Underground Conduit Infrastructure: Sneaking Around Underground

Posted by Mary Ashley Canevaro on September 5, 2017

conduit_trespassForeign to our everyday lives above ground, the underground world can be quite mysterious. What lies beneath is unknown and unfamiliar. Twenty-first century urban explorers have begun to uncover findings of underground communities, secret maps, and a forgotten history in the systems that exist underneath our feet.

It’s crucial for asset owners to be over-familiar with underground facilities. They say ignorance is bliss, but not when it’s costing owners hundreds of thousands of dollars, internal distress, and creating unhappy customers.

Neglecting these spaces typically results in years of damage, violations, and competitor trespass. The best solution to a lack of knowledge surrounding these underground spaces is regularly auditing these spaces. Alden's trained inspectors are finding damage, trespass, and violations in handholes, manholes, pedestals, and visible ducts.

One main motivation of an inspection is to locate any trespass. This is valuable real estate and just as any landlord would not want someone living in a home without paying rent, asset owners should view this problem in the same way.

Trespass is expensive, in more ways than one. Here are three ways trespassers are distressing asset owners:

  1. Stealing their clients
    Trespassing companies move in to owners’ spaces and use it to their advantage, robbing asset owners of residential and business customers alike. Unpermitted companies aren’t paying to use the space, and can naturally charge less than the owner who must ensure the upkeep of the structure. Little does the asset owner know they are helping the competing company gain advantage, until subscribers cancel their service.
  1. Disrupting the current client’s service
    Eliminating the existing asset owner’s wired route to the home results in slow or disrupted service to the client. Consequences fall on unhappy customers, customer service staff, and management teams. The problem is difficult to identify by internal asset staff because they are unaware that another company’s trespass had led to the slow service or outage.
  1. Cheating on rental fees
    Trespassing companies do not pay proper rental fees for the duct routes that they reside in. They don’t pay anything at all! This space could be leased out to paying customers--increasing revenue for the owner.

Trespassers often take a “catch me if you can” mentality, forgoing the standard permitting process to rapidly deploy their plant. This cuts their costs and allows them to charge lower prices to residents in the area. In the unlikely case they are caught, it is still to their benefit to trespass, since they have already reached the cell site, data center, or business center. They collect revenue (which should be going to the asset owner) that typically makes up for any fees and fines by the owner. However, if they were caught regularly and those fees started to mount, they might think twice about forgoing the permitting process.

A Case Study of Trespass
In 2015, we performed an audit for a telecommunications carrier that resulted in astounding outcomes. The service provider wanted to give inspection a trial-run in a geo-targeted area. They were surprised to learn what was hiding in their vaults.

Alden's inspection team found that 17% of the vaults had trespass, and the trespassers were required to pay two years’ back rent plus another full year’s rent upfront. They also had to pay a fee for trespassing in the first place, and pay back the client for the cost of the audit. The client received a generous profit from investing in and having the inspection professionally executed. Read more about that specific audit here.

Properly conducted inspections recognize the facilities of a foreign company. Sometimes asset owners require color-coding to more easily identify trespass. The only way to be sure that vault spaces are trespass-free is regular inspections and maintenance by trained professionals.

5 Requirements of a Centralized Asset Database for Infrastructure Management