Wheaton residents and businesses are now likely months away from having more choices regarding their telephone, television and Internet providers.
City council members Monday, by a vote of 5-2, amended a local ordinance, regarding the size and placement of above ground utility cabinets, to allow AT&T to offer its U-verse Internet, television, phone services throughout the city.
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AT&T has four utility cabinets in the city and would like to add as many as 11 more smaller cabinets on residential rights of way. Council members believe they have eased the concerns of many residents who feared looking out their front windows or doors and seeing a green 24-cubic-feet box.
"We've precluded (contractors) from putting these boxes on the same side of the house that has the front door on a corner lot," said North District Councilman Phil Suess.
Resident Joy Dudgeon, however, already has a box in her yard and told council members she fears it will be replaced with a larger box to accommodate the new service.
"I feel like if I give an inch, I give up my whole yard," she said. "I feel like the city should be positioning these boxes, which remind us of the first computers, in the city hall parking lot and otherwise in commercial properties, public parks and parking lots of banks, churches and schools."
Councilman at Large John Prendiville and South District Councilman John Rutledge cast the two dissenting votes.
"This has been a difficult decision for me because I am very much in favor of competition, but the unanimous feedback I've gotten from everyone who has contacted me has been against having a big box in front of their house," Prendiville said. "I personally would love to have U-verse, but I don't want that big box in front of my house or next to my house, and I know my neighbors feel the same way."
A half-dozen residents, many of whom also claimed to be AT&T employees, also pleaded with the council members to give them an alternative to Comcast and dish-related services. Some who work from home also said they believe the AT&T service will provide them with faster, more reliable Internet service.
Mayor Michael Gresk agreed.
"We've been talking about this for at least seven years. I've gotten emails and telephone calls going both ways on this, but I think it's good for the community," he said. "We are coming late to the table, and I understand there are people out there who truly, truly want this and need this."
Before installing any boxes, AT&T, or any other utility provider, will have to go through an administrative review process through the city.