access devices (VRADs).

The draft decision comes after the agency already ordered AT&T to retroactively obtain consent from property owners living near its U-verse equipment in Connecticut for the hardware placements.

“AT&T should have acted in a more responsible manner by providing full and complete notice to the public officials and requested informed consent from adjoining proprietors prior to the placement of its facilities,” the DPUC said in Friday’s draft decision. If it had done so, the agency said, “the company would have received greater feedback and acceptance of the VRAD cabinets.”

In a statement, AT&T Connecticut president Ramona Carlow said, “We are pleased that the DPUC's draft order issued this morning regarding AT&T's Video Ready Access Devices will allow us to continue our effort to expand U-verse and bring competitive video and broadband services to consumers and businesses across Connecticut.”

In Connecticut, AT&T currently owns approximately 800,000 utility poles. Less than 1% will have VRAD cabinets mounted on them, according to the DPUC.

The large VRAD cabinets were mocked in a Comcast ad campaign in Chicago, prompting a false-advertising lawsuit from AT&T. The boxes have also caught fire in some locations because of defects in their backup batteries.

According to the Connecticut DPUC’s draft decision, AT&T would be required to:

--establish a formal working group to resolve any other outstanding issues or disagreements with affected municipalities;

-- file quarterly reports detailing adjoining proprietor owners’ consent;

-- report any safety issues or concerns occurring in Connecticut or in other states relative to the VRAD cabinets;

-- adopt “best practices” that could enhance the VRAD installation in Connecticut; and

-- provide to the respective municipalities specific locations, including utility pole numbers and street addresses for the proposed VRAD cabinet installations.

September