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The Internet Communications Hardware

Telecom Rollouts Raise Ire Over Utility Boxes 284

Posted by Soulskill
from the price-of-progress dept.
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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Telecom Rollouts Raise Ire Over Utility Boxes

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  • by dreamchaser (49529) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @09:23AM (#24717999) Homepage Journal

    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) 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)
      • by demonlapin (527802) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @10:46AM (#24718577) Homepage Journal
        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: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Seakip18 (1106315)

          Yep. The first one was actually placed by a church as part of their "getting the word out" I thought.

          They just sold the interior out to make some money.

          Any idea when the latter two were installed? I always wondered about those two.

        • Cell towers (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AlpineR (32307)

          My biggest complaint is against cell towers with blinding strobe lights on top. So bright that you can see them from ten miles away on a sunny day. Two or three of those can kind of ruin an otherwise scenic vista. (I'm looking at you, Michigan.)

          The best solution I've seen is to disguise the towers as pine trees. It just takes a few branches, and the technology has been perfected since the 1950's.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Glendale2x (210533)

          This must be a flatlander problem... around these parts, cell "towers" are often on sides of buildings [renowirelessinfo.com] or tiny towers on the sides of mountains [renowirelessinfo.com]. Of course, we do have the ugly-ass "tree" towers [renowirelessinfo.com].

      • by Z00L00K (682162) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @11:02AM (#24718689) Homepage

        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.

      • by autocracy (192714)
        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.
  • oblig. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @09:24AM (#24718005) Homepage Journal
    Get off my lawn!
  • 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.
    • by RoverDaddy (869116) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @09:36AM (#24718093) Homepage
      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'.
      • by kaos07 (1113443) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @10:03AM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Yvan256 (722131)

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

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by westlake (615356)
          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...?
          .

          Is this an internal contradiction or two warring camps?

          The geek may be bitching about access to fiber. His dad may have been the guy who pissed off his neighbors when he installed a 16 foot BUD in the eighties.

          You can grow weary and wary of the way tech defines and transforms a landscape.

          The high tension lines that bisec

      • Re:Easement (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Migraineman (632203) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @10:04AM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ahmcguffin (1304183)
          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 g
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Migraineman (632203)
            It'd be a shame if someone were to accidentally back his car into one of those boxes ... not that I'm advocating such behavior. I'm just sayin ...
      • by coryking (104614) * on Saturday August 23, 2008 @10:11AM (#24718311) Homepage Journal

        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.

        • by hrieke (126185) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @10:24AM (#24718403) Homepage

          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.

          • by LearnToSpell (694184) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @10:53AM (#24718633) Homepage
            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.
          • by no1home (1271260)

            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.

            That's a pretty big "IF"! Most communities have a budget that's too small as is, let alone adding this to the mix. And the utilities would claim (rightly??) a need to raise prices if the costs were passed

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Where is the "-1 Wrong" mod. You're lucky if they're just 4x4x2 where you live, but in Illinois, where I live, they're like 7x4x3.

            Here's a Picture [google.com] of one.

            If they could hide these effectively, I wouldn't care, but it is the size of these monstrosities in addition to the sneaky tactics that AT&T is trying to pull that really pisses me off. There are cities all over the country that are suing AT&T to stop them from being installed until they do it properly. AT&T is breaking the law in a lot

        • by Wrath0fb0b (302444) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @10:29AM (#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!

      • by wkk2 (808881)
        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.
    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      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 s

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by v1 (525388)

      They don't like to bury them for several reasons. I've seen an underground telephone "splice" get flooded and knock out a large chunk of businesses before they could get it pumped out and fixed.

      In many towns you see small green boxes jut out of the lawn near the curb, those are also splices.

      Also for the larger equipment where it's more than just a splice, it's a bigger deal if it gets wet, and you have to be able to get at it for maintenance. A proper vault in the ground for such a thing would add a lot t

  • Looks (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 23, 2008 @09:27AM (#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.

  • by cliffiecee (136220) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @09:30AM (#24718045) Homepage Journal

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

  • by EdIII (1114411) * on Saturday August 23, 2008 @09:35AM (#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.

    • by hitmark (640295)

      save a dime, burn a dollar...

