Ill. Municipalities Look to Box In AT&T

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Hot-pink and highway-yellow boxes have cropped up in at least two municipalities in Illinois as a protest of a state bill community officials believe will give AT&T total control of the placement of huge powering vaults it needs to operate its planned video service.

The boxes were constructed and placed in the village of Itasca and nearby Naperville, both in DuPage County. The pink Itasca boxes were in place beginning Feb. 21. Naperville's are in place now, bearing the message, "This big ugly box brought to you by AT&T Project Lightspeed in the name of competition."

On closer inspection, posted letters to residents explain the boxes and urge constituents to contact their state legislators to oppose HB 1500, an AT&T-supported bill that will move video franchising to the state Corporations Commission.

"This was the best way we could think of to raise awareness. It's tough to get the attention of the media," said Dan Di Santo, assistant to the Naperville city manager.

The box placement last month in Itasca resulted in 84 letters from residents to legislators opposing the bill, added Itasca city manager David C. Williams.

Representatives of both communities said they welcome competition, but they want to retain some of the authority they now have over incumbent operators.

Last year, Naperville tried to reach an agreement to bring AT&T's Project Lightspeed infrastructure project to town. Itasca put a moratorium on infrastructure permits in advance of any power-box placement by AT&T.

Itasca and a handful of other Illinois communities that delayed or considered delaying permitting were sued in federal court by AT&T. Williams said those suits are "grinding along," although the box stunt attracted outreach from the telco to possibly open talks in the community.