AT&T U-verse greenlit by Park Ridge and Skokie, Ill.

The Park Ridge, Ill., city council and the Skokie, Ill., village trustees apparently almost simultaneously overcame their qualms about how and where AT&T (NYSE: T) can expand U-verse within their municipal boundaries--as long as AT&T forks over $2,000 per utility box that it installs.

Park Ridge voted 5-0 to "take the money and run," as 3rd Ward Alderman Jim Smith put it, approving a "landscape agreement" with AT&T that could be worth $26,000 if the carrier installs 13 boxes to expand the service, according to a story in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate.

Skokie went one step further: in a 3-0 vote, the village trustees said that AT&T could move ahead by paying $2,000 for each box that it installs "throughout the village public right-of-way."

That could mean $78,000 for Skokie if the carrier installs at least 39 VRAD (video ready access device) boxes in the next two years. That number could go higher if AT&T makes service available to two-thirds of the village by 2015, according to a story in the Skokie Review. The carrier originally expected to install 80 boxes and cover only about 50 percent of the community but reached a new agreement with the community along with the deal on the boxes.

Park Ridge is a little more fluid about where those boxes will go and how the city will use the money. While AT&T doesn't necessarily need city council approval if it installs equipment in the right-of-way, the 13 locations it submitted for the VRAD boxes "are not set in stone" and can be moved if everyone agrees, said James Maurer, vice president of external affairs for AT&T.

That might be the case if 5th Ward Alderman Dan Knight's concerns are taken seriously. He's worried about two locations in his ward, one at the end of an alley where he has "serious concerns about the sight-line issue," he said.

While Mayor David Schmidt said that each box location would be carefully scrutinized, Smith pointed out that moving the boxes could only create more problems.

"I see an infinite amount of delay and ill will here," Smith said in the newspaper article. "My recommendation is let AT&T do what they want."

The city, too, can probably do what it wants with the money it brings in. There's nothing in the agreement's language that says the city has to use the money to landscape or screen the 4-foot-tall-by-5-foot-wide boxes.

Skokie is more concerned about who will be served when the boxes are installed. It agrees that the money will be used to cover the costs of landscaping, screening and other features to basically put makeup on the ugly boxes.

Despite the dispute on how much coverage AT&T will give the community--Skokie originally wanted the whole town covered--the two sides are warming, the newspaper article said.

For more:
- the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate carried this story
- and the Skokie Review carried this story

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