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Ask Slashdot: Resources For Identifying Telecom Right-of-Way Locations?

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the coming-through dept.

Communications 107

An anonymous reader writes "With threats to network neutrality, such as Verizon's recent lawsuit, I've been thinking of creating a map plotting all the locations where telecommunications companies currently use public lands via right-of-way laws. It seems that this would convey just how much telecommunications depends on public infrastructure. However, it's been difficult identifying where these locations are. Short of crowdsourcing, does anyone know of resources that could be used to create such a map?"

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107 comments

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no (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40710363)

now go away

Re:no (3, Funny)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#40711263)

no...now go away

Lighten up, Mrs Romney.

FOLLOW THE POLES !! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40710369)

They go right to where they need !!

DHS would like to have a word with you... (4, Insightful)

RevDobbs (313888) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710399)

Sounds like the information a terrorist would be looking for -- I'd watch your cornhole, bud.

Re:DHS would like to have a word with you... (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710569)

Yeah, Rooski, we don't want you finding that hidden money, either.

Re:DHS would like to have a word with you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40710667)

?

Re:DHS would like to have a word with you... (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710781)

All that copper is worth a lot of $crap money.

Re:DHS would like to have a word with you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40711393)

Yes, terrorists are real interested in our phone and internet connections. It would be the end of life as we know it if they took those down for a few hours.

Re:DHS would like to have a word with you... (1)

camperslo (704715) | more than 2 years ago | (#40711649)

What's the point in knowing where everything is? Having cables between and in communities is no surprise to anyone. If you are going to look at utilities, don't forget cable and satellite companies. It is also worth examining how the revenue siphoned off by them may reduce resources at local news operations.

It might be more interesting to look at what happens with our frequency spectrum. Should the push always be towards something business can monetize? Some might prefer peer owned networks with minimal expenses. It's like having most of your power or water heating from your own panels versus always having to buy energy from a major utility.

There's more than the F.C.C. involved with spectrum

http://www.ntia.doc.gov/about [doc.gov]

Re:DHS would like to have a word with you... (3, Funny)

aurispector (530273) | more than 2 years ago | (#40711813)

Because that FIOS network? Verizon didn't build that.

Re:DHS would like to have a word with you... (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#40715235)

If you are going to look at utilities, don't forget cable and satellite companies.

Satellite services don't use the public right of way. They deliver the signal via airwaves, which is a different right of way that isn't mappable.

It is also worth examining how the revenue siphoned off by them may reduce resources at local news operations.

Huh? How does paying a cable company for service "siphon off" any money the local "news operation" would have? Do you imagine that if you didn't pay the cable company you'd somehow be giving that money to the local TV station? Explain, please.

There's more than the F.C.C. involved with spectrum

For civilian spectrum, they're the player. They have to work within the ITU treaties, of course, but the ITU isn't the one selling spectrum. The NTIA controls government spectrum, which you aren't going to be using anyway.

Re:DHS would like to have a word with you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40716917)

It is also worth examining how the revenue siphoned off by them may reduce resources at local news operations.

Huh? How does paying a cable company for service "siphon off" any money the local "news operation" would have? Do you imagine that if you didn't pay the cable company you'd somehow be giving that money to the local TV station? Explain, please.

Because oftentimes, the cable provider sells advertising that is shown in place of the broadcast channel's commercials.

Re:DHS would like to have a word with you... (1)

camperslo (704715) | more than 2 years ago | (#40718021)

Satellite services don't use the public right of way. They deliver the signal via airwaves, which is a different right of way that isn't mappable.

The GP was essentially talking about wanting to measure resources taken by those profiting as data path providers. Airwaves are a public resource. All spectrum should be used in ways that serve the public interest. It is a limited resource that could be put to other uses and it certainly has value. Assigning frequency segments is equivalent to mapping it out.

How does paying a cable company for service "siphon off" any money the local "news operation" would have? Do you imagine that if you didn't pay the cable company you'd somehow be giving that money to the local TV station?

It's not simply the cable bill dollars that are diverted from the local economy, but advertising revenue that is diverted away from local radio, tv, and print. Some take a sizable chunk of national ad account dollars. Cable can also take local advertiser ad dollars. With no local announcers or news departments to fund, ads sold by cable companies are often priced so low enough that they drive down ad rates not only for local television, but even radio. The problem is especially severe in smaller more isolated areas where there's less local tv, high penetration by cable/satellite, and low ad rates already due to the smaller population. I know of one case where a local tv station carrying two major networks fired a dozen news people with only a reporter or two left, and the news coming from another station they own 150 miles away. Low radio ad rates left them vulnerable to corporate/venture-capital groups taking them over and consolidating them when the FCC essentially dropped ownership limitations. (That's in spite of an FCC study, ordered destroyed, that showed it would damage local news reporting and diversity). Cable, satellite, and consolidated distant corporate ownership of radio/tv have severely crippled local radio, tv and print news operations.

The NTIA controls government spectrum, which you aren't going to be using anyway.

That's a bit of double-talk since one could call any frequency regulated by the government a government frequency.. Government agencies (police etc) license through the FCC. The NTIA is part of the Department of Commerce, so they really function more like lobbyists/advocates for business (at least that's how it seems, much the way some view the FD&A and the drug companies). The NTIA is certainly not pushing for any spectrum the public could use directly for free or nearly so. Things needn't be so damn expensive, but that's how it is in the U.S.
Healthy business is great, but sometimes the public would be better served without AT&T, Verizon and other big players making large profits on everything we do. Broadband and telephone services are faster or cheaper of both in places like South Korea than the U.S. because of the way we've done things.
We were lied to about the need to take so much tv spectrum taken away. Very little was needed for emergency communications, a narrow-band application. And they've been piling other commercial users into tv spectrum. (white space etc)

Spectrum is being treated too much like oil leases with the same results. And we wonder why some countries nationalized oil company operations.

Profits above all else has had a devastating effect on broadcasting and overall news operations in the U.S. It's so bad the U.S. government is subsidizing the BBC to fill some of the void. Our ability to compete and the functioning of democracy suffer when we're poorly informed and poorly educated. The changes in broadcasting contribute to both.

Paid political ads in broadcasting should be terminated. The funds raised to pay for them are a primary source of corruption. That chain can be cut. Free community service time can be provided to candidates.

Re:DHS would like to have a word with you... (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#40718783)

That's a bit of double-talk since one could call any frequency regulated by the government a government frequency.

