Georgia's Public Safety Commissioner has asked utility and communications companies like Google and AT&T to answer for gas line breaks and other costs of growth as they dig up Atlanta to install new internet and TV lines.

PSC Stan Wise called for all interested parties to comment publicly at a Sept. 1 meeting, reacting to what he called "the extraordinary level of digging" over the past year.

Wise said, “I’ve heard from countless people concerned about the safety and economic disruption that come from the cutting and uprooting of underground facilities. These are clearly issues that surround our Pipeline Safety Act and Georgia Underground Facilities Protection Act (GUFPA).”

As companies like AT&T and Comcast expand, and Google Fiber seeks to make a splash in the market, CBS46 has reported on a number of broken gas lines and water mains that have at times been attributed to the communications companies. City of Atlanta blames Google Fiber crews for water troubles Google Fiber sign-ups begin in Atlanta neighborhoods

Questions posed to stakeholders

Wise presented a list of questions for the companies and utilities to answer in-person or writing ahead of the Sept. 1 meeting. How many facility damages under our jurisdiction (Georgia Utility Facilities Protection Act) have occurred by contractors working for Google Fiber or U-verse? Can the damages be quantified in dollars? Are utilities being asked to go beyond the locating requirements in GUFPA and provide premium service? If so, at what cost and who pays for that? Are the locating companies able to keep up with demand? If not, why not? What changes in rule, regulation, law or practice need to be made and by whom to safely deploy utility services without burdening our ratepayers? What action, if any, does the Commission need to take at this time? How does the bidding-out process for location services contribute to this problem, i.e. if a utility bids out for a locator and estimates low as to the number of locates it anticipates, then how is the “winner” of that bid expected to cope with the workload if the real number of locates is 150 or 200% of what was estimated?Wise said he wants a discussion to ensure that work on underground facilities is being done safely and in compliance with the law without slowing down economic development.

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