Light Speed project drawing neighbor complaints.

Street View: Oak Grove resident Katherine Minerva, left, with Neighborhood Association President Marcia Hardy, is concerned that the streets offer less accessibility with AT&T’s meters in place.

AT&T’s Project Light Speed, a fiber optic network competing with Comcast for local customers, promises super-fast Internet and cable TV service – but it also deposits clunky metal boxes in public rights-of-way.

A three-foot-by-five-foot box on the corner of Third and Park in Monterey caught the attention of Oak Grove Neighborhood Association president Marcia Hardy. “It’s almost blocking the whole sidewalk,” Hardy says. “This one isn’t passable with a wheelchair.” 

The box, and others that have sprung up on the streets of Monterey, Salinas, Seaside and P.G. in the last year, contain equipment to deliver the company’s digital signal to homes, according to AT&T spokesman Lane Kasselman.

City of Monterey permits issued to AT&T prohibit the company from blocking sidewalks. 

“If something was installed that doesn’t allow wheelchair access, we’d have to fix that,” says Assistant City Manager Fred Cohn. Monterey Building Official John Kuehl promises to follow up. 

Cohn notes that the company pays a franchise fee, but says the information about exactly how much the city has collected from AT&T wasn’t immediately available. 

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“At least the city’s getting revenue for them,” Hardy says. 

The boxes raised eyebrows in 2006 when four of them exploded in cities outside California; Kasselman says the problem was caused by a particular brand of battery that the company no longer uses.

Four Orange County cities have barred Project Light Speed from their towns. AT&T contends people are clamoring for the service in most of the country. Kasselman says the company plans to wire the rest of the county in the months and years to come.

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