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Lodi Residents May Lose Yard Space to AT&T Cabinets

Residents in Lodi, Calif., will have interesting lawn ornaments soon and some folks aren’t too happy about it. AT&T is set to install large gray boxes in some front yards as the telecommunications provider prepares to offer its voice, video and data offerings in the area.

AT&T is planning to offer its Lightspeed service in some areas of Lodi, while offering customers Dish Network satellite service in others, said city attorney Steve Schwabauer. The city has allowed AT&T to install the necessary equipment to offer its expanded product lineup, but isn’t letting the telco actually sell the services until it receives a local franchise.

The boxes are unsightly, Schwabauer said, and many will be placed in residents’ front yards. In nearby Stockton, Julie and Sean Whiteley told The Stockton Record that they refer to the hulking box in their yard as “the refrigerator.”

AT&T has already approached Lodi about installing 10 boxes near apartment buildings to jumpstart its Lightspeed project in the city, according to The Record. The boxes are over five feet tall and almost four feet deep, Schwaubauer said. The boxes are to be placed in public utility easements about 10 feet from the sidewalks. City officials asked AT&T if the boxes could be made smaller and were told no. Each box is able to serve about 300 homes and with about 23,000 separate addresses in Lodi, several dozen boxes will be required throughout the community.

“They have caused quite a stir,” Schwaubauer said. But what really ticks him off is the fact that AT&T won’t negotiate a local franchise and has sued the city over its insistence that it do before AT&T can offer video services in the area. Moreover, Schwabauer notes, AT&T’s construction plans call for Lightspeed in only medium- and high-income neighborhoods. Residents in the rest of the city, except for one lower economic area, will be offered satellite.

“Satellite is not Lightspeed,” Schwabauer said. “If they are going to use our rights of way to offer services, they need to offer all our residents those services. Comcast is required to do that. AT&T should be required to do the same.”