[OPINION] Ugly, Dangerous Cables: The Sequel

In 2018, Marliese Aguele wrote a guest post for “06880.” She decried the ugliness — and danger — of the increasing number of cables on utility lines.

This update was all set to run in mid-March. It got pushed back several times, due to more urgent COVID and other news.

But now — in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaias — it seems more relevant than ever. Marliese says:

Westport is invaded, with trucks everywhere installing heavy 5G cables.

Providers like Optimum, Verizon and Frontier compete for contracts to install cables, which is very lucrative for them.

Contracts are outsourced from providers to companies of their choice anywhere in the country. Trucks do not display the name of a company, so no one can reach them after sloppy installation.

This town is overloaded with thick cables, curled-up cables, new black attachments wrapped around the cables, looking uglier than ever, installed haphazardly crisscrossing overhead in all directions.

Low cables on South Compo Road. (Photo/Morgan Mermagen)

There are poles with 17 cables attached. No consideration for esthetics. The town receives generous revenues from cable installation companies. That is all they care about.

Nobody wants to get involved, or has the authority. Driving on the Post Road, I took the liberty of speaking with an installer. He explained that companies are required to get a license/work permit from the state Public Utilities Regulatory Agency.

I spoke to another installer on Long Lots, working overhead from a truck with a New Jersey license plate. I was shown a document headed “Parkside Utility,” with no town or phone number.

I wondered why a license did not require a stamp and receipt of fee that all professionals and companies must pay. Who makes sure Connecticut is not being defrauded of much needed revenues?

I realize it is a difficult task to install the cables. I appreciate companies that make an effort, as best they can. Unfortunately, other firms perform very sloppy work.

Cables crisscross the crowded Post Road/Roseville/Hillspoint intersection.

How many more cables can they attach to overloaded poles? They droop lower and lower. It is only a matter of time before the pole on Kings Highway North snaps in half, killing the driver of a car waiting for the Wilton Road light to change. I make sure never to stop under it.

Frightened, I called the police. I was told to call the utility company.

There must be an end. Visitors are appalled at the ugliness that invades Westport. We deserve better.

43 responses to “[OPINION] Ugly, Dangerous Cables: The Sequel

  1. I completely agre with the “ugliness” point of this article. I don’t understand why the lines are not being buried. How many times do we repair fallen lines until we spend the money to bry the lines? It will significantly reduce repair cost over time and look much better.

  2. Visual pollution! Westport officials get involved.now before it’s too late !

  3. Sooo-z A. Mastropietro

    Great sleuthing and they are not only a visual blight, they are dangerous as potential falling objects, and probably more costly to maintain. Bury the cables, color code them according to provider/ function, and create a tracking mechanism to efficiently identify where and what needs to be repaired.

  4. I have a lovely Optimum cable on my lawn. Been there for 12 days since the hurricane ripped it off. The company couldn’t care less. I had a text ‘chat’ with a rep. She said sorry, but had no info on fixing date. She ended text by writing ‘God bless you.’ Yesterday an Optimum van appeared when I was outside. Finally? Of course not. He was there to attach new service to the house next door, for new renters. Makes perfect sense that they are more concerned with providing new customers service than sending the guy to fix my wire. I’ve only been a customer for 25+ years.

    • Unbelievable how Optimum treated you. I would suggest getting the executives from the corporate side involved for this. It’s the right channel to deal things with Optimum.

  5. Frannie Southworth

    This goes way beyond physical ugliness. Apparently in 1996 the FCC was given a pass by the federal government to do whatever they wanted. I don’t believe that our state or town has anything to say about this at this point because Governor Lamontbpushed this through, although somehow Easton got together and has stopped this from happening temporarily at least. There will be people that argue with me on this blog, but 5G has not been tested on humans for safety. Senator Blumenthal was involved with trying to get safety tests done before they test it out on us to no avail. There’s too much money to be made and they’ve already convinced businesses that they need this. There are no reports showing that it is safe for humans and yet it is being rolled out with most people not even aware of it. Faster Internet rolled out before safety tests or the health and safety of our children and grandchildren???. After you do your research if you want to contact me and bring this issue to our town meetings, I would be interested in doing so. When I put something up to let people know about this on Westport Front Porch, I was attacked and called ignorant by people who claimed it to be safe. Show us the research where it’s shows 5G has been tested and is safe for humans. When Senator Blumenthal was working with people to try to get safety reports, Governor Lamont quickly pushed the roll out of 5G through and I stopped hearing about anyone except people in Easton trying to get to the bottom of the safety issue. Do your own research and become aware of what this is. Please try to be civil responding, and show facts. Not just articles that say 5G is safe. Site safety tests and the results.

    • I believe the burden of proof is on you for making specious claims such as 5G being used for warfare.

    • John D. McCarthy

      And what about those darn contrails?

      • Frannie Southworth

        Hi John,

        Great to be discussing this important issue. Thank you Dan for always giving us a place to discuss things and learn. The fact that I’d want to see results from research and trials done before a roll out is wise. It doesn’t make one weird.
        I just want to know it’s safe for us and our families and then roll it out!
        There is no safety research. Just articles claiming it safe.