    • DRGAF (Score:3, Informative)

      by Nick Driver (238034)

      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

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by element-o.p. (939033)

        The telecom company's equipment always "tests good from their end", even when smoke is pouring out their fibermux cabinet.

        One of the guys I work with recently called the local cable Internet provider to troubleshoot his connection. The cable provider called back a little while later to report that "everything looked okay with their equipment -- [the tech] ran all of the diagnostic tests and could see the cable modem, etc." The only problem -- my friend called from work, after having shut off his cable modem before he left his house that morning. In other words, all of the blathering about everything looking fine

    • Here in Las Vegas there are dozens of cell phone towers that really look like palm trees.

      That doesn't work everywhere, though. Here in Georgia they have towers that look nothing at all [google.com] like pine trees.

      • by EdIII (1114411) *

        It would work if they had not done such a shit job. Of course no one could believe that cell tower in the picture was a tree. Unless somebody pruned that sucker to look like a Q-Tip.

        Maybe if they actually made it look like a tree. Like branches and maybe a bunch of them little things called leaves.

        I do agree though, it is easier to fake a palm tree than it is to fake a pine tree. However, it is still not impossible to fake a pine tree.

  • 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! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by too2late (958532) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @09:45AM (#24718139) Journal
    "we want our high speed internet and tv but you can't put the equipment for it HERE!!!"
    • Re:waah waah! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by NevermindPhreak (568683) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @01:58PM (#24719925)

      I think they just want AT&T to do a better job at hiding the equipment. Or placing them in less-annoying locations, instead of in the middle of someones front lawn.

      People have been hiding electronics for years, and there really isn't any excuse for this other than cost. I bet if you dig far enough into the company, you'll find that someone did a cost analysis showing that it's cheaper to take the bad PR from those that complain than it is to put money into hiding these from the start.

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

  • by Lord Byron II (671689) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @09:55AM (#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.

    • by coryking (104614) *

      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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by aaarrrgggh (9205)

        Pretend you could put this equipment in a concrete vault. If the box is a 5' cube above ground, you are looking at a minimum of a 10' x 8' x 8' excavation to build a vault and bury it. It will need a 6' x 6' access hatch for future equipment replacement.

        Underground utilities are hard work. Finding that big of a space clear in many areas is a huge challenge; the planning effort alone is easily doubled, and the installation cost is at least 10x. On top of all that, the operating cost is at least 50% highe

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Bury them and run the cooling up the pole.

      Problem solved.

    • by evilviper (135110)

      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.

    • by Tuoqui (1091447)

      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.

    • by nabsltd (1313397)

      Does anyone know what AT&T is doing that requires this size of box?

      My whole neighborhood has Verizon FIOS (internet, TV, and phone) installed, and the only indication are 18" square boxes that are buried so deep you can only see the top and can drive a lawnmower over them.

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @09:57AM (#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.

    • 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

  • '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 s

  • Bury them (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jmichaelg (148257) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @09:59AM (#24718229) Journal

    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.

    • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dun Malg (230075)

        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.

    • 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.

  • by Panaqqa (927615) * on Saturday August 23, 2008 @10:09AM (#24718293) Homepage
    That is "Not In My BackYard" has become "Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody".
    • by nurb432 (527695)

      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: (Score:3, Interesting)

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

        • by Dun Malg (230075) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @11:28AM (#24718895) Homepage

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

          Lifetime internet/VOD/cableTV/phone service in exchange for a box on my lawn? Fuck, I'd be out there pouring the ugly concrete pad myself. But see, that's the whole goddamn point isn't it. They're using municipal easements to crap up people's front yards with nether their consent, nor their input, nor any reimbursement.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by nurb432 (527695)

            I actually rejected purchase on a newly built house for a reason like this.

            They neglected to display the fact that there was going to be a monster power transformer in the CENTER of my front lawn, where a tree was supposed to have been according to the contract. ( monster = 3x3x3 )

            They waited until the house was almost finished then stuck it in and claimed they didn't have to tell me about any easements or changes in the plot. I threatened to sue them under breach of contract as i waved the plot plan in th

        • by nurb432 (527695)

          Id still pass.