I guess I wasn't clear. When I said "government spectrum", I meant those frequencies used by the US Federal Government, Inc. Not those frequencies used by local, state or commercial users. So no, there is no double-talk involved. The NTIA manages the spectrum allocated for federal users and YOU aren't going to be using any of that (unless you are a federal user, or that spectrum is dual-allocated and the FCC also issues licenses there.).

Government agencies (police etc) license through the FCC.

Sigh. Not all of them. FEDERAL government agencies are authorized via the NTIA, not the FCC. ALL federal agencies go through the NTIA, even those that perform police functions. The differentiation is not function but level.

The NTIA is part of the Department of Commerce, so they really function more like lobbyists/advocates for business ...

Right. They don't deal with commercial radio users. That's the FCC. Commercial radio users can't buy spectrum from the NTIA.

The NTIA is certainly not pushing for any spectrum the public could use directly for free or nearly so.

Because the public isn't the federal government. Talk to the FCC about public use. That's the outfit that regulates that.

Very little was needed for emergency communications, a narrow-band application.

Yes, until you have an emergency and then you don't have enough. That's a very common planning failure for modern trunked radio systems. Why yes, for normal ops, five channels can serve forty agencies. No problem, until the "big one" hits, or there's a major fire or earthquake, and then all forty agencies have hundreds of users all trying to talk at the same time and getting nowhere.

As for "narrow band", I hate to remind you that data is a vital resource during an emergency, too, and the ability for emergency services people to get accurate data fast can save lives. Video of a disaster site can tell a lot more than an email.

Perhaps you are being confused by the NTIA/FCC narrowbanding mandate? That doesn't mean that all frequency needs for all users of the spectrum are going to be narrow bandwidth, it means that specific uses in specific bands must use narrow bandwidth signals. While the local cops are changing their radios to deal with narrowband voice signals, they have also installed MDTs using broadband UHF or SHF to transmit data around the place.

And they've been piling other commercial users into tv spectrum. (white space etc)

Spectrum managed by the FCC.

Paid political ads in broadcasting should be terminated.

And yet those ads provide a huge amount of money in election years. And they serve the public by allowing access to media that is critical for any significant use of the First Amendment rights the public has.

The funds raised to pay for them are a primary source of corruption.

I have yet to hear of corruption in the local TV station because they run paid political ads.

Free community service time can be provided to candidates.

First you decry the loss of ad revenue to cable systems, and then say that broadcast stations should be handing out free airtime. Which is it?

Watch yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40716801)

Why would you see any reason to think that, unless you're a terrorist?

Prison labor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40710407)

The traditional way is to train some cheap(prison) labor on how to use GIS software and give them a pile of aerial photographs.

Each county. (2)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710421)

You'll have to talk to the county assessor and recorder to get the plat maps.

Some counties have online systems to download the images, most you'll have to go in in person and ask.

Re:Each county. (1)

fwittekind (186517) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710495)

Here are some example counties with online GIS:
http://39dn.com

Re:Each county. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40710899)

Not even close, those updated, electronic maps are only going to have more recent easements, say from the last 30 years, maybe more probably less depending on the county and it's resources. Most counties don't even know this information or at the very least won't pull it up for you, you'll have to 1) know how to look for the information, good luck and 2) dig through more documents than you've ever seen or will ever see in your entire life, also good luck. Most of that stuff is so old it's not in an electronic format other than microfiche to at least look up the document number so you can then pull the actual document that has been scanned in. Then you'll have to learn how to read the legal description of easement and hope you found the right one.

Oh an every county's system for document storage and retrieval is different.

Re:Each county. (3, Informative)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 2 years ago | (#40712509)

This guy is spot on. I deal with this for a living. Every once in a while you'll see an easement into property they actually own or lease going into buildings or up to cell towers, but other than that nearly all of a given telecom's outside plant is in public right-of-way.

Re:Each county. (5, Informative)

Stickybombs (1805046) | more than 2 years ago | (#40711149)

Plat maps won't help. Nor will most of the info available publicly online. I've worked for a civil engineer for 10 years, and the bottom line is that the information is so spread out, and in some cases nonexistant, that you would never be able to do this.

The first problem is that in many cases the easements are so old, and the deeds so difficult to read, you could spend hours piecing together the right of way over one parcel of land. Many times there are multiple easements as they were added-on over the years. They are also shared by different utilities.

So for example you'd find one document that grants Verizon the use of a railroad's right of way. Then you have to pull all of the deeds for the railroad (hundreds or thousand per county) and try to put them together. Those old railroad deeds will say something like "the east 99 feet of Farmer Smith's property, in so-and-so a section." Then you have to go pull Smith's old deed, which says "40 acres, lying south of the river, and east of Farmer Johnson's land, and north of some other guy's property." And no, those are not exaggerations at all. In short, you'll be putting together the puzzle pieces for weeks, and then you might have a single line along a railroad done for your county.

Add on top of that, many street right-of-ways are just assumed. Sure, maybe there are some old deeds that grant the right-of-way for each road over each parcel of land, but again, you'll be putting together a giant puzzle with pieces that don't fit together well.

In short, good luck. You'd be better off just taking a map and hi-lighting all of the roads, assuming that at least some communication lines follow each road.

Re:Each county. (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 2 years ago | (#40711291)

Right. And it all starts with some trips to the county assessor and recorders offices.

You first have to go get the puzzle pieces.

Re:Each county. (1)

Stickybombs (1805046) | more than 2 years ago | (#40711357)

True, I didn't mean to argue your point, just that the whole endeavor is pointless. You'll be making lots of trips to the recorder's office every time you need a new deed that is referenced by the one you are working on. Most places don't have them online, especially the older ones that you'll be looking for.

Re:Each county. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40712779)

True, I didn't mean to argue your point, just that the whole endeavor is pointless. You'll be making lots of trips to the recorder's office every time you need a new deed that is referenced by the one you are working on. Most places don't have them online, especially the older ones that you'll be looking for.

Bingo. Also, you can try your local Public Service Commission, sometimes they might be able to help.
Also.... your local Public Library, county courthouse, etc.

There's a pretty damn good reason you're supposed to "Call before you dig"... it's because the maps are often out of date or don't exist. Hell, the local power company was running a bore behind my house a few years back, and hit an old underground power cable. Luckily none of the guys were touching the machine, because it was still hot... and wasn't even on the electric company's maps. A mess of old phone cabling had tricked the line locaters, and they didn't spot it for marking. Talked to one of the guys doing the hand-digging, he said they run into that shit all the time.

But the submitter is asking the wrong question. What he needs isn't maps, all he needs are the records the City/County/State keep on file for how many fees are paid for accessing the right-of-way at road crossing and such. That ought to give you a good idea, but the short answer is "ISP's, electric companies, water utilities, and every other wired service relies almost 100% on use of the public right-of-way". Which they DO pay for using, as well as having to cover the costs of doing locates on their service lines, etc.

