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City moves to block Lightspeed
By Rupa Shenoy | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/15/2007 11:59 PM

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West Chicago Monday became one of the first among many local municipalities expected to pass an ordinance protecting city rights of way from a new AT&T service.

The West Chicago City Council voted unanimously to update the existing policy.

"The consumers will feel no impact," City Administrator Michael Guttman said. "Certainly it was the recommendation of others that we do this."

Those "others" included the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference, the Metropolitan Mayors Conference, and the Illinois Municipal League, he said.

The ordinance is the latest chapter in the saga over AT&T's Project Lightspeed.

Lightspeed bundles phone, cable and Internet services and provides them in a high-speed format made possible, in part, by the addition of large utility boxes placed throughout municipalities.

Dozens of cities throughout the suburbs have resisted Lightspeed because AT&T declined to pay usual franchise fees. Officials also said the bulky utility boxes would be eyesores, and AT&T could place them anywhere, at will.

"They're wanting to put them in parkways, whenever they think appropriate," West Chicago Public Works Director Rob Flatter said. "In some places it's just not appropriate."

The company, in turn, sued several cities. The state recently passed a law giving the Illinois Commerce Commission the right to decide the matter; that decision is scheduled to come down by Oct. 24.

The ordinance passed by the West Chicago City Council mandates that new utilities preserve open space and the character of existing neighborhoods, protect against visual or physical obstructions, and do no environmental damage, among other things.

AT&T already has several applications for work in to West Chicago, Flatter said.