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Pole Position

Phil Harvey
6/11/2008

5:00 PM -- "Oy, mate! Phil Harvey, The Broadband Hunter, here. And today we're tracking the Great Pole-Mounted VRADs of the Northeast!"

Sorry. Couldn't resist.

Anyway, as you may know, AT&T's fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) service, U-verse, requires some new equipment installed at the node, usually found near the entrance of neighborhoods.

The main bit of kit that goes in is the video ready access device (VRAD), the DSLAM that provides AT&T's TV service. We've covered, in the past, how these cabinets have been (1) a tell-tale sign that you're 'hood is getting hooked up with U-verse and (2) a public safety issue, until AT&T addressed the problem earlier this year.

But, as ever, the VRADs are a lightning rod for controversy. Some news outlets are calling them "lawn fridges." Industry analyst Kermit Ross calls them "yard furnaces" because he contends that "nothing giving off that much heat can be called a 'fridge'."

Whatever you call them, Connecticut residents are complaining about AT&T's installation of the pole-mounted VRADs. The big issue, according to news reports, is whether AT&T should get permission from residents who live near the poles before installing its gear.

The fight has escalated to the state's Department of Public Utility Control, and AT&T is seeking clarity on what is required to upgrade its facilities. The carrier is also warning that U-verse service may be disrupted if folks in Connecticut insist that AT&T move some of its VRADs.

The cities involved, meanwhile, weren't amused by the talks of service disruptions, noting in a recent filing that "AT&T is being slightly dramatic in foretelling the future." That public filing is right here.

Now that you're all caught up, you may be wondering: What exactly do these things look like? Well, I have some photos, in the slideshow below. I can't say where I got them, but they were obviously taken a couple of years ago, before AT&T repainted all its trucks.

Hanging Around The takeaway? Well, I guess it depends on whether this hits you where you live. They're certainly not attractive, but do the residents nearby feel that having a choice of TV providers is worth a little aerial plant ugliness?

— Phil Harvey, Editor, Light Reading

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