It’s not your property and we’ll put a refrigerator on it if we want to

Lousiana’s not the only state dealing with state-wide cable franchising laws. In California they’ve already got a law that shifts local control over local rights of way from communities and gives it to the state. They’re starting to see the effects of the first effects of the power grab.

Julie and Sean Whiteley have a nickname for the hulking gray box in the front yard of their Grand Fir Drive home. But it’s not an affectionate one.

“We call it ‘the refrigerator,’ ” Julie Whiteley said. “We were just talking about if we were going to hide it with landscaping.”

The metal box, which contains telephone equipment owned by AT&T, is one of many utility structures sprouting from residents’ yards, containing everything from electric transformers to cable TV connections.

They’re not being too dramatic when they call it a refrigerator; it is:

5 feet 3 inches tall, 43 1/2 inches deep and nearly 21 inches wide and be placed in the public utility easement, typically 10 feet in from the sidewalk.

You think you might object too? I sure would. But AT&T knows it can do what it wants to. It’s got a state-wide franchise. It’s not your property if a telecom company wants to use it (though you’re legally required to mow it, landscape it, and generally keep it up as though it were yours). It used to be you could appeal to your local councilman on issues like this. No more. Says Diamond, an AT&T rep:

“Under state law, because we have a statewide franchise already, we can upgrade our infrastructure in the public right of way,” said Diamond, who added he did not know how many of the large cabinets are planned for Lodi . “What it all comes down to is educating the cities on what we plan to do and how we plan to do it.”

That’s pretty big of them…they’ll “educate the cities” on their intent. And do exactly as they please with property they neither own, nor maintain, nor have any contract with the owners to use.

There is no reason to think AT&T will act any differently here in Louisiana when they own BellSouth.

It doesn’t have to be that way. In Louisiana we can maintain local control of local property–if the public is willing to stand up and say that’s what they want.

Get in touch with your legislator and let him or her know you want him to vote against SB 699, the state-wide franchise bill.