Divided Wheaton City Council approves installation of 11 AT&T U-Verse boxes

WHEATON – In front of a divided crowd, a divided Wheaton City Council voted Aug. 5 to approve the installation of 11 AT&T U-Verse service boxes, allowing thousands of residents potential access to high speed internet.

Councilman Todd Scalzo referred to the amendment, which passed with five votes in favor and two against, as "a long time coming."

"I believe Wheaton is the last town in DuPage to allow this, so we certainly haven't been pushovers on this matter," he said.

Concerns surrounding the installation include service box abandonment, maintenance, landscaping and location.

All new boxes must be near an existing service box to function optimally. However, the amendment specified that boxes could not be placed in front of the main entrance of resident homes.

Mayor Mike Gresk said that he was in favor of the amendment because it will provide competition among local internet providers.

"I think it's good for the community," he said. "We are coming late to the table and I understand there are people who need this for the sake of their businesses and for personal usage at home."

Councilmen John Prendiville and John Rutledge both voted against the amendment. Prendiville said that his reservations stemmed from the worries of the residents.

"This has been a very tough decision for me, because I'm very much in favor of competition," Prendiville said. "I personally would love access to U-Verse, but I don't want a big box in front of my house or next to my house. I know my neighbors feel the same way."

Wheaton resident Joy Dudgeon, who said she had a box on her property, echoed Prendiville.

"This area that I am in, which is just north of here, is in the historic overlay," she said. "Are these boxes what the city envisioned for the historic overlay? I can't see that."

Gresk said that he had heard from residents on both sides of the issue, but that "the 'against' people are always more vocal than those for it."

Rutledge said that he took issue with the way the amendment was drafted, saying it included unclear and incomplete sentences. He also expressed caution about setting a precedent regarding the allowance of boxes from other telecommunication providers in the future.

Councilwoman Evelyn Pacino Sanguinetti recalled a 2006 lawsuit by AT&T against multiple municipalities after a moratorium was placed on box installation and requested a legal opinion about the likelihood of a similar suit in Wheaton.

City Attorney James Knippen said that while he couldn't comment on whether a suit would be successful, changes to both the law and the dimension of the boxes included in the amendment passed Tuesday make Wheaton's installation different and more palateable.

President and CEO of Choose DuPage Greg Bedalov, whose organization aims to foster business growth in the county, attended the meeting and spoke in favor of the approval.

"In general terms, in terms of economic development, we believe that competition and options for businesses and residents is a good thing for DuPage County and the city of Wheaton," he said.