Re:Each county. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40716549)

A few years ago, SBC was doing upgrades in my town, to install the UVerse boxes (which, I'll point out, are all sitting in the public easements between sidewalk and street here). I was working at a local ISP at the time, and got to chatting w/ one of the workers while her crew was fixing a problem they'd caused for us.
It seems they'd been re-mapping everything in town, and found an old Michigan Bell junction box under the sidewalks by city hall that was COMPLETELY unknown to her crew, and yet had a bunch of wires going through it. She'd worked out of the local office for 25 years, and had worked in the city hall phone closet, under the streets, all over, and had never known this 5x4 room with patch panels and cables and a load coil was there.

Not even the companies that use the easements know where all their stuff is.

Re:Each county. (1)

David Chappell (671429) | more than 2 years ago | (#40712047)

This is a very good explanation. Among other things it explains why much of this information is not in existing GIS.

I wonder though whether the poster might be able to accomplish his goal in some other way. He doesn't necessarily need a highly detailed, highly accurate map of the precise borders of all easements on all property. In fact, such a map might not even meet his needs since it would not indicate whether these potential routes actually were being used for anything of significant commercial value (which is necessary for the argument he wants to make).

It might be good enough to create a map showing the aproximate routes of modern cables which the companies seem to value. This would be much easier because the routes of such cables are cleared for access and have warning signs all along them. A viable plan might be to get some friends together, go out and look for these maintained rights of way, add then to Openstreetmap, and then export the data and create a custom rendering to make his political point.

Re:Each county. (1)

Stickybombs (1805046) | more than 2 years ago | (#40712539)

I thought the same thing, but now rereading the original question, it seems like he wants every single line. A lot of the main, important, fiber lines follow railroads or power line easements, and many of those routes aren't even public right-of-way. They are granted privately to the railroad/utility companies by individual landowners. That was the basis of my explanation as well.

Looking back, he actually wants to see public right-of-ways. I don't think that using deeds for this is feasible. A lot of older roads just kind of have assumed right-of-ways, and even where recorded, you'd have a lot of the same problems as with piecing together railroad easements. Not to mention, there are hundreds of times as many roads. I'm sticking with my suggestion to just hi-light all the roads on his map :)

Do it and it will be classified (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40710431)

A while back, a PhD candidate at George Mason University collected a lot of this information from public records. He create a large database/map of all the utility routes in the US. His thesis was classified:
http://www.portlandphoenix.com/features/technophilia/documents/03028866.asp

Re:Do it and it will be classified (2)

RevDobbs (313888) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710457)

... and this was the story I was looking for. Thanks for the link, anon.

Re:Do it and it will be classified (3, Funny)

rot26 (240034) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710725)

Fortunately for us, no terrorist organization or nation, even one capable of developing their own nuclear weapons, is able to reproduce this feat.

Re:Do it and it will be classified (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40714899)

Fortunately, no terrorist organization needs to map every utility line. If they're going to attack every utility line, they don't need to map them all, as they'll have to send a crew to every single block/neighborhood anyway. Of course, we know that there actually are bottlenecks

Re:Do it and it will be classified (4, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710855)

A lot of utility information is now [openstreetmap.org] in OpenStreetMap. Are they going to classify that, too?

Re:Do it and it will be classified (1)

chill (34294) | more than 2 years ago | (#40712905)

I was amazed when I looked at Open Street Map last. My area showed damn near everything from power lines to railroads and nit-pickly little details. It is impressive.

County Recorder Office (2)

wazzzup (172351) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710467)

Identify the public lands you're interested in and then go to the county government offices (recorder probably) and research easements on those properties. Many counties are starting to put that information up online. Not sure if easements on public lands would show up on tax maps but that would be a place to look as well.

Re:County Recorder Office (2)

wazzzup (172351) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710501)

Forgot to mention, you can contact the local Public Utilities Commission and they made be able to help too.

Why ask slashdot when you can ask google. (4, Informative)

kotku (249450) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710471)

http://www.dot.state.mn.us/maps/gisweb/row/

Re:Why ask slashdot when you can ask google. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40718179)

please post links to the rest of the 49 states data.

Not that I'm aware of, and I've tried. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40710489)

Quite a while ago for work I was asked to verify where the circuits we're using come into our buildings to verify diverse entry - basically to reduce the chances of a 'backhoe day'. Even tho we were paying for the DS3s, the BEST I could get out of the major carriers was "Well, they go from your site, to (city X), to (city Y)."

The carriers just figure "It's need to know. And even tho you're paying $massive, you don't need to know."

Re:Not that I'm aware of, and I've tried. (5, Insightful)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710815)

Quite a while ago for work I was asked to verify where the circuits we're using come into our buildings to verify diverse entry - basically to reduce the chances of a 'backhoe day'. Even tho we were paying for the DS3s, the BEST I could get out of the major carriers was "Well, they go from your site, to (city X), to (city Y)."

The carriers just figure "It's need to know. And even tho you're paying $massive, you don't need to know."

Sorry, but this is dumb. All you need to do is call the "call before you dig" number and say you are planning on putting some very deep fenceposts all the way around the property. Within 72 hours you will have nice spray-painted, color-coded lines marking all underground utilities. Follow the lines to the building, then identify what wires are on the inside of the building for each entry point. If the telco guy shows up and only sprays one line, you know you have a problem.

Re:Not that I'm aware of, and I've tried. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40711403)

not Dumb, but rather astute: Paint on the ground may be in a logical "best guess" location... maybe not. The telco guys just don't know! The paint is for the construction crews to tell them to be careful when they dig in that location, nothing more. Actual locations are seldom noted when constructed, and easements are often described as "along a line of poles to be constructed".
Been in the land boundary business for a few weeks short of 40 years... it ain't simple like that.

Re:Not that I'm aware of, and I've tried. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40711571)

You've never called a call before you dig service then, because you really don't seem to know what you're talking about. They come out, they hook a signal generator up to the ground shielding of the cables, and they walk around with a meter to find their location and paint them on the ground. They are actually quite accurate in both location and depth.

Re:Not that I'm aware of, and I've tried. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40711823)

*THAT* depends on where you live. In some parts of the country these guys take it *very* seriously. Others have a much more lackadaisical attitude about it. It is quite possible the guy with 40 years in the business has had few be right because of that.

For example where I live. 15 foot off center of the road. What does that mean? *ANYTHING* can be in there and I do not dig there. Now the gas guys take it dead serious. The cable guys not so much...

