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View Full Version : Who Do Utility Poles Belong To?


Jim B.
01-28-2005, 12:42 AM
They're found in every city and they cross mind-bogglingly long stretches of countryside in the U.S. I am talking about utility poles: telephone, electric, etc. poles. But there is one thing I have always wondered: who do they all belong to? I know back before AT&T was broken up they probably belonged to a large extent to the phone company. But with the confusing array of phone companies we have now, to say nothing of all the other companies that require cables, they couldn't all just belong to one company. So who do they belong to then?

Thank you in advance to all who reply :)

AskNott
01-28-2005, 02:01 AM
Usually, they belong to the electric utility. Often, they rent pole space (a row of isulators, really) to phone utilities and cable TV firms. If the poles are in your yard, they have an easement (a right to use) on a strip of your property. The easement means if repairs are necessary, they have a right to come onto your property to get to the broken stuff. If you have trees that get close to the wires, they have the right to cut off the offending branches.

danceswithcats
01-28-2005, 02:32 AM
A little bit of detective work around a pole will determine who own it. Look for a number indicator along with some form of alpha designator which corresponds to the name of the utilities in your area. All poles are logged into the owner database because they receive periodic treatment against wood destroying insects.

justwannano
01-28-2005, 03:12 AM
FWIW
The local REC gave me 5 poles they were removing because of pole rot. One of them, after cutting out the rot, is now firmly holding electric wires in our barn lot.Two others are now fence posts. The other 2 are awaiting my ambition to reappear and will be used for replacement of other poles on the property.
FWIW2
REC only supplies poles to the meter pole. Anything else is up to me.

Who_me?
01-28-2005, 07:23 AM
For the Washington DC area, they either belong to the electric company or the telephone company. If you would like to determine which company an individual pole belongs to, the pole will usually have a metal tag on it with the company name.

Colophon
01-28-2005, 09:41 AM
I don't know if the same applies in the US, but as I recall, my grandmother had a couple of telegraph poles on her land in England, and she told me that the powr company paid her rent for the footprint of land that they occupied.

FatBaldGuy
01-28-2005, 10:02 AM
I don't know if the same applies in the US, but as I recall, my grandmother had a couple of telegraph poles on her land in England, and she told me that the powr company paid her rent for the footprint of land that they occupied.
In the US, as AskNott has indicated, when any kind of pole, buried wire, junction box, etc. is located on private property there is a "utility easement" which is recorded as part of the property deed. This gives the utility company the right to use that portion of the property and to make repairs, etc. as needed. There is no rent paid to the property owner.

SuperNelson
01-28-2005, 10:06 AM
It depends on the utility. We (the local phone company) used to own a lot of poles, but have buried most of our facilities. Today, we own a few, and I believe the rest are owned by the two power companies in our service area. We lease space on some of their poles as needed.

Obviously, when the very first company put up the very first pole, they owned all the poles. But since then, there has never been a single company that owned all the poles in the country. The railroads put up their own poles, the telephone companies (and there were hundreds, even by 1901, when we were founded) put up theirs, and the power companies put up theirs.

In many jurisdictions, there are requirements that the various companies co-locate on poles, just to limit the number of poles in the public right of way. There are companies that put up cell towers, and lease space to wireless companies. I suppose there could be a company out there that does nothing but erect, maintain, and lease poles to the local utilities, but I haven't heard of one.

Exapno Mapcase
01-28-2005, 11:27 AM
It's also possible for the municipality to own the poles, if they have been bought back from the power company in an effort to lower costs by doing their own maintenance. I don't know how many municipalities have done this, but I've heard of the discussions going on.

Gfactor
01-28-2005, 11:56 AM
It's also possible for the municipality to own the poles, if they have been bought back from the power company in an effort to lower costs by doing their own maintenance. I don't know how many municipalities have done this, but I've heard of the discussions going on.

A Supreme Court case involving utility poles:

http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=case&court=us&vol=466&invol=789

Stevens' opinion seems to assume that the poles are public property, though the District Court opionion is more ambiguous, see footnote 7.

AskNott
01-28-2005, 12:06 PM
WARNING!! Do not call the electric utility to ask who owns the poles. Those fiends live for the days when they can say, "All your poles are belong to us!" :eek:

Yllaria
01-28-2005, 02:10 PM
There is no rent paid to the property owner.

Which is not to say that no fee was paid in exchange for the original easement. If an easement needs to be run across existing property, there is usually a fee paid. If the easement is needed as part of developing a subdivision it might just be a required part of the development.

Rayne Man
01-28-2005, 02:52 PM
A small rent is paid for telephone poles in the UK . it's something very small such as 25 pence a year. This is a legal nicety otherwise the owner of the land could say that the pole actually becomes his property . Paying the rent turns it into a landlord / tenent situation.

Regarding gas pipes or underground telephone cables they are subject to easement, or as, they are called here way-leave agreements. In this situation the owner of the utility installation has the rights to enter the property to work on the pipe or cable. I used to work for a gas distribution company . They have farmer liaison staff who work very closely with the owners of the land to ensure that there are no arguments regarding access. Also (because they are usually on good terms) the farmers and land owners will inform the gas company if any planned excavation will take place near the pipeline.

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