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Fighting Dig Damage Trends Uphill Battle for Telecom

Telecom work is both causing the most damage and its facilities remain the most damaged when it comes to underground construction, according to the latest data collected by the Common Ground Alliance (CGA). This is a major cause for concern given the rise in fiber deployments over the next five years as projects around the country work to close the digital divide. 

“There’s been a 9.34% increase in damages reported by 811 centers,” said CGA President and CEO Sara Magruder Lyle. “A 12.35% increase in damages for construction spending. The top six damage root causes persistent year-over-year: No locate requests, not marked/marked inaccurately, failure to maintain clearance, failure to pothole, improper excavation.”  

Reversing the upward damage trend is vital to meet CGA’s goal of reducing incidents and damages by 50% over the next five years. Lyle cited the need for more participation by the telecommunications industry as a start, given that only 1% of CGA’s nearly 1,500 members are from that sector.  

To encourage discussion and the adoption of best practices, CGA has started a series of white papers, with the fourth to be released on December 7, “Telecom’s Critical Role in Reversing Utility Damage Trends.”   

Lyle cited four key findings from the white paper:  

#1 – Telecom has the most potential to impact U.S. damage prevention systems, as well as its own bottom line. With 47% of telecom facilities damaged by digging, investment in damage prevention is vital. 

#2 – Growth and customer satisfaction are prioritized over prevention by many telecom stakeholders. 

#3 – Rather than focus on long-term national standardization strategies to reduce damages, telecom can achieve more timely results by improving internal practices and contracts. 

#4 – Securing executive-level buy-in from telecom facility owner/operators on rigorous damage prevention standards will be necessary to reverse the upward trend of damages to U.S. infrastructure.  

Contracting is one tool that can be used to hold construction firms accountable for work. One firm installing fiber in Florida ended up damaging water pipelines at least seven times, causing boil water advisories to be issued. The company was fined $90,000 the last time they struck a water pipeline, finally holding them accountable.  

 “The lowest cost model of quantity vs. quality is what gets us where we are now,” said Lyle. “You get what you pay for. You need to say, ‘We want it done right.’”  

To learn more on CGA’s work and how to save money and build reputation by using proper digging practices, listen to the latest Fiber For Breakfast.