Re:Not that I'm aware of, and I've tried. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40712911)

*THAT* depends on where you live. In some parts of the country these guys take it *very* seriously. Others have a much more lackadaisical attitude about it. It is quite possible the guy with 40 years in the business has had few be right because of that.

For example where I live. 15 foot off center of the road. What does that mean? *ANYTHING* can be in there and I do not dig there. Now the gas guys take it dead serious. The cable guys not so much...

The ones who don't take it seriously are the ones who get fired. If the digging crew hits a line which was mis-located, the liability is not on them, it's on the company employing/contracting the locate tech. In some cases, the tech doing the locate could be directly liable as well, and in a worst case scenario he'd find himself facing negligent homicide charges. And yes, I've seen that happen.

Re:Not that I'm aware of, and I've tried. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40715343)

No. Utility locators get paid per ticket. They come out, assess the probability you will damage the utility their company is paid to protect, and expend effort proportional to that probability.

If you aren't digging that day you'll get level D (per plan) location.

Re:Not that I'm aware of, and I've tried. (2)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 2 years ago | (#40711685)

    Actually, the "call before you dig" people come out with sensors. to find the wires. "best guess" should be within a few inches of where underground wires and pipes are. They come out with metal detectors, and follow them from known locations.

    For water and gas pipes, they're pretty easy, since they're metal pipes.

    For copper telco and cable, they're also (obviously) metal conductors.

    From something like Verizon FiOS, there is a tracer lead along the fiber that has metal, so they can be detected.

    After seeing quite a few done, I know they diverge from the obvious path (the right of way), to go to the destination. I've seen lines run diagonally across yards. Sometimes they'll do "the right thing", and follow the sidewalk, then turn up the side of the driveway or adjacent to the property line. In any case, knowing if it's 6 inches or 6 feet from the driveway is kind of important if you're having new work done.

    For some more expensive runs, I have seen where they'll put up empty junction boxes at intervals. Some were fairly close, like every 20 feet. Some have been more distant, like every 100 feet or so. From what I've observed, they'll put the boxes closer, where people won't complain about the aesthetics, and where it's likely someone else will come along digging.

    It's fairly easy to be "careful" digging with a hand shovel. You'll hopefully notice when you hit a cable. but quite often they don't feel any worse than a small tree root. If they're digging with heavier equipment, it can be downright impossible to know if you just went through a gas line until you see the broken pipe.

Re:Not that I'm aware of, and I've tried. (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 2 years ago | (#40712553)

If they're digging with heavier equipment, it can be downright impossible to know if you just went through a gas line until you see the broken pipe. House blow up [timesunion.com]

FTFY

Water pipes are not always metal. (1)

sjbe (173966) | more than 2 years ago | (#40713477)

For water and gas pipes, they're pretty easy, since they're metal pipes.

Lots of water pipes are not metal. Many are stone or PVC. Some, believe it or not, are even wood [portlandoregon.gov] .

Re:Water pipes are not always metal. (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 2 years ago | (#40717835)

    The ones that I've dug up have always been metal, leading from the street, to the meter, to the point of service. That's when people frequently switch over to PVC or CPVC.

    I'm not sure on the mains. I've seen plastic of some sort (possibly PVC), and concrete. I'm not positive if the concrete ones are fresh water, or waste water.

Re:Not that I'm aware of, and I've tried. (1)

adenied (120700) | more than 2 years ago | (#40713725)

You're asking the wrong questions. Ask for DLRs: Design Layout Records. I have a number of metro area rings in a few large cities around the country and we have street level maps of the paths including where they are aerial vs buried. Be persistent.

Subdivision plats and utility maps (1)

bdcrazy (817679) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710497)

Unfortunately getting that info is hard enough for contractors to obtain, even those working on the utilities. Some would say its a security issue, another because they may or may not be accurate (A fair amount of the time it is the later). They are a part of the public record. Subdivision plats usually show where they were supposed to go. County records departments usually have this info as well.
Crowd sourcing would work, but again accuracy is a MAJOR issue. Having a utility company come out and mark where their utilities are is your best bet (doesn't scale though) and again, may be wrong. Just note that almost every house usually has water/sewer/power/cable/telephone lines and expand that to block, city, state and you'll get the idea across.

Re:Subdivision plats and utility maps (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40710625)

Extra emphasis on accuracy being a MAJOR issue. We had the power company out last month at my place and according to their maps the distribution box was buried in our back-yard. 4 hours of poking around in the yard with metal rods, trying to trace cables with a fancy fox and hound device and much muttering later it turns out that the box was buried under a patio in the neighbors yard. If the neighborhood was laid out more than 10 years ago, the odds are that the maps for buried utilities are downright wrong and for overhead utilities are iffy (Lots of stuff gets moved a few feet during repair and never quite makes it back for update on the plats).

most of telecom RoWs in USA are not public lands (3, Informative)

optikos (1187213) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710555)

Most of the long-lines right of ways (RoWs) are along railroads, not public lands. The 2nd largest amount of RoWs crosscut underneath private property, such as underneath high-voltage electric transmission lines where the legal-infrastructure for the RoW was already in place for the electric grid.

Re:most of telecom RoWs in USA are not public land (3, Interesting)

optikos (1187213) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710689)

Indeed, one major telecom company is named for its railroad easements: SPRINT, the Southern Pacific Railroad Intercontinental Network of Telecommunications, although the latter 3 letters are likely :-) a backronym after Southern Pacific Communications Corporation (SPCC) changed its name to SPRINT.

Re:most of telecom RoWs in USA are not public land (1)

faedle (114018) | more than 2 years ago | (#40716373)

They are a backronym. IIRC, it was Southern Pacific Railroad INternal [Telephone | Telecommunications].

Re:most of telecom RoWs in USA are not public land (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40712705)

I'm the original poster of the question. I realized after I submitted the post that it was somewhat unclear, and apologize in that regard.

I think most people here understood the point of my question, and have been helpful. You make a good point about the railroads.

What I'm interested in, basically, is being able to map where telecommunications companies are benefiting from the public either by (1) having resources on public lands, or (2) having right-of-way access on private property, without any sort of lease with the property owner.

So I am interested in the second case you mention potentially.

Re:most of telecom RoWs in USA are not public land (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40716037)

I think you need to narrow your question to "1" - meaning resources on public land. Point 2 doesn't quite make sense from a legal perspective. Points vary from state to state, but let me try to sketch a rough outline. You could be talking about Rights of Way or easements -- slightly different ideas, but can be used interchangeably this post (RoW).

