Debate Rises on Cable Company Generators

South Orange County cities have discovered that the new high-tech services being offered by their local cable company come with a controversial and sometimes noisy side effect: big generators in residential neighborhoods.

Cox Communications Inc. is installing the emergency backup generators in a number of Orange County cities to keep its cable television, high-speed Internet and telephone services online if a power outage strikes. City officials in Lake Forest, San Clemente and Dana Point have postponed installation, however, because of concerns over the noise and possible hazards the generators may create.

Communities throughout Southern California and the nation may face the same controversy as more cable companies tap into the lucrative Internet and telephone markets, where a reliable power source is considered essential.

"Safety, noise and aesthetics are our biggest issues," said Bob Goldin, the Lake Forest community development planner. "We worried that as soon as they put one of those in, we'd start to hear about it."

The Lake Forest City Council passed an ordinance in January restricting the size, location and noise of the generators, which are powered by natural gas and housed inside desk-sized metal boxes.

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