With Google Fiber on the horizon, Portland weighs process for placement of utility cabinets [The Oregonian, Portland, Ore. :: ]
(Oregonian (Portland, OR) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) June 13--Perhaps the most noticeable feature of the rollout of Google Fiber's high-speed internet service in Portland -- if it happens -- will be the placement of an estimated 200 utility cabinets across the city.
Siting of such cabinets has triggered controversy elsewhere, including Seattle, San Francisco and Greensboro, N.C., where residents protested the intrusion of the boxes in their yards and neighborhoods.
(The anticipated rollout of Google Fiber in Portland isn't a sure thing. The Portland City Council cleared the way with a vote this week, but Google has said it won't pick its next high-speed internet cities until around the end of the year.)
Alex Bejarano, a manager for the Development Services Division at the Portland Bureau of Transportation, said Thursday the city is still working through the process it hopes to adopt for siting the utility cabinets. He suggested it might be the way the city currently approves the placement of utility poles: The utility seeks permission, meets certain requirements set by the city, and the city issues a permit.
He said the city currently issues from 2,000 to 3,000 permits a year. When a company seeks a permit, the city passes the application to other bureaus that may be affected, then responds within five days.
Under such an arrangement, the public wouldn't necessarily be consulted about the placement of individual cabinets. But Bejarano said the city already requires applicants to show, at a minimum, good-faith efforts to create an easement when they seek to put a utility cabinet on private property. That means talking with landowners.
While individual boxes may be placed through an administrative process, the public will be consulted about the adoption of such a process. Stakeholders such as neighborhood groups will be invited to weigh in, he said. It's also possible that a new rule governing the placement of cabinets will reach the agenda of the City Council, where the public will be invited to comment.
Typical concerns about the utility cabinets focuses on their clunky appearance, the potential that they will create obstacles on public rights of way or that they will reduce property values. And sometimes, in rare cases, the boxes have been known to explode.
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