For a utility to have a RoW across private land three things could have happened:
      (1) a deal was struck with the owner at the time
      (2) government used eminent domain and compensation was paid to the owner (a forced version of #1), or
      (3) the utility just took the land a long time ago and everyone just assumes there is a RoW.

In the case of 1 & 2, the owner (let's assume Fee Simple here) 'gave away' some of the rights on his land. In subsequent sales, the owner no long has rights to convey everything he used to own (the land w/o a RoW) to future owners -- because he no longer holds ownership of the RoW. It's true today's owner may have land subject to a RoW, but the land was purchased with this restriction. In theory the price of the property reflected the restriction, either that or the current owner didn't do his due diligence, or simply didn't care about the RoW. Either way, the previous owner simply didn't have the right to sell with the property.

In the case of #3 the right of way is likely going to be very old (either that right, or an exceedingly rare modern screw up given how much paperwork today's project generate). Even without a deal/paperwork the utility can protect it's rights by asserting Adverse Possession (AP). AP is way to quiet title over long periods of time (think 20 - 50 years). The idea is, if you've openly treating the land as yours (open, notorious, and continuous) over a long enough period, then it IS YOURS. The law gives the 'true' owner plenty of time 'do something' (trespass action, action in ejectment). Land ownership, fortunately or not, comes with responsibilities.

So turning back to your point, the utilities aren't getting an unwanted benefit from private property. They either struck a deal, had government helped and the owner was paid just compensation, or the utility thought they had rights (that were subsequently validated by adverse possession).

Re:most of telecom RoWs in USA are not public land (1)

soundguy (415780) | more than 2 years ago | (#40718647)

As a former telephone contractor all over the continental US, I can say with certainty that the majority of aerial telephone cable is strung on power company poles on power company easements. Phone companies only put up pole leads when there is no other utility run present or when it's more cost-effective to roll their own rather than send lease payments to another utility. I don't know what it is these days, but a couple decades ago in many parts of the country, the standard lease was $1 per attachment. At that price it's rarely cheaper to set their own poles.

Direct-buried cable is mostly plowed along public roadways or railroad easements and then across customer land to the point of service. New underground (conduit runs) is generally part of a joint engineered project with other utilities and the local road department. Runs are usually under public roads with entrance ducts under customer property to provide service. A lot of old underground runs have been in place since the early part of the 20th century. In metropolitan areas, some were originally built by Western Union for their telegraph service. Western Union's aerial easements date back to the late 19th century.

County Clerk's Office (1)

neochubbz (937091) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710567)

What you're actually looking for are right-of-way easements, which should be on record on a county by county basis in the county clerk's office. Or at least they are in my state, Oklahoma. This is not a task for a weekend hobby though. Be prepared to wade through miles of legaleze and title law, depending on who owns the underlying property and how the right-of-way was granted. Another place to start would be the state agency that regulates utilities in your state(ex: Oklahoma Corporation Commission).

Stop now (1)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710637)

...unless you enjoy "extra security" when you fly, having your mail opened, your electronic communications "monitored", etc.

Nontrivial; but... (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710665)

This isn't, unfortunately for you, a 'just fucking google it' sort of project; but the data should exist in some form.

Most municipalities have, as some appendage of their government(whether zoning and planning, some independent office, some weird outgrowth of the IT shop, whatever) a GIS service of some flavor(Newark, NJ purely for example [newark.nj.us] . What you can get online varies widely, and may or may not be utter shit; but it can generally put you in touch with somebody who actually knows something about the available GIS records for the area. No guarantee that they won't assume that anybody who cares about utility locations is a terrorist, or that inquiries are billed at $.25/poorly photocopied page; but it exists.

Similarly clunky; but also sometimes useful, would be the utility easement information that is(sometimes) recorded on property deeds, which are also a matter of (not necessarily well cataloged and easily searchable) public record.

Another option, in the states that they cover, would be to have a friendly chat with the folks at http://www.digsafe.com/ [digsafe.com] . This is some sort of public/private industry consortium thing designed to keep backhoes away from their natural food sources, namely fiber lines and gas mains. Since their entire purpose in life is locating vulnerable underground utility fixtures before somebody fucks them up, they should have a decent idea of where (underground only) utility lines run. I don't know how much persuading they would require to release information to somebody who doesn't fit their usual "Hi, I want to dig a big hole at 123 main St, is that a problem?" customer profile, though...

Re:Nontrivial; but... (1)

wytcld (179112) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710983)

I'm in a DigSafe state. A friend works for a contractor whose business is going out to mark where the burried utilties are after DigSafe gets a request. She starts from whatever existing local maps she can get of utility line locations. But she reports that those maps are mostly pretty bad.

Re:Nontrivial; but... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#40711317)

Based on the tragifarical records-management story that unfolded after that PG&E pipeline exploded in California a while back(scurrying temp armies plowing through pallets of mouldering paper, letters sent to all current and former employees, asking if they might happen to have any useful records at home, nontrivial sections simply missing, etc, etc.) I imagine that even the utility operators often don't know, even if they feel like being helpful. And the PG&E thing was for safety-critical high volume gas lines in fairly heavily populated areas, not POTS copper or coax or anything similarly dull...

Re:Nontrivial; but... (1)

Hillgiant (916436) | more than 2 years ago | (#40711539)

This isn't, unfortunately for you, a 'just fucking google it' sort of project

I wonder why not. All of the data should be publicly available. Getting notified of changes might be difficult; but the problem seems large, complex, and solvable. I.e. right up Google's alley.

Re:Nontrivial; but... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#40711945)

I would assume that the money in it doesn't match the cost(except, perhaps, for engineering/survey firms, like the one wytcld mentions, who combine document-search functions with 'guy-on-the-ground-actually-ensuring-the-conduit-is-where-it-ought-to-be' services who do document search for their own convenience; but would be of minimal use without the local boots on the ground feature).

In terms of difficulty, I'd imagine that it's an order of magnitude worse than, say, Google's book-digitization project(high-speed scanning machinery isn't exactly free, and OCR is still kind of crap, though the machinery amortizes reasonably well over time and storing raw TIFFS so that future advances in OCR can be painlessly applied isn't hard; but the world's better libraries already have well organized, cataloged, and reasonably good condition copies of a great many of the world's books ready to roll). By contrast, utility/easement records are said to be in fairly dreadful shape, and are scattered across who-knows-how-many municipal and utility records sites, probably in formats ranging from crumbling 1900 hand-drafted paper to horrible proprietary 70's databases, to a mess of contemporary bespoke GIS nightmares(and, for extra credit, US utility history isn't exactly free of mergers/splits/renames/transfers and similar things that tend to disrupt documents). Then you run into whining about 'security'(side note: at least until fairly recently, PG&E wouldn't tell the fire department where their gas mains where located...)

