A group of African-American real estate brokers wants the attorneys general of five states to investigate "a rash of explosions" involving AT&T's U-Verse service.
U-Verse is AT&T's fiber-optic Internet, television and telephone service, now being rolled out on a limited basis to compete with cable television. It is similar to Verizon's FiOS service.
The complaint comes from the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), which says the equipment boxes are hazardous and could affect housing values as well as causing property damage and injury if they explode.
"These large U-Verse cabinets have been proven to be hazardous from their early rollout stages," said Maria Kong, President of NAREB. "We cannot afford to take chances when it comes to the livelihood of residents who live near these boxes, or their property."
The incidents were blamed on batteries manufactured by Avestor, which has since gone out of business. AT&T has said it is replacing all of the batteries.
According to published reports, there are 17,000 utility cabinets equipped with similar batteries. Sales of homes near such boxes, the association argued, will show a dramatic drop-off until their security is ensured, imperiling the livelihood of African-American real estate professionals.
Problems were first reported with the cabinets back in October 2006. An AT&T U-Verse cabinet exploded near the home of a Houston-area elderly couple. A few months later, a second cabinet in the Houston area caught fire.
After the second fire was reported, an AT&T spokesperson confirmed that a "similar battery produced a small fire in another cabinet," NAREB said. Then, a third AT&T U-Verse cabinet exploded and caught fire in the Wisconsin community of Wauwatosa. The explosion was so powerful that the cabinet door, estimated to weigh 50 to 60 pounds, was blown off.