Utility lines cut during broadband installation in Prince Edward

Published 2:14 am Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Kinex Telecom Inc. is in the middle of a three-year project to bring broadband internet to Cumberland, Lunenburg and Prince Edward counties. But the effort hasn’t been without problems. Some utility lines have been cut in Prince Edward during the installation process. 

The broadband project began laying the fiber down at the end of  September 2022. Since the work started, there have been reports of utility lines being cut as Kinex plows the ground to lay the fiber underneath for a more protected connection. 

According to Jim Garrett, owner of Kinex Telecom Inc., it is the job of the owners of the utility lines to mark their own lines before the dig. Since Kinex does not own any in the area, they were not the ones marking anything for this project. Brightspeed, the telephone company that bought CenturyLink, is the owner of these lines and hired Stake Center Locating Inc. to mark their lines for this project. 

Once reports of the disruptions started, Kinex observed Stake Center mark the Brightspeed lines. 

“Brightspeed pays Stake Center to mark their lines and thus far, in my opinion, they have done a pretty lousy job,” said Garrett. “Now everyone thinks we are doing a lousy job because we are plowing where there are no marks and hitting lines.”

What’s the right way to do it?

According to Garrett, the most desirable way to mark the lines is pretty standard. The method is to attach the transmitting clamp physically to the wire in the pedestal and then follow the tone with the receiver and mark along the route of the line. The problem in this case, Kinex officials say, is that many of the lines weren’t marked correctly or marked at all. As a result, it causes their workers to run into the buried lines that were not marked. 

“The system is simple,” said Garrett. “We call [the Virginia Utility Protection Service] that we will be working underground in an area, they alert those who have utilities in the area, the utility owners come and mark their utilities, we work around the marks and all is well. However, when you take shortcuts when marking and the marks are not accurate, lines are cut. We have worked as far as 10 feet away from marks, so those marks were wrong by 10 feet.”

GAC Enterprises LLC, the fiber buying contractor, has a team that documents all hits, and the majority of the results of the hit occur because of inaccurate marks. Brightspeed officials say they’re aware of the problem and are addressing it. 

“This is not our project,” said Gene Rodriguez Miller, director of public relations for Brightspeed. “However, the project has impacted our lines and service. We are working with the companies involved to remedy any issues and ensure proper protocols are followed that can help prevent further damage.”

What happens now with broadband?

As Miller said, measures are being taken to make sure these line cuts do not continue. According to Garrett, Stake Center has fired the individual after he was found to have made six out of the seven cuts. 

Brightspeed is fixing these cuts on their lines and then charging the repair cost to the company found at fault. An investigation took place on site and found that nine out of 10 hits were found not to be the fault of Kinex. 

“Not much we can do to improve the situation,” said Garrett. “As long as shortcuts are used, the results will be less than desirable. GAC is rarely at fault for a line cut because they take great pride in their work and they have to pay for cuts that are determined to be at fault.”