You know what your sidewalk needs?

More refrigerators. That's what it needs.

AT&T is planning on installing new "street-level communications cabinets" on sidewalks throughout the city. [...] To be clear, they will not be replacing their current boxes. Rather, they will be installing an additional box at each location that will be about four feet long that will connect to the old boxes. AT&T may also be "upgrading" many of the existing boxes, which will now be 5'5" tall by 26" deep. AT&T plans to place the new boxes 18 inches from the curb. The company says that they are unable to place the boxes underground because it would require fans and ventilation to protect the sensitive fibers.

A number of San Francisco neighborhoods have already fought the project; see this article from August, which suggests that they had backed down on their plan. But based on the recent community meeting, they seem to be moving forward again. State law prohibits localities, including San Francisco, from preventing this project.


AT&T's rival Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable company, apparently thought so too. It ran ads in Illinois calling the cabinets "giant utility boxes." AT&T didn't think it was funny and sued Comcast in March for running a "false, deceptive and disparaging advertising campaign." The companies signed a standstill agreement in May.

Goldberg noted that Verizon Communications Inc. was able to bury its fiber-optic boxes underground in town -- a fact the phone company was more than eager to confirm.

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12 Responses:

  1. pdx6 says:

    My neighborhood org fought these and I thought they had won (some history). I guess not. AT&T: Your world. Delivered. To the NSA.

    • pdx6 says:

      Just a follow up from what is going on with those who are doing work to oppose the fridge boxes: AT&T withdrew their application to install the boxes at the appeal hearing with the Board of Supervisors, but AT&T is now doing a "divide and conquer" approach, trying to get buy-in from smaller neighborhoods to say that they did do the community outreach asked for and expect to get a green light for the project.

  2. vxo says:

    I have four letters for these jerks: CEEV. Controlled Environment Electronic Vault.

    Basically, it's a concrete prefab bunker that you sink into the ground. The connection to the outside world is a little hatchway and low profile air conditioning unit. Example here.

    I've seen a few of the above ground boxes here. They're pretty rare streetside, if not only for the fact that our legendary chaotic drivers will regularly plow them over with cars, trucks, and semi tractor/trailers.

    • discogravy says:

      it's not that it can't be done. they won't do it (likely because it's too expensive, especially when they can browbeat whatever city they want to do it in to take it.)

      • vxo says:

        Trust me when I say the TCO (total cost of ownership... yeah i get too many of those "IT for upper idiot management" magazines) is lower once the aboveground box takes a few SUVs to the fucking FACE.

        Once in a while, my area will lose internet, phone, and most cellular provider coverage due to that. It's pretty entertaining.

    • pavel_lishin says:

      Plus hobos could find a way to break in and live in relative luxury!

    • lafinjack says:

      Why do they need a bunker? Or even a room?

      It can't be that hard to have something the size of the big bricks pictured in the OP, also sunk into the ground. Except you put a hatch over that, and have a motorized gurney/lift to bring it out of the ground when it needs service. Manual operation for a hand crank or other physical attachment from the service truck. Umbilical out the bottom and into the network. Best of both worlds. Sentence fragments. Done now. Bye.

      • strspn says:

        Palo Alto has had fiber to the last mile for more than five years.

        If everywhere had fiber to terminal premises, then people could take care of their own UPS and ventilation would not require any special power or equipment.

        • hadlock says:

          Verizon fiber to terminal pemises is in effect in Plano, TX and surrounding Dallas suburbs. You get a white box on the wall with a UPS attached. Total unit size is less than the size of a shoebox. From there your services get wired into your house normally.

  3. feren says:

    Dear JWZ/San Francisco:

    Please enjoy your complimentary exploding VRAD cabinets.

    Previously, previously, previously and previously.

    • chuck_lw says:

      Oddly enough, that was my first thought.

      I once had a short temp job with US West (yes, before the name change to Qwest) where I had to prepare a long, detailed spreadsheet documenting the exact location of every one of those kinds of cabinets owned/operated by US West. (What? They didn't already know?)

      The reason? Because there were a couple incidents where the damn things went BOOM! They needed the locations documented so maintenance workers could run around and let the explosive gases out of the things.

      That was years ago. Evidently, someone didn't tell AT&T about it.