Lately while walking the dogs I've noticed a lot of unused cable dangling down from the (quaint) phone poles all around our town. As far as I can tell from both its position on the pole and the appearance of the cable end that it's mostly POTS or coax. In some cases there might be 20-30 yards of the stuff left behind. When I first noticed I thought it was a one-off, but since I've been noticing I've found examples all over town.

The photo below shows the type of wire I mean. This is clearly coax. It's also clearly not carrying a dangerous current, given that it's (coax, and) just lying on the ground about 30 yards from the door to a school.

Is there a reason why utility technicians do this? Can I snip it off / tape it up / dispose of it?

unsightly cableage

  • You can't touch it, but you can ask for it. Think you can only touch it if it is toss(as garbage) onto your land and not attached to anything else.
    – crip659
    May 26 at 19:46
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    If it doesn't relate to your own utility service, don't mess with it. It does not belong to you. You're welcome to form or join a beautification committee and lobby the utility to do something about it, but that is more of a politics.se question. May 26 at 20:19
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    You absolutely can touch it if it's on your property. Any contract prohibiting modification is presumably null and void if the cable is no longer in use.
    – isherwood
    May 26 at 20:48
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    Oh. In those cases, if it's on your property, it's between you and the easement holder. On other's property, 8th commandment. "Public land" is actually owned by a government agency, you may have a right to use, but do not have a right to take from. E.g. cutting timber off government land without a permit, or helping yourself to a swing set at a public park. Messing with their stuff may involve tortious interference with their contract with an easement holder. May 27 at 0:01
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    You've changed the question significantly, except you didn't actually. The right side of that pole has a cableway on it that is coming down the pole. So it could have come down off the pole, and could be crossed with anything. Jun 8 at 17:56

They do it because they can.

It costs money to remove cables. If the municipality doesn't require them to do so, why would they? Most people don't notice or complain, and there's the off chance they'll use it again if the next owner wants service.

I've gone so far as to cut them free of my home, neatly coil the cable, and wire it to the pole on the alley. Eventually they'll be at the pole for some other reason and cut it down. Technically the cable may be their property, but that doesn't mean it has to lay around on (or over) mine.

  • Seems practical. Maybe what I really need to do is mind my own business. Jun 8 at 14:54

Now you've changed the question significantly to describe a wire fed from underground. Except you still have a trunk running down the pole, so this is still a wire coming down off a pole.

Again, you do not know what that wire is crossed up with. We see live voltage on CATV jackets all the time, not least due to lost neutrals at the other end of the cable.

As I said in a comment, if it's on your property via an easement, take it up with the company you granted the easement to. If it's not on your property, 8th Commandment. Though, feel free to act politically to get the companies to clean up their property.

Downed wires are downed wires! STAY THE HELL AWAY

You are talking about a wire which comes down from the pole and comes near the ground. That is a "Downed Wire". They are dangerous as all getout, because they can have live voltage on them.

You should not even be close enough to tell if they are cable TV vs phone wire! STAY AWAY - STAY ALIVE.

Even if they were telecomm, you have no idea what they are attached to (or what they got tangled up in) on the other end. Technology changes are obliging phone and cable companies to fit powered equipment on the poletop, and having to take whatever power is available there, be it 240V, 277V or 2400V.

I do work on overhead lines from buckets and towers. The golden rule of not getting dead doing that is that the bucket/tower lives in "poletop world", and that vs ground world is matter vs antimatter. Nothing ever, ever is allowed to drape or be let down from "poletop world" to "ground world".

Call the power company and report a downed line

Pardon the sarcasm, but it illustrates the point: "Before you call us, step really close to the wire and see if it's phone line or coax" said no power company employee, ever. That would be a deranged thing to tell the public, because sooner or later one would turn out to be energized.

The PoCo will come out and deal with it, with extreme prejudice.

If it is indeed a telecomm line, they will remind the telecomm company of the terms and conditions of their lease of space on the pole. And maybe send them a bill for the service call. So, profit center for the PoCo lol.

  • Whoa, haha...they're dead wires. They're left at ground level. Right near a school, for instance. I wonder if the power company would do what you say. Perhaps I'll make a call. May 26 at 23:39
  • You can tell the power company that you think they are probably phone or CATV wires if you are overcome by honesty They will likely still be interested, perhaps mistrusting your judgement, perhaps for other reasons.
    – Jasen
    May 27 at 3:19
  • I agree with this in principle, but for the very reason of the golden rule you mention, I'm certain these are not live wires. Jun 8 at 14:53
  • @DaveKanter That's the trouble with being "certain". It's like being certain the gun isn't loaded, that's why professionals are trained to never be "certain". They use lockout-tagout and also set ground jumpers to assure the wire is grounded. For all you know the house at the other end of this run has a lot neutral and is throwing 120V onto the shell of that cable, that's why they disconnected it. Jun 8 at 18:00
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    @Dave sure... but that doesn't guarantee you that any given one isn't live. If you went on a mission to cut them all off, you could well find a live one. Really for a town cleanup, politics is the best answer: either get the company to finish their project, or get them to tidy up, or get educated on why it's necessary. Jun 8 at 19:16

Two possibilities :

  • Other Company

If I have fiber and switch to cable (or vice versa), the cable company will remove the fiber from my house but they will leave it at the pole because it is the other company's property. Or they may let the other company...

  • Save for the next customer

If I move out, the company might disconnect but leave at the pole because of the next tenant or owner wants similar service then they can use the existing cable and save $.

But in any case, as stated by Harper: if the wires are near the ground, don't touch. Call the electric utility (they normally own the pole) and they'll check it out and remove, repair or notify another utility as needed. Even if a cable really is low voltage "nothing", things can get messed up at the top and make it hot. One time I had a low hanging coax situation. Called Pepco and they took care of it even though I knew it was comcast and knew that 99% certain I could have climbed on a ladder and done it myself. The 1% risk is a serious one.

  • The cable company has no business doing anything to the fiber "in your house" - they normally do (and should) leave it strictly alone, and the fiber company will do whatever needs doing to ensure you can't get service off it, until you or the next owner switches back to fiber, which will still be in place. It is the other company's property all the way to the demarcation point. That's typically the end of the fiber for fiber services.
    – Ecnerwal
    May 26 at 21:10
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    Given that CATV and telco lines are always well hung below power lines, how can "things can get messed up at the top and make it hot"? Even with a ton of wind, I don't see how that's physically possible.
    – dandavis
    May 27 at 7:27

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