The City of Naperville Says No to AT&T Preferential Treatment
NAPERVILLE, Ill. - The City of Naperville, a high-growth community located 28 miles west of Chicago, is opposing an Illinois State law proposed by AT&T that would provide preferential treatment to the telecom giant and strip local municipalities of franchising power. AT&T is urging State Legislature to pass a law that the city feels would infringe upon its ability to ensure fair competition and preside over the locations of the company’s facilities, possibly creating a negative impact on home values and the safety of residents.
In 2006, the city spent months negotiating with AT&T to provide Naperville residents with the company’s new IPTV product, Project Lightspeed. In the end, AT&T walked away from the table.
“The 28th most profitable company in the Fortune 500 should not need special treatment. AT&T is able to compete in the marketplace without favoritism; they just don’t want to do so,” stated city manager Peter Burchard. “For years, cable companies have entered into franchise agreements with municipalities. However, AT&T does not want to compete on the same terms as cable companies and claims that individual franchise agreements are too burdensome.”
AT&T is aggressively seeking support for Illinois House Bill 1500, the Cable and Video Competition Law of 2007. The proposed law would mandate statewide franchising without local municipal input. If passed, the Illinois Commerce Commission would have the power to grant state-issued authorization to cable and video companies, eliminating the rights of municipalities to govern the service providers for their areas.
According to Naperville’s senior assistant city attorney Terry Miller, “AT&T wants to hand pick their customers, rather than providing service to the entire community. If they want to be treated like a public utility, they have to serve everybody. What it comes down is that AT&T wants to compete on its own terms by asking our State Legislators to grant them favoritism over existing cable companies.”
One of the many advantages that AT&T seeks through the new law is the placement of large unattractive boxes in communities. To provide residents with the opportunity to view what the structures would look like should AT&T win the battle, Naperville has placed yellow boxes throughout the city. The boxes displayed by the city are intended to replicate AT&T’s 52-B box that the company wants to place in neighborhoods throughout Naperville. If AT&T is successful in its request, it will locate one box for every 300 homes.
“Stripping local control over cable and video franchising is not only unfair to the city, but also our residents,” said Margo Ely, city attorney for Naperville. “Naperville is committed to providing its residents with great service and the highest quality of life. If this bill is passed, the State of Illinois will prevent us from acting in the best interest of our local taxpayers.”
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