My internet company installed a heavy 70 ft long cable across my lawn 6 months ago. They dug up a trench about a foot deep using a trench digger.

I would like to move the middle section of the cable over by 1-2 ft, as a big hole needs to be dug there.

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I can see where it comes out of the ground and attaches to the house, they gave me about 4 extra feet of cable there. Can I safely pull the cable there, uprooting it? How would you suggest I dig it out, without risk of cutting or breaking it? I just need to move the middle 10 ft about 2 ft over.

  • 4
    That cable might your ISPs property, and will need their permission. If the cable not in a pipe, it will be next to impossible to pull the extra cable. Does the hole need to be there or can it be moved to miss cable? Dig by hand(shovel) on the side then shave dirt away till find cable.
    – crip659
    Feb 11, 2021 at 18:23
  • 1
    ISPs don't own the cables in customers yards that are going to their house. In fact their ownership of cables used as a trunk going through yards is jurisdictional.
    – DMoore
    Feb 11, 2021 at 19:52
  • Also pictures of where cable enters house may offer more options. Not that the illustrated drawing wasn't perfect!
    – DMoore
    Feb 11, 2021 at 20:19
  • 1
    What is the hole for? Does cable need to be moved to dig hole or just for extra cable protection(get it away)?
    – crip659
    Feb 11, 2021 at 23:10

7 Answers 7


Couple things here.

  1. There is a good chance you don't have enough cable to do this. Before even thinking about it you will need to check the slack on both sides. If there are hooked up outside and then wired inside, there is hardly ever slack to pull an extra couple feet. It is annoying because I have had to have providers rerun our yard different times.

  2. You have to dig up all the way in one direction, can't just dig up 10 feet and scootch it over. It will be too tight.

  3. ISP could just come out and run another line... They might charge you. If they don't for sure just have them do it. If they don't maybe you go to another provider and "cut this cord" so new provider has to run cable where you want it.

So this cable if you are in the US and it is not electric, water (you may own this) or gas is your property. ISP or cable company or dish, they are basically giving you this cable as part of your contract with them. You own it - you paid for it. If it goes to a box/dish/whatever to your house, it is yours. If it is buried going from box to box that is a gray area (you are not liable for cutting it but may have angry neighbors!).

Also note: most ISPs and cable internet companies are not part of 811 dig in an overall way. They will coordinate with 811 if they think there is a high risk area - they plow a main line right through a group of backyards - but other than that they are only usually coming out and marking if someone dug up something before.

  • A downside to owning it is if you cut it, dig it up etc. then you pay for it again. Feb 11, 2021 at 20:05

Be aware that many properties have utility easements (or rights-of-way) that providers run their cables through. If your existing cable was run using such an easement, this could present a couple of problems for you:

  1. The hole you want to dig would appear to be inside the easement. Utility companies are allowed free access to that easement, which means if they need to they can dig up your tree or break your pool or whatever you're using that hole for.
  2. Other utilities are likely using the same easement. As you try to move this line, you'll have to be extra careful not to disturb any other buried utilities running alongside it. You could also run into more esoteric problems like signal quality issues due to moving a poorly-shielded communications cable too close to an AC power line.

If you aren't sure about the location of utility easements on your land, check the survey for your property. If you didn't get a copy when you bought the house, you can usually get one from your city/county records office (wherever property deeds are recorded).

If you do decide to try this, I recommend using the smallest tool possible. Any sort of digging/trenching power tool would eat through the cable without flinching. Even a regular shovel is pretty risky. Depending on your soil composition, I'd recommend something like a garden trowel, at least until you know for sure where the cable is. Many communication cables are not actually buried that deep (regardless of how deep you think the trench was). A flood washed away about a half-inch of soil on one side of my house, and that was enough to expose my buried cable TV line in places even though the trench they dug when installing it appeared much deeper.