After all that, who is your audience, to apply their precious eyeballs to your ads? A few researchers and the merely curious, probably. Developers/contractors/etc. who plan to dig and build based on these data? They might use you as a cheap starting point; but they'll still have to verify before they do something dangerous or expensive, so you are really just doing a lot of work to make their jobs easier.

Re:Nontrivial: I'd get fired (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40712185)

I work for a large CA county. This sort of info en masse/online is strictly verboten to give to non-approved customers. We'd have to refer them to SCE for any kind of info release, and any info we already have is strictly on a case-by-case basis. With many utilities stretching through the desert, vandalism/terrorism would be a SERIOUS concern, and rightly so. I'd be up for real discipline, up to and including termination, for releasing the location of utilities of any kind willy-nilly.

Now, if anyone really wanted to, a lot of driving and a GPS would be needed. Then you could get a rough approximation of what land was involved, and try looking up the right parcels. You had better be able to read an Assessor's map like a newspaper article, and have your magnifying glass handy. My personal observation is that very often, a tower stands on its own little parcel around the base, privately owned by the operating company. Otherwise they can just pay a willing property owner some lease money. Easement info is not available from our GIS office here; in our county you'd need to wrest it from the Assessor's office, which would promptly be sending the office surveillance footage to the Sheriff so it could be forwarded to the local Feds. There are websites about towers, but I've never seen a handy map on any of them. Bear in mind also, if you see a tower, it may be old and inactive - the technology advances so fast, I think the active life of any one tower is pretty short. And most towers, I think, are shared by more than one provider/carrier - good luck finding out who did most of the funding.

Enough damage is done by desperate druggies/boneheads digging up fiber lines in a search for copper to sell.

CBYD (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710675)

Try the Call Before You Dig website.

Re:CBYD (1)

VeriTea (795384) | more than 2 years ago | (#40713099)

No. DigSafe is just a group that takes calls and then distributes the request to all of the utilities (hint: there are far more then you know about). The utilities then each individually dig through their own maps (often paper) and check the specific location being requested.

There are no comprehensive electronic databases. DigSafe is not a help.

GIS developer/DBA here. not gonna happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40710743)

I am a GIS developer/DBA for a moderate sized county. In short, its not gonna happen. They consider the information proprietary/trade secret, and won't even provide it to us!
Short of a lawsuit (which no one has tried) or pulling every Right of Way use permit since the 30s, the data is not public. Yes I can see the wires. Yes its on public land. Yes it pisses me off that they can make a data request of us and I can not make one of them.

Public lands? (2)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710821)

I doubt very much is on public land, there isn't a whole lot of public land in populated areas.

Even if you do find some easements it wouldn't mean anything; they lease the use of that land don't they?

Re:Public lands? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40711181)

Most of the above-ground cabling is along roads and sidewalks, and probably is on public land. Local govt's usually own a wider strip than just the paved area.

Most homes have a utility easement of some kind, to allow the utility companies to maintain their equipment on the side of the house, or any underground cables supplying the building with service.

I don't think it would be a good idea to make information on buried cabling public. 1.7 Billion people have an insane religious obligation to do the USA and other non-muslim countries enough damage to convert them all to islam (probably under Saudi control) At this point, they seem unstoppable, but why help them?

Re:Public lands? (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 2 years ago | (#40711901)

    When I was a kid, the plat maps at our house indicated the county has something like 5' from the narrow road. They widened the road a bit (it was almost too narrow for two cars to pass). Later on, we were notified that the county now claimed 15' on each side of the road as "easement". Basically, they said the road was something like 30' wide (15' each way from center), plus 15' on both sides. That extended to inside our fences.

    If, for any reason, the county needed to use that property, for things like drainage ditches, allowing utility poles, or anything else, they could use it.

    I know a guy in a residential area, where there was a drainage canal behind his house. The area had built up significantly from when his property was built. Because of all the construction over the years, natural drainage couldn't occur. They widened the canal to about 50', taking his back fence and part of his sprinkler system. He made a lot of noise, because they intended to make his yard smaller. Because he complained more than the people on the other side of the canal, they shifted the canal by several feet. Basically, they took more on the other side, keeping the canal the same size.

    Some things need to be done, like draining rainwater. If they don't, neighborhoods could (and did) flood.

    I happen to live at the opposite. The homes are very close to each other, so there simply isn't room to dig a canal without taking out quite a few homes. We had some nasty storms recently, and the roads, yards, and some homes, flooded. Everyone screamed "they should have done something to prevent this". No one liked the idea of their home being torn down to allow for a canal or drainage retention pond.

Re:Public lands? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40711509)

I doubt very much is on public land, there isn't a whole lot of public land in populated areas.

streets and highways = public land

Re:Public lands? (1)

Bengie (1121981) | more than 2 years ago | (#40711757)

Around here, telecom has rights to dig up a good portion of your private property. Something like 10' from the road is fair-game.

I recently had a telcom come in with a backhoe and dig a hole deep enough for an average sized worker to jump into and I could not see his helmet anymore. They didn't need any permission from us. Luckily it was from a local ISP who is rolling out fiber, so I was happy. Finally get rid of Charter once the fiber goes live.

That's only for established telcoms. Upstart ISPs have to get permission from each private property owner. One can easily see how it's hard to compete with telcoms when you have to get permission from thousands of property owners. All it takes is one person to say "You can't dig through my land if you don't pay me", to hold up a multi-million dollar roll-out of fiber.

It's damn near impossible for an up-start.

Re:Public lands? (1)

VeriTea (795384) | more than 2 years ago | (#40713219)

This isn't true. Lots of companies have built out private networks in the ROW. In fact, I'm not sure what the point of the original question is. The ROW is just that, property that any telecommunications or utility company has access to use. Verizon still had to build and pay for their network and nothing stops other companies from doing the same in the ROW. In fact, federal law prohibits anyone from prohibiting other companies from doing the same. It is a lot of work, but in the end, if a company wants to build a network they can do so.

The big problem is that there just isn't any money in offering wired service to consumers (cable and phone company competition has brought the prices too low to payback to network costs). Private networks for other purposes still make sense and are built all the time.

Re:Public lands? (1)

Bengie (1121981) | more than 2 years ago | (#40714363)

This isn't true. Lots of companies have built out private networks in the ROW.

I'm sure they have, but in the state that I live, common policy is that Cable, Telephone, Gas, Electric, and Water has an automatic RoW Easement to any property located in city limits. Any other type of utility must get the property owner's permission to use the RoW.

