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Concern about the appearance of the video-ready access devices, or VRADs, that AT&T is installing throughout the City prompted aldermen to invite State Senator Jeffrey Schoenberg and State Representative Julie Hamos to the Aug. 4 Rules Committee meeting. The Rules Committee is composed of all nine aldermen.

The VRADs are part of AT&T’s Project Lightspeed program, which gives Evanston consumers a choice between AT&T and Comcast. Alderman Steven Bernstein, 4th Ward, said he thought the VRADs are ugly and “wrong”; at a previous City meeting he called them “eyesores.”

AT&T has submitted 110 permits for the VRADs, 18 of which will be below-ground, according to a memo from Gavin Morgan, assistant to the City Manager. The others will be installed in alleys or along parkways. AT&T has agreed to provide up to $1,500 in landscaping costs to make VRADs installed on parkways look less obtrusive. Because the company must have access to the boxes, only three sides may be screened by plantings. Ald. Bernstein asked Sen. Schoenberg and Rep. Hamos why AT&T was allowed to install the VRADs. “I am concerned that a multinational corporation is taking advantage of our City. … I don’t understand … if the legislature wants to pre-empt our home-rule authority.” He added, “I want to rescind the legislation that allowed AT&T to do this.”

Rep. Hamos said she and Sen. Schoenberg had both supported the legislation “to allow consumers to have a choice in video [service]. New technology allowed AT&T to compete.” She added the VRADs are companions to the AT&T boxes that have been on the parkways for a long time. “I don’t know that we can undo this legislation,” Rep. Hamos added.

“What the state got,” said Sen. Schoenberg, “was the pure sense of competition for what had been a monopoly.” Rep. Hamos also said the City would receive some money from each AT&T franchise.

More information about the VRADs and the landscaping reimbursement is available through the City Manager’s office, 847-866-2936.