        • what if they used MODERN equipment instead of old shit (a guess, based on the SIZE of that crap) ?

          it seems like the size is fine for a 'data comm closet' but once you start going near peoples' houses (in calif, people can be paying $500k for a 'starter home') - you do NOT want some noisy fire-catching blinkinglight box near you! its unrealistic and its ONLY there to SELL crap to the neighborhood. the cost/benefit is not there if it pisses off the land owners or homeowners.

          we all want high speed net acces

        • As long as I also got to landscape around it... but hell - I'd offer to help with the installation if that was the case.

    • by coryking (104614) *

      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.

    • by evilviper (135110)

      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 drive

  • 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
    • by Ironsides (739422)
      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 somet
      • 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.
      • by hey! (33014)

        "eminent domain" and "easement" are orthogonal notions. A government, or a private entity empowered by the government (such as a railroad) can acquire easements by eminent domain in the same way they obtain complete title. "Easement" is not a back door to deprive owners of the use of their land without meeting the requirements of eminent domain.

        Easements are rights to use the land for a certain purpose, or to forbid certain uses of the land. Easements can arise in any number of ways, through your own ac

    • 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'.
  • by nurb432 (527695)

    That should remove it from your lawn rather well.

  • Make up your mind /. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Wrath0fb0b (302444) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @10:17AM (#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.

    • by langelgjm (860756) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @10:43AM (#24718545) Journal

      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.

      • 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 t

  • 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]

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

  • 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 i

  • 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

  • New? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mr_josh (1001605)
    I don't think this is a terribly new practice. My parents live in a 28 year old home and they have a power transformer in a box at the corner of their lot. It's close to the size of a refrigerator, a smallish one on its side, maybe. It's a big, green steel box that sticks out like a sore thumb, except they planted shrubs around it and now you can't see it unless you walk right over there. Generally, I am very suspicious of the dealings that my city has with outside infrastructure providers, housing cont
  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @12:02PM (#24719137) Journal

    * Charge them rent for the use of your property, sending an invoice monthly. When they don't pay (who knows? a big enough A/P department might), report them to the credit bureaus. When they raise a stink about having to deal with that, offer to sell them the small patch of property for whatever the going rate is per-square-foot in your locale and maybe add a bit of padding for negotiations room.

    * Use that spot to build your brand new compost pile. Build a large wooden box big enough to contain the thing, then keep it filled with manure (and when applicable, the 'dog bombs') and your grass clippings. Claim that the heat it generates is perfect for generating high-grade manure, and that you're only recycling otherwise wasted energy.

    * Send them a bill for the years (or even decades) of landscaping (even just mowing) you've had to do in the spot the box now occupies. Also send them a bill for any and all landscaping you've done to hide the damned thing.

    * Front Yard? Bolt your mailbox to it. Hell, offer to bolt your neighbors' mailboxes to it.

    * Plant a tree next to it... the biggest one Home Depot has. The roots will eventually (within a couple of years) destroy the thing from underneath, and most towns now have 'green laws' that prevent a utility from cutting down or even harming the tree. They move, you win.

    * Do what I did... buy a house in the back of a "flag lot" [answers.com] (just pick one with enough land around and in it so you don't feel crowded). No utility easements back here, folks. When Verizon showed up to drop in fiber, the only impact I saw was a long, skinny line of spray-paint at the front of the driveway. the neighbor up front OTOH got a shiny new box in his yard (which explains where a lot of these ideas came from).

    /P

  • I live at XXX XXXXXXX, please feel free to use my front or back yard as a location for one of your utility boxes, since it would mean I could finally get good high speed service.

    Where I live I have a choice between Qworst and Comcrap, so I'd gladly take a fridge sized box in order to get something like FOIS.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @02:42PM (#24720245) Homepage

    Burying them underground isn't a great solution. The "parkway" (strip of land between the sidewalk and the street) in front of my house has a fairly small above-ground utility box for POTS, and the neighbors have some more of the local POTS equipment underground in their parkway. For years now, the phone company has been struggling with flooding of the underground stuff, which often causes multiple-day service outages. (People worry about the reliability of VOIP, but we have Vonage, and have kept on being able to use our phone during all those POTS outages that affected our neighbors.)

    The slashdot summary seems a little misleading when it refers to "lawns." The photo in the article, for instance, shows one that's in a concrete strip between the sidewalk and the street. Granted, I wouldn't want something that huge and graffiti-covered in front of my house.