If you are a new internet only start-up and you are not a certified Telephone or Cable company, you will not be covered by the blanket RoW and you must get individual permission to dig up other people's property.

You might say that someone could come in and ask the power company if they can use their poles and do aerial fiber. But two things:
1) RoW does not apply to 3rd parties. The power company may not allow another company to install their fiber on some's property, the fiber must be owned by the power company because they are on someone else's property.
2) Most of the cites near me have underground power.

Easements (1)

sjbe (173966) | more than 2 years ago | (#40713585)

Around here, telecom has rights to dig up a good portion of your private property. Something like 10' from the road is fair-game.

In most places they can only dig where they have some form of easement on your property which permits that specific use of your property. For example I have an easement on a portion of my property to allow servicing of the electrical lines. They can only use this easement for certain specific purposes. Any use other than those purposes or anywhere outside the easement is a violation of the law and they can be subject to prosecution.

I know from recent personal experience that utilities and telecoms tend to assume that people won't actually know their rights and basically trespass at will.

Simple answer (1)

pla (258480) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710831)

Simple answer: Anywhere you see a power line, and then some.

Aside from the unparalleled powers of eminent domain enjoyed by utility companies in most states, you also have simple "prescriptive" easements just about anywhere you can see a power line.

So the short answer: Everywhere. The first three feet in from the road of just about every property in the US counts as a utility right-of-way.

Right of way offset (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40710849)

Telecoms pay a license fee for the airwaves that include the necessary right of ways. It is already quid pro quo. Unfortunately that means FEDGOV is also located at all switch centers with total surveillance. BTW that was not in the contract. It is a strong-arm tactic.

RIght of ways (1)

Charcharodon (611187) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710939)

I would say the grand bulk of Right of Ways are actually on public property. Most of the streets you drive on are actually private property. They were built on a road easment specifically for use for the road. I'm sure out west there are quite a few easements for power and internet in use on public land, but back east that is hardly the case.

I am personally locked into a fight with the county to get the road easement (15 foot wide alley) on my property disolved since it is being used heavily as a short cut to avoid a major intersection nearby rather than to give access to my neighobors so they can reach their property.

The only thing you can do is look up the land surveys, which are public record, and look at them to see who the easement was given to. It will be difficult since they were probably handed out some time ago and probably changed hands more than a few times. This is a very labor intensive project, I highly doubt you will find any sort of product that is easy and free.

Re:RIght of ways (1)

Charcharodon (611187) | more than 2 years ago | (#40710949)

Whoops "I would say the grand bulk of Right of Ways are actually on public property"

I meant private property.

Sure their Infrastructure is in ROWs and Easements (1)

micahcochran (1722200) | more than 2 years ago | (#40711297)

Just from working in a municipal government with Rights-of-Way (ROW) and Easements. I would say that the vast majority of telecom infrastructure is in public ROWs and easements. My gut feeling is 90%.

Figuring how much exactly in on easements and ROWs, even on a small scale, is a huge a problem. Some places have hired someone to record the easements and ROW into a GIS system, some places, haven't. Some places have great maps of ROW, some don't. Until the state or federal government says you must, local governments won't. If money doesn't come to help, it still won't happen.

yuo fHail it! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40711543)

impa1red 1ts [goat.cx]

"Public Infrastructure???" (1, Insightful)

gavron (1300111) | more than 2 years ago | (#40711569)

I appreciate that you used big words.

You have no idea what you're talking about.

Rights of way are not "public infrastructure" and your use of the word "crowdsource" really means
"make it someone else's problem."

Why don't you, instead of delegated to "everyone else to solve my problem" of "things I misstate or
don't understand" just go away.

Slashdot editors... shame on you. This is a non-story about a guy who knows nothing trying to make
a story about nothing and hoping other people find something.

It's a non-starter.

E

Re:"Public Infrastructure???" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40715057)

How about actually reading the post before you complain. Crowdsourcing isn't what he's trying to DO, it's what he's trying to AVOID...

Easier way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40711609)

We are a facilities based clec and its part of our interconnection agreements with att and verizon that we can lease their poles, ducts and rights of ways. In the case of ATT we have two general ways for discovering whats available; we can send in a proposed route and they come back to us with details, or we can actually go to an office in Sacramento (california) and review all of their GIS maps. In the case of verizon we've not done it yet but I imagine it works similarly.

I think you are stuck... (1)

amcdiarmid (856796) | more than 2 years ago | (#40711799)

As one other commented noted: there was someone who did this and the report was classified. I attempted to do something similar about 2003: I was essentially told piss off. (Clarification: I was a grad student, looking into seeing how much fibre had been laid around the city, and figure out how much of it was dark.) Initially, I was told that I could pay $10,000 to get a GIS map of the data within my city - but that it would not include some federal lines, just private ones. I seriously considered paying, and went down to discuss it further with the city to see if it would contain what I needed. I was informed that the policy had been changed, and that data was no longer publicly available. (USA)

Why would the Telcos care? (2)

Art Challenor (2621733) | more than 2 years ago | (#40712241)

Why would any of the Telcos (or anyone else) care that they're using public infrastructure? The current "free market" business model in the US it to get the government to pay for as much as you possibly can. Football teams get public money for stadiums, businesses that are "too big to fail" get handouts. Almost all companies use the public infrastructure. This model is strongly supported by both parties.

Re:Why would the Telcos care? (1)

VeriTea (795384) | more than 2 years ago | (#40713479)

You misunderstand the situation. Everything installed in the ROW is paid for and maintained by the companies that install it (phone & power are only two of the many companies that use this infrastructure). The only thing provided by the government is access to the ROW. ROW is essentially just permission to cross land, and the government taxes it just like anything else. The utility companies pay for the ROW access through taxes that are levied specifically on ROW use. The only government expenses associated with the ROW are the expenses they incur from regulating and taxing it.

Perhaps if there were no taxes for crossing the land and the government paid for the actual infrastructure then your point of view would make sense.

Re:Why would the Telcos care? (1)

Art Challenor (2621733) | more than 2 years ago | (#40713945)

Well, the purpose of the poster in identifing the ROW was to demonstrate the Telcos dependance on the public and so in some way pressure the them into behaving in some consumer-friendly way.

Assuming you are correct in say that the Telcos pay fair "rent" for the ROW they use, then I'm totally confused as to the point of the exercise of identifying the ROW.

I tend to think that the Telcos impose less on the public purse than many other companies. Suggesting that, for example, a freight company (or any road user) pay the ACTUAL cost of using the road rather than the trifling fuel cost they currently pay would be heresy or that polluters pay for the cost of the damage they create, or that packagers pay for the cost of disposal no just manufacturing, etc. etc. etc.

