Press Release

Special Report: Google Fiber, North Carolina 811 and Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities identify drivers of risk and opportunities for improving underground utility locating practices

As states roll out infrastructure improvements such as new fiber builds, increasing the efficiency of the underground damage prevention process is essential to reducing delays and protecting communities

  • 31 May 2024
  • Author: Sarah Daley
  • Number of views: 525
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WASHINGTON – (May 30, 2024) – Common Ground Alliance (CGA) – the national association dedicated to protecting underground utility lines, people who dig near them, and their communities – today published the “DIRT Special Report: Uncovering Contributing Factors to Locating Practice Errors.” The report examines some of the underlying factors driving damages associated with locating practices, the root cause attributed to more than a third of all underground utility damage, across three case studies:

  • Google Fiber’s (GFiber) coordination with 811 centers, locators, and fiber-installation sub-contractors on large fiber and network build projects, resulting in a 39% reduction in locate-related project delays
  • The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities’ (MA DPU) proactive enforcement on non-gas facility operators that were failing to complete markouts on time, resulting in greater than 99% completion rates post-intervention
  • North Carolina 811’s (NC811) analysis of the effects of ticket screening, including how many cleared and re-issued tickets were associated with DIRT-reported damages

“Three snapshots across different stakeholder groups all show the power of a consensus-based approach to reducing underground utility damage,” said CGA President and CEO Sarah Magruder Lyle. “We’re seeing a massive investment in the infrastructure that forms the foundation of our day-to-day lives. Stakeholders simply must improve coordination to protect both our communities and our investments in public utilities.”

GFiber’s work demonstrates that while billions of dollars in funding are available to expand broadband networks to reduce the digital divide, this also poses an increased risk. Recently, GFiber experienced project delays related to locating practices. The company found several utilities were overloading the locate system with an unexpected number of large projects and the volume of locate notices was overwhelming the capacity of locate companies. In collaboration with involved stakeholders, an end-to-end review of the process was completed for projects in 10 states and to-date, a 39% decrease in locate-related project delays has been achieved.

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