  • by failedlogic (627314) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @03:24PM (#24720583)

    I think the impediment in this case is selling the service to customers and not that the boxes are an eyesore. If the service doesn't sell well AT&T will probably remove the boxes or upgrade the network to accommodate for smaller boxes. In either case, their PR department will lose. I guess it might end up selling well, but its easy as a virtual monopoly to force upgrades on its customers due to phasing out service. If they were selling enough access as it was, there should be no reason to upgrade right away. IMO, 90% of customers don't want more channels and interactive service. They just want TV to work and give them the channels they want.

    A few years back I worked in sales for a large Cable company. They were one of the first to roll out the Microsoft based IPTV service. The marketing people thought it was a great idea and started plugging it away to customers. IMO, whatever market surveys they did were really poorly done. The cable company already had rolled out the Digital terminals and they were selling really well. I didn't even have to try. The company tried to market the IPTV service and people didn't think much of it and were confused. The market was really limited and no one bought it. It was phased out and the company really doesn't talk about it much.

    I went on the AT&T site to look at this new and "exciting" feature. It really parallels all the problem employer had with the IPTV rollout. Its okay but I don't think customers will buy it unless they're compelled to by removing older service. I just suggest to people that really hate it to either en mass: 1) Call AT&T, tell them to cancel service unless they remove box. Follow through on cancellation. Local cable company will be more than happy to waive install charges. 2) Don't sign up for it. Make AT&T choke on their piece of buy. They have to throw it up and be made the fool for rolling this out.

    Oh, and I dealt a lot with pissed off customers who had much smaller boxes than this AT&T one installed on their property. When it took 4 - 6 months to bury the darn things it usually meant cancellation of service and a claims court judgment in their favor. I dare not ask how much this will cost AT&T.
     

  • by mhollis (727905) on Saturday August 23, 2008 @05:07PM (#24721541) Journal

    OK, I read through most of these posts. And it's fairly clear that everyone is taking the Cable companies' views here, so I all ready know how the general community feels here. And you have a right to encourage your town to sue the Telcos to prevent the boxes. In fact, since it's a major election year, I'll bet your town fathers would get all excited if a bunch of you were excited about this.

    I use AT&T for my iPhone and I pray every day that I don't have to call their support. They have earned a bad reputation, as have most of the Baby Bells. So I'll bet all of the objections are tied in to a routine knee-jerk hatred of the Bell Companies.

    And, for "unsightly," just multiply the satellite antennas all over buildings everywhere. Sure, they're not the size of a refrigerator, but if you sprout multiples on buildings everywhere and especially in high-density areas, you can get all the way over to downright hideous. I would suggest that (in years past) many localities decided that C-Band and the larger K-Band backyard antennas were so unsightly that they passed laws against homeowners having them. I sometimes wonder if cable companies or their employees weren't involved in those town council votes.

    So you say you like the Cable companies over the Telcos. Fine. Here's what you do:

    Encourage the construction of the "unsightly" Telco boxes. Then, when your town or street is wired up and running, do what I did. Call up your "beloved" Cable company. And tell them line-item for line-item what the Telco's rates are. The Telcos will let you in on this information as soon as they roll out the service (you'll find their offers in the mail and probably on your door). Here's what you will notice: Telcos charge less for television and Internet services. They charge more for telephone services than the Cable companies do. And anyone, whether or not it's Satellite, Cable or Telco will give you an initial discount.

    If the Cable Company (that you love so much) is thinking, they'll send you to their "Retention Department." It is after a short discussion with them that I got $20.00 knocked off my cable bill each month for a full year.

    And if you never get to your Cable Company's "Retention Department," it's because they have all ready priced themselves below the Telco.

    Remember, you need to compare Apples to Apples here. Both the Telcos and the Cable companies are ground-based and they can sell you telephone, television and fast internet, though the Telcos' internet is not usually as fast as the Cable company's.

    In the end, it's possible for you and everyone to get a lower rate just because of the competition in the ground-based services. And it's also possible that the differing taxes and regulations will start evening out across the playing field.

    Oh, and that "refrigerator?" Looks more beautiful every month I get a discount from my Cable company.

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