All these are cost that we, or our elected officials, have decided the public will pay, so what the heck's the point of going after the Telco ROW?

Same Issue That Rural Providers of Internet Face (1)

CAOgdin (984672) | more than 2 years ago | (#40712303)

The available maps of service areas, and specific locations of infrastructure, are held as potential "terrorist assets" (although, through typical "security theater," they don't bother saying how attacked on these components would be attractive to some would be terrorist, who'd be much more likely to attack and contaminate the water system).

Basically, telcos--aided and abetted by the government--make broad and extravagant claims about coverage (why, right here where I live, the "Desolation wildnerness" prohibits entry except on foot or horseback, and there are no addresses there, but, if maps are to be believed, the area has marvelous high-speed coverage for Internet services).

For my county alone (aobut 88,000 households and businesses), I am planning a "primary research" survey to find out who has Internet service, and who doesn't). Do do that on a national scale will require tremendous effort and cost.

I know that visiting my local Forest Ranger District HQ recently got me a map of all the cell sites within their jurisdiction, but that would require individual visits to the thousands of sites the govenment own across the Country.

So, to be clear: The precision of data you can get from telcos and the regulatory agencies is as precise as those "coverage maps" for their "cellular service area;" Dramatically more aspirational than factual.

Use your head!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40712425)

Rather than thinking like a geek and attempting to crowdsource the info perhaps you could think like a (construction) developer and ask yourself what resources are there to keep underground communications safe from construction accidents? There are utility maps available that show pretty much everything even if they are given different labels by government agencies. Construction companies use them everyday.

National Broadband Map (1)

white_owl (134394) | more than 2 years ago | (#40712979)

The feds (US) created the map you want as part of the Federal Stimulus program (NTIA BTOP http://www2.ntia.doc.gov/about [doc.gov] )

I am sure they did not get it all, because the carriers did not like to give up this information. They feel that knowledge of dark fiber would be helpful to their competitors but the feds made it a condition for the grants.

They put some of that information on line, although not in the way you want, as the National Broadband Map. I believe they are interested in public input to this map (where do the hills block the wireless signals, how far out does the DSL stop working)
http://www.broadbandmap.gov/technology [broadbandmap.gov]

I think you will find that almost all fiber in public right of way is paid. At least around here, you cannot plow in some fiber along side a state road with paying the DOT and you cannot put fiber into city conduit without paying the city. Now everyone can have their own opinion about what is a fair price for access, but I am sure that the carriers feel that they are paying their fair share for use of public right of way. Still the price to get the permissions lot by lot would have been much much more than what they are paying the local governments (and power companies?).

As an accountant at a large telecom (1)

LearningHard (612455) | more than 2 years ago | (#40713417)

One of the things I deal with is leases. This includes leases for Right of Way. I've worked for Verizon. I will not name any of my other past or current employers.

Let me tell you a little secret:

We did not even know the locations of all of our right of ways. We would find out about them when someone would bill us for them.

Re:As an accountant at a large telecom (1)

faedle (114018) | more than 2 years ago | (#40716467)

As a technician / engineer for a regional cable company (with a LONG history in both the conventional telephone and cable industry) I strongly concur with this statement.

Yes, the major trunk lines are probably not too hard to find. However, a good chunk of the "last mile" is a combination of utility easements on private property, "pole-sharing" arrangements with another utility (usually the electric utility), and ad-hoc informal arrangements with property owners. The latter one is especially common in rural areas, where the shortest route between, say, a cable amplifier or telephone drop box might cross three or four neighboring properties that were never formalized.. or the paperwork involving that formal arrangement has been lost since World War II.

The older the city and/or the smaller the population, the sloppier the documentation is.

Practice will help (1)

Kim0 (106623) | more than 2 years ago | (#40713703)

When you have succeeded in finding a few used public lands, you will become better at guessing where others might be.

The Data Exists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40714867)

Individual companies must have maps in order to do repair work. Whether it is an underground cable or the aiming of a dish there have to be records to guide repair efforts. Whether the companies will allow that material to be seen or copied may not be up to them as people do need to be able to make certain they will not cause disruption when they construct or dig for new constructions. There may be some areas in which certain phone cable locations are not public knowledge as military uses may be through those cables.

Re:The Data Exists (1)

faedle (114018) | more than 2 years ago | (#40717007)

Most of the verification of where the underground utilities are located is not done from maps, it's done by metal detection and simple detective work.

I've worked in the cable and telecom business for 20+ years, and I can tell you the typical cable and phone company may have a rough idea of where the cables are.. but they don't know exactly where they are down to the foot. My cable company, for example, knows that the feeder cable off node 201A goes down Empire Ave., and is on the electric company's pole from the freeway to 8th, and turns right at 8th. But just looking at the maps and legal documents doesn't tell you what side of the street it is on. And the legal documents are a blanket agreement between us and the electric company to use their poles at a particular altitude. The electric line continues for another few miles down Empire, but we don't use it beyond 8th.

Most of the knowledge is with the engineers and maintenance techs who work in the field. Even a lot of that knowledge gets out-of-date pretty fast, and a good chunk of the troubleshooting steps they must engage in is a game of "find the cable."

So, no, we don't have maps quite like you would expect. No cable or telephone company I've ever worked with has very detailed (let alone accurate) records.

Database of Telephone central office locations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40716171)

This site has a database with all of the info that you need for mapping telephone central office and switch locations

http://www.telcodata.us/

Good Luck!

OpenStreetMap (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#40716867)

This would make a fine layer on OSM. I had a friend who had to dig for this sort of information back when he was starting an ISP. AT&T: "you want to buy service off our fiber where? Do people actually live there? You have money? Well, OK then."

That fiber ran along the train tracks. Local geeks just happen to walk tracks and read pull-box labels.

I can tell you but I'd have to kill you (1)

wdhowellsr (530924) | more than 2 years ago | (#40719681)

I worked as a desktop tech for one of the largest telecom companies in the United States. My job was to support all of the remote CO's in their territory.
The redundancy of the Internet and our total telcom infrastructure is a myth. There are three locations in my state alone that would probably take out Southeastern United States. While some of you might think I'm be careless by posting with my real slashdot account I actually wouldn't mind getting a call from Homeland Security.

There are about thirty locations in the US right now that are completely unguarded and for all intents and purpose an easy target. The good news is that it would take about thirty seconds for those in the agency I can't mention to realize a critical junction in our infrastructure has been compromised. Still you could time them all to go of at the same time.
What me worry?
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