City supports ordinance for cable boxes

By Eric Heisig

The city of Champaign will soon be getting some new scenery around town – and it’s big, rectangular and metal.

The Champaign City Council voted 8-0 Tuesday night to put an ordinance on a future meeting agenda that would regulate the installation of above-ground facilities around town. These above-ground facilities would be cable boxes from AT&T;, designed to bring cable television to customers through their phone line.

Council members expressed concern about the placement of these boxes, though the state now mandates that the city must cooperate with AT&T.; Under the contract the city is proposing, some landscaping will be completed by AT&T;, but it will be up to the city or the property owners to provide upkeep and maintenance of the landscaping.

“It can be a real problem to put large boxes in people’s backyards,” said Marci Dodds, District 4 Council member. “AT&T; is showing zero sensitivity in this and is proving to be a bad corporate citizen.”

Dodds said she is not looking forward to the complaints she will be getting from constituents when they find out they are required to have a cable box in their backyard.

The Council also expressed concern about the size of the boxes. Just a few years ago, the boxes were much larger than they are now, and Tom Bruno, Council member At-Large, asked if there was any way to have a provision in the contract that would require AT&T; to replace the larger boxes with smaller ones, as technology becomes available.

“If technology gets better, we should not simply abandon the obsolete,” Bruno said, citing the unused tower at White and Randolph streets the telephone company abandoned years ago.

Despite the objections, the Council unanimously supported the ordinance with Tuesday night’s straw poll because the state is mandating it, but they felt it would be better to regulate it if they had the chance.

“We don’t have a choice in the matter,” said Vic McIntosh, District 3 Council member.

Champaign City Council meets every Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the City Building.

Other Items Discussed

Information regarding the 2008-09 budget was presented to the Council. The budget will be discussed and voted on in May, with a number of study sessions to amend and provide public comment.

The Council voted to put an item on a future agenda that would approve the Beaver Lake Watershed Master Plan, which serves as a guideline for storm-water management in the Beaver Lake Watershed, located in the northern section of Champaign.