Copyright 2006 Paddock Publications, Inc.
Chicago Daily Herald
April 18, 2006 Tuesday
Jack Komperda, Daily Herald Staff Writer
From Lexis Nexis
Carol Stream officials passed an ordinance Monday requiring companies installing video services to first sign a franchise agreement with the village.
The local law is in response to a planned AT&T network upgrade dubbed “Project Lightspeed” that would provide video with its Internet and broadband services.
AT&T’s initiative upgrades the company’s network with more fiber optics, allowing for enhanced services such as Voice-over-Internet Protocol, high-speed Internet access and Internet protocol video.
Carol Stream is among several municipalities in the Western suburbs taking issue with how AT&T is pursuing its upgrade plans, declining to seek municipal franchise agreements that would regulate how and where the infrastructure is installed.
Officials in both Roselle and Wheaton passed a 180-day moratorium blocking the telecommunications giant from installing equipment necessary for its project.
And Carpentersville officials maintain that video upgrade services will only be allowed in their village after AT&T signs a municipal franchise agreement.
AT&T Illinois has filed lawsuits against all three municipalities, arguing the actions infringe on the company’s rights to upgrade its utilities.
And Carol Stream officials acknowledge their new ordinance could prompt yet another suit by the company.
“It’s a distinct possibility,” Village Manager Joseph Breinig said. “But it’s a distinct possibility (without the ordinance) AT&T could run roughshod over our right-of way. We’re not doing this for the franchise fees, but to maintain some orderly control.”
Beyond maintaining jurisdictional control over how utilities are delivered to its residents, municipalities fear AT&T’s upgrade could erode lucrative franchise fees from its cable operators.
Comcast, the lone cable provider for Carol Stream, paid more than $327,000 to the village last year in fees.
In Roselle, Comcast paid $250,000. The money is earmarked for programs such as maintaining the village’s Web site and cable access station.
Some officials also fear that if AT&T is successful in installing its upgrades without first signing a municipal franchise agreement, Comcast may balk at adhering to similar restrictions.
“It is clear that cable companies will stop at nothing to protect the ‘status quo,’ which allows them to raise cable rates at will,” according to a statement posted on the AT&T Illinois Web site concerning the lawsuits filed against Carpentersville, Roselle and Wheaton.
AT&T wants to have its technology in 18 million homes in 13 states by the end of 2007, the company’s Web site states.