Even if your yard was pure sand, I doubt you'll be able to pull any of that slack while the cable is still buried. You'll likely have to dig up the entire cable, starting at where the cable leaves the house and continuing to just beyond the spot where you want to dig the hole. The good part is that your risk of cutting the cable is low. You don't have to guess where it is, you'll be able to see it as you're digging. The bad part is that you have a lot of digging ahead of you. It's probably enough work to make it worth re-evaluating how badly you need that hole in that exact location.

If you're digging this hole to plant a tree, make sure you install a root barrier between the tree and the buried utilities. Otherwise, you're planting a time bomb that can generate very expensive repair bills at some random time in the future.

  • Good general advice but the easement thing does not cover ISP cables as the easement umbrella. ISPs piggyback off of poles under the electrical lines. But that is a far cry from them routing through your yard. I mean maybe somewhere it is but not the norm in the US. Also an easement would follow property lines not run diagonal through a backyard. I mean it could happen but it isn't normal. It's like the electric company saying you aren't allowed to have a pool.
    – DMoore
    Feb 12, 2021 at 5:16
  • @DMoore Good point. If you live where they run utilities overhead on poles instead of underground, you're less likely to have utility rights-of-way like this. Easements do normally follow property lines but so do buried cables. I was assuming OP's diagram was not intended to be an accurate map (running a cable exactly as shown means maximum interference with sprinklers, etc).
    – bta
    Feb 13, 2021 at 2:44

If this is a fiber line, there really is no safe way to move it without digging up the entire line. You can not really splice such a cable easily while preventing enough signal loss that would cause an expensive repair very quickly.

  • And, tugging on fiber, even direct burial rated fiber, has a high likelihood of breaking the glass fiber, even if the external sheath still looks good.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 15, 2021 at 16:33

And to add another complication--this sort of cable carries a very high frequency signal. Abuse a plain copper wire can take can easily render such a wire apparently intact but with a noisy or even unusable signal. I've had far too many headaches from electricians treating data cables like they would electrical cables.


I would give it a shot by tying a rope to the coax wire going to the house with the slack. Use a half hitch knot and some duck tape over it. Tie it to a lawn mower or car and pull slowly. If it breaks, then ask the company to come out and bury a new line. It would be worth it to me to pay the $100 or so vs hand digging or dealing with a splice later.be prepared to lose your internet until then though.

  • 1
    Kudos for being inventive, but I don't think this is good advice - due to the possibility of damaging the cable.
    – izzy
    Feb 15, 2021 at 14:53
  • 1
    You recommend tying a coax cable to a lawnmower or car then say "if it breaks", have the ISP replace it? Why don't you simply recommend that the OP have the ISP replace the line in the new, desired location and save the trouble of breaking the existing cable in the first place...
    – FreeMan
    Feb 15, 2021 at 16:24

Chat with support, tell them what you need, and let them do the work. It will probably cost you zero. It will definitely cost you less than any other solution proposed here.


If you can trace the cable to just before the spot your digging at you can uncover the cable, splice a new length in, re-route it around the excavation site, dig down to uncover the cable on the opposite side of the site and splice in the new cable there.

You may be able to pull the cable through the soil at the second dig site and use the extra length of cable.

If you slice the grass ,drive your shovel into the ground as deep as the shovel head and pry open a channel it will save you the effort of excavating and damaging the lawn.

  • 6
    Splicing coaxial cable (common in my area) takes some practice so unless OP has done this before it should not be recommended. Coaxial splices on a main line are likely to leak (electrically and moisture if buried) and would not recommend splicing for this reason either. In the event OP has buried fiber, those splices are must be done by specialists but could be done without ruining signal or allowing moisture in. That probably wouldn't be cheap. Feb 11, 2021 at 22:38
  • Underground splices required water proof connections, not your ordinarily wire nuts/splicers. Be nice to just add a few feet of cable where he needs to move it. Power company cut my telephone/internet cable, they patched it up temporary and then telephone company came and used proper underground splices on it.
    – crip659
    Feb 11, 2021 at 22:55
  • I should also note that some cables carry enough voltage to give you something of a decent shock. I would not splice cable like this myself.
    – Machavity
    Feb 15, 2021 at 13:36

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