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Improving infrastructure: AT&T placing utility cabinets around city

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GINA R. HEINE
May 10, 2008
— Coming soon, possibly to a right-of-way near you: A 4-foot utility cabinet.

AT&T already has installed two of its fiber optic conversion cabinets in Janesville, and more are on the way, said Jack Messer, director of public works.


The cabinets can be found on Delavan Drive west of Center Avenue and in the greenbelt on East Milwaukee Street near Wright Road.


Messer hasn’t heard any reaction from residents about the boxes yet, he said.


“But we also haven’t put any in front of anyone’s house,” he said.


AT&T’s initial plans called for up to 80 cabinets in Janesville through 2008, company spokesman Jeff Bentoff said in a e-mail to The Janesville Gazette.


“At this point, it’s highly unlikely that that many will be placed,” he said.


Some of the boxes could end up on terraces in front of homes, though city and AT&T officials say they will try to avoid such a move.


City approval for each box comes only from an application to the public works department. AT&T has nine applications on file with the city, Messer said.


Here’s an overview of the project:


-- Why are the cabinets needed?

Installation of the boxes, called Project Lightspeed, is needed to increase bandwidth before AT&T can offer its product, U-verse, Bentoff said. U-verse is a 100-percent Internet protocol-based video service. The service will include digital TV, high-speed Internet and digital voice services.


The cabinets convert the fiber optic signal to bring it into homes through copper wiring. Each cabinet serves 300 to 350 living units.


-- How will I know if a cabinet is destined for my street?

AT&T will notify residents of a neighborhood meeting to provide information on plans for their area, Messer said. City officials will attend to help resolve any issues.


The first meeting will be from 5 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St., to discuss the proposed locations of the nine cabinets. (See sidebar of proposed locations)


“If you get a letter from AT&T, don’t just throw it away,” Messer said. “It may not be marketing material. It may mean there’s a piece of infrastructure coming to your neighborhood.”


-- What if I’m not happy with a proposed site for a box in front of my house?

Let that be known.


Attend the neighborhood meeting, call the city at (608) 755-3160 or contact AT&T when you receive the letter.


“It’s kind of an interactive process,” Messer said. “We work with AT&T, they work with us and citizens in finding the best locations.”


Bentoff said AT&T would work closely with the city to find the best possible locations.


“Our goal is to find locations that are as unobtrusive as possible, and we’re confident that we’ll find such sites in Janesville,” he said.


-- Will the service be provided to all neighborhoods in the city?

An AT&T spokesman would not say yes or no.


“We have the potential to offer the service in areas where we offer phone service,” Bentoff said. “Over time, we’re going to reach more households in Wisconsin and around other areas that we serve.”


U-verse made its debut in Wisconsin more than a year ago, and AT&T is expanding its availability throughout he state, he said.


“U-verse is a relatively new service, so it’d be premature to predict the pace of expansion,” he said.


-- Why can’t the infrastructure be placed underground?

“Because of the state-of-the-art technology involved, the cabinets require ventilation, heating and access,” Bentoff said. “To create such a controlled and accessible environment underground would be impractical and would require a larger above-ground footprint than a cabinet.”


Locations of AT&T cabinets

AT&T is installing fiber optic utility cabinets throughout Janesville, with two already in place.


Initial plans called for up to 80 cabinets, but a company spokesman said it’s unlikely the company will place that many.


The cabinets generally cover an 8-foot by 10-foot area and are 4 feet tall.


Here’s the proposed locations for the nine applications on file with the city for AT&T’s first round of installations:


-- 806 Glen St.


-- 15 E. Van Buren St.


-- 2312 Black Bridge Road


-- 509 Adams St.


-- 1941 S. Chatham St.


-- 1810 Kellogg Ave.


-- 2210 Kellogg Ave.


-- 2408 Kellogg Ave.


-- 2512 Kellogg Ave.


AT&T will host a public meeting from 5 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St., to discuss the project with residents.



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