San Francisco judge clears way for AT&T U-verse utility boxes

In a case that seems to have lasted only slightly less time than a presidential election campaign, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Teri Jackson might have finally cleared the way for AT&T (NYSE: T) to install up to 726 U-verse utility boxes on the city's sidewalks. Then again, the good judge might have just cleared the way for those opposed to the installation to appeal the ruling.

A coalition of citizens groups--including San Francisco Beautiful, San Francisco Tomorrow, Dogpatch Neighborhood Association, Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association and the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association--had taken the matter to court last August, challenging the city's approval of the planned installations.

And, while AT&T spokesman Lane Kasselman was crowing about being "pleased with the decision by the San Francisco Superior Court affirming the decision by the Board of Supervisors to support AT&T's investment in our community, Milo Hanke, a spokesman for San Francisco Beautiful indicated that the decision was hardly a fait accompli and that an appeal was likely.

"The precedent for this is really scary," Hanke told the San Francisco Business Times. "This opens up our sidewalks. It's a bonanza for private utilities."

Only a bare majority of the Board of Supervisors apparently felt the box installations were a good deal a year ago when they agreed, 6-5, to uphold a city staff determination exempting AT&T from having to do an environmental impact report. Without the ruling, the boxes would have been installed so the neighborhood activists put the decision in the court's hands.

Judge Jackson's ruling found that the city correctly determined that the boxes--four feet across, just over four feet tall and approximately two feet deep sitting on concrete pedestals flanked by metal bollards--were example because they could be considered "small new equipment and facilities in small structures."

It's been a long struggle for AT&T and U-verse in the City by the Bay. The service was first proposed in 2007 which would have made San Francisco one of the first cities in California to get the IPTV service. The city said OK but backed away in 2008 when neighborhood activists objected. Since then, San Francisco has gone from being one of the first U-verse cities in the state to the last major city without U-verse.

For more:
 - read the San Francisco Business Times story

Related articles:
AT&T U-verse heating things up in San Francisco market
AT&T may pare back utility boxes in S.F.; Cox tests interactive commercials in Tulsa;
San Francisco eases away from cell phone radiation mandate