Marking utility service lines

Lynn Dollar

TVWBB Wizard
I'm doing some planting in the back yard and we have a service here, which I'm sure is universal everywhere, that will come out and mark the utility lines before I began digging. I was really concerned about Cox Cable, because they only go about 6" deep when they bury the drop that goes into a house.

But my question is .......... how can they tell a cable line from an electric line ?

Or an active good cable line from a dead cable line. A few years ago , I cut the cable line with my roto tiller and I'm almost sure they did not pull up the cut line, they just buried a new drop.

I've got too many cable lines everywhere, around the house, in the attic, through the yard. After so many years, they accumulate and I'd like to get rid of everything not necessary. All I'm using cable for is internet. And hopefully, I will get home internet 5G soon.

Dan Leighton

Is your electric, telephone, and Cox all buried? I've been dealing with Cox for 32 years in two states. Unless they ran into an obstruction, they would run pretty much in a straight line from where they buried the line at the pole or vault to where it enters your house. Most of those marking companies only mark what is in the street and that can be wrong too since they usually mark things off existing plans. If something isn't on there, that is when the FD gets a call to deal with the "oh sh**".

Lynn Dollar

TVWBB Wizard
Well, they marked my electric, which runs parallel with the cable. But its 3 foot deep and I'm not worried about that. What I'm wondering , is how do they know the difference ?

I was digging the hole to plant a shrub, and I not only found the Cox cable they marked, but there was another cable in the same slot. Now I wondered which one was good. So I called Cox. And some guy in some other state, told me they don't leave a cable in the ground when they run a new drop. Well, how does he know what their contractors do ?

How deep are the phone lines ? I don't have a landline any more.

I told the guy I could send him pics of two Cox cables in the same place and another pic of one of them on top of the ground. He wanted to argue with me and I got pissed off and hung up.

Jason in CA

TVWBB All-Star
I know someone with more technical knowledge than I have can correct everything I say but, the short answer is, when they scan the ground they're scanning for AC and RF.
What I'm wondering , is how do they know the difference ?

To vaguely answer your question how do they know the difference, one puts out an alternating current and the other puts out a radio frequency that their detector can pick up. A dead-line should show up as nothing more than a piece of metal putting out neither and they're not scanning for random metal or other objects. If it's a live line it will be putting out a signal there detector can pick up. I don't know if that answers your question but that's a layman's how it works.

Dan Leighton

Welcome to Cox Communications, your friend in the digital age! What is amazing is that you end up at a call center somewhere in the US or Canada. Two weeks ago I got a postcard that they were going to do maintenance on the tv service overnight one night between 3/5 and 3/11. I did several chats without narrowing down when so I could adjust programming here. Wednesday, I called several times with vague responses from agents in Ohio, Georgia, and Ontario. I finally asked for Tier 2 support and actually got someone who knew what the story is for here in Las Vegas. It is supposed to happen tonight, but who knows with those guys. When we moved here we constantly had digital breakup on the picture. They ran a new cable replacing one installed in 1996, redid all the cable ends and added an amplifier at the set. It is a long run from the cable vault to the house in conduit and still only used RG58 instead of the heavier RG8 to reduce signal loss. They didn't want to do that due to the price of 150 ft. of cable. Two years later 4 more engineers came scratched their heads and removed the amplifier which they said was the issue. A month later they were back putting the amplifier back in. 9 years later we still get digital breakup which they now blame on their cable cards and tuning adapter in conjunction with our Tivos. Strange the same equipment I had with Cox in RI had no issues. Like you said, their installers do whatever they can to get the ticket cleared. They can tell which line is live with their equipment, but they would probably want to charge you for the service call. Even worse is if you go into one of their stores!

Dwain Pannell

TVWBB Hall of Fame
You gotta love the guys that can tell you what you’re seeing when you’re talking with them on the phone.

i am by no means an expert but I understand the NEC only addresses the depth for electric cables.

Theoretically, phone lines should be 18" through lawns and 32" through garden areas (for service drops).

In reality, this is mostly done by contractors and the shallower it's plowed or trenched the faster they can go and the more money they can make, so don't count on them being at any set depth.

So, in short there’s no guarantee how deep it is.

Oh, ...and I can confirm old cable drops are not pulled up when they put in a new drop.

Lynn Dollar

TVWBB Wizard
That's good to know , confirms what I thought.

I've gotten an email from Cox asking me about my contact with their customer service. I will now respond with total confidence that I'm right.

Timothy F. Lewis

TVWBB Hall of Fame
At least you talked to someone who’s primary language was English (I hope) the last time I dealt with someone from “Spectrum” I was on the line with someone in Guatemala! Nice girl and she did straighten out the problem but, gee!


TVWBB All-Star
I called the local service a few years ago, when we rented a large tent (4' tent stakes,) and really didn't want to strike the electric feeds from the house to the back garage. I spent about 20 minutes on the phone with the gent, who let me know that as of a couple of years earlier, policy was that they'd only mark to the residence service entrance. That had him fuming a bit. He knew what I was up to, and went ahead and marked the back yard as a safety issue. I've got pictures now of all of the flagging.

There are still conscientious people in the world.


TVWBB Super Fan
Years ago I was 100y back off in a holler and dug a hole to bury some small trees from my bosses yard, found a phone cable that cut off his service lol, guy came out said no problem, no markings that it was in the ground, I was surrounded by big trees and no idea which way it was headed. If I had been any where near the road it would've been a $ to repair