TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Fiber Cut Knock Rural S.E. Kansas Off Line

Re: Fiber Cut Knock Rural S.E. Kansas Off Line

Neal McLain (
Sat, 11 Feb 2006 11:35:45 -0600

PAT wrote:

> A fiber got cut by a clumsy contractor with a backhoe early Thursday
> in Parsons, KS which knocked all of rural s.e. Kansas as served by
> off line. This cut included TELECOM Digest. Right now I
> am working off of our back up modem dial up line using TerraWorld.
> Cableone is aware of the problem and they estimate it will be six to
> eight hours in repair. The contractor just shrugged his shoulders and
> acted like he did not know what he had done. "He'll shrug his
> shoulders alright when he gets the repair bill, noted a technician
> from in Phoenix, AZ where the cableone technical center
> is located.

Whereupon John McHarry <> responded:

> There is a method to how these things are covered up. Whoever is
> causing the digging has the actual work done by a contractor. Unless
> the contractor can be proved to be directly supervised, this gets the
> instigator off the hook. Then they call in "Miss Utility", another
> party. If they didn't clearly mark the line, they may be the party at
> fault, but repairs will destroy the markings.

Whom do you mean by "they" in that last sentence? Are you implying that
Miss Utility is responsible for marking the line?

Miss Utility is not responsible for marking the line. Miss Utility is
a "one-call" notification center: it answers calls from excavators
(contractors, homeowners, landscapers, etc.) and relays that
information (by e-mail, fax, or telephone call) to all owners of
underground facilities in the affected area. The owners of the
facilities are then responsible for actually marking the line, either
by sending out their own personnel, or by contracting with a
commercial locating service.

One-call centers keep track of which underground facilities are located
where. To appreciate what a monumental task this is, consider the
number of possible facilities: electric power, ILEC telephone, CLEC
telephone, one or more cable TV companies, one or more retail gas
companies, gas transmission, petroleum transmission, culinary water,
secondary water, steam, sanitary sewer, storm sewer, privately-owned
communications facilities. Then consider the numerous ways in which a
caller may try to describe a geographic location: by jurisdiction
(city/town/village/borough), by GPS coordinates, by USPLS reference
(town/range/section/quarter section), by road/street boundaries, by
street address, by platted lot number. Or by vague descriptions like
"it's near that Mobil station on highway 43."

By making a single call to one-call, an excavator can legally notify
every facility owner in the affected area without having to figure out
what's there and who owns it.

Similar one-call centers exist in every state, although they go by a
variety of names (Blue Stakes in Utah; Diggers Hotline in Wisconsin;
Miss Dig in Michigan; JULIE in Illinois).

McHarry continued:

> I was burned out of a townhouse in Northern Virginia a number of years
> ago by a cable company crew drilling into the underground power lines.
> Everybody pointed fingers at everybody else. My insurance sued, but it
> took years to come up for trial, at which point the cable company
> settled, and I never got my deductible back.

> Verizon lost maybe 50 yards of buried cable, and the power company at
> least as much. They both seemed to take the attitude that they caused
> about as much damage as they suffered, so it was a wash. As long as it
> is only the consumers who really suffer, I doubt any of them much
> care.

If Verizon and/or the power company could legally prove that the cable
TV company's contractor was at fault -- AND that their own facilities
were in 100% compliance with all applicable laws -- I'd guess that the
cable company's contractor's insurance company had to pay up.

By the same token, if CableOne can legally prove that the clumsy
contractor was at fault -- AND that CableOne's own facilities were in
100% compliance with all applicable laws -- clumsy contractor will
indeed get a huge repair bill.

The phrase "100% compliance with all applicable laws" means:

- The facility owner must have clear legal right (by franchise,
recorded permit, recorded easement, or ownership) to occupy the
underlying land.

- The facility must have been installed in compliance with the
National Electrical Code, the National Electrical Safety Code,
state law, and local ordinances.

- The facility owner must have accurately located and marked (and
remarked, if requested) the facility within the specified time
limit after receiving one-call notification.

A few inches can make a big difference in cases like this. If an
underground cable was only 23 inches deep, a defendant's lawyer can
assert that the cable's owner was in violation of the NESC. If an
underground cable was one inch on the wrong side of a property line, a
defendant's lawyer can assert that the cable's owner didn't have legal
right to occupy the land. If locate marks (paint and/or flags) were a
few inches out of line, a defendant's lawyer can assert that the cable
wasn't marked properly.

Of course, as you note, damage repairs destroy the evidence. Which is
why you'll sometimes see repair crews (or their insurance adjusters)
documenting the situation (taking photographs and making sketches)
before repairs begin.

And why one-call centers record, and time/date stamp, every call.

Neal McLain

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