        From what I understand the problem lies with a non-iodizing type of radiation 5 G emits and the towers will be right outside every third home. Just want to keep our families safe. We should all be alarmed that we had no say in this and no town meetings alerting us to how these wires would be put up all around Westport. And informing us that little cell towers would be outside most of our homes prior to this being rolled out.
        Here is with Senator Blumenthal was looking into.
        https://www.blumenthal.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/at-senate-commerce-hearing-blumenthal-raises-concerns-on-5g-wireless-technologys-potential-health-risks

        Wishing us all safety in these difficult times for us all.

      • Frannie Southworth

        Hi John,

        Great to be discussing this important issue. Thank you Dan for always giving us a place to discuss things and learn. The fact that I’d want to see results from research and trials done before a roll out is wise. It doesn’t make one weird.
        I just want to know it’s safe for us and our families and then roll it out!
        There is no safety research. Just articles claiming it safe.

        From what I understand the problem lies with a non-iodizing type of radiation 5 G emits and the towers will be right outside every third home. Just want to keep our families safe. We should all be alarmed that we had no say in this and no town meetings alerting us to how these wires would be put up all around Westport. And informing us that little cell towers would be outside most of our homes prior to this being rolled out.
        Here is with Senator Blumenthal was looking into.
        https://www.blumenthal.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/at-senate-commerce-hearing-blumenthal-raises-concerns-on-5g-wireless-technologys-potential-health-risks

        Wishing us all safety in these difficult times for us all.

  6. Cannot agree more. The ugliness is overwhelming and the danger is constant. There are places where there are 3 poles holding up the wires. Something must be done.

  7. Here’s one article I grabbed to give you an idea of why Senator Blumenthal had concerns and tried to get actual safety research before it was rolled out in Connecticut. I forgot to say In my prior post that I have a heart condition, and I called our town saying I didn’t want the mini towers that will be put up on poles spaced every few houses right in front of my house and no one called me back. I called multiple times.
    $$$$$$$$$$$$$. I choose our health.

    https://roboticsbiz.com/six-potential-risks-and-effects-of-5g-on-human-health/

  8. Frannie Southworth

    Here’s one article I grabbed to give you an idea of why Senator Blumenthal had concerns and tried to get actual safety research before it was rolled out in Connecticut. I forgot to say In my prior post that I have a heart condition, and I called our town saying I didn’t want the mini towers that will be put up on poles spaced every few houses right in front of my house and no one called me back. I called multiple times.
    $$$$$$$$$$$$$. I choose our health.

    https://roboticsbiz.com/six-potential-risks-and-effects-of-5g-on-human-health/

  9. As new sidewalks get placed in spots all over town, wouldn’t these be a great starting point to bury the cables in those areas? You need to begin somewhere. Or did no one in our town or state govt even give this a thought? I’m thinking especially of North Ave from Long Lots to Cross.

  10. I do not know much about this issue but agree with the concerns about safety and unattractiveness.
    However, thought I would share the perspective of my 15 year old son who also agrees that buried wires would be more efficient and better looking. But he also feels that 5G and fiber optics allow for much faster internet speeds which could be important as more people work from home.

  11. Kathleen M. Boggs

    It is a mess. Industry and Industry Captured FCC (https://ethics.harvard.edu/files/center-for-ethics/files/capturedagency_alster.pdf)
    are out of control on so many levels – and at the expense (asthetics, health & safety, financial, etc) of the customer and tax payer.

    “Since the beginning of 2017, the FCC has been a path of destruction with the overarching theme to erase all laws, regulations and consumer protections and to let a few very large monopolies/duopolies – Verizon, AT&T, Centurylink, and the cable companies – do what they want at your expense.”

    It’s a rainy day……grab a pot of coffee and read about the $400billion broadband scandal.
    http://irregulators.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/BookofBrokenPromises.pdf
    http://irregulators.org/

  12. Frannie Southworth

    I’m not against 5G and I know we have to keep up with other countries. I just want to see research on its safety before the roll out. I think that is reasonable. Neither side has facts from research. Let’s get that done for the sake of our health before, not find out later.

    • Hey, Frannie. Sadly, the Precaution Principle is not in use in the U.S. and has few adherents in Westport. We wait until after the fact to learn that a product is harmful to humans, then we must go through years of lawsuits to get it pulled from the market — this is in the middle of happening right now with synthetic turf and glyphosate (Round-Up). After decades of trying to fight city hall on environment/human health issues (the PTA couldn’t even be swung on pesticides in schools!), I realized that I was spinning my wheels and giving myself agita to no avail. You are right: There isn’t enough research on 5G, because there’s no money to be made on that side of the equation. I feel ya.

  13. Many people including myself rely on the internet , cable , and phone services … Wait till any Fibreoptic lines are compromised from a storm , tree branches etc … The repair time with Fibreoptic lines , will be 3-4 times longer … I’m 68 years young , who’s dealing with health issues now .. I’m seriously looking into a Satellite Phone , just for emergencies ..

  14. We all know that the almighty buck is behind everything discussed above. I’ve traveled extensively in Europe and when I first visited decades ago. I realized why the cities were lovely beyond their inherent beauty- all the cables and electrical wires were buried. Why not here? the costs of repair as they now exist here would be ameliorated by burial, and would greatly enhance our wellbeing.

  15. +1 on all the comments questioning why we keep hanging wires in poles. We’ve known for over a decade that with climate change and more development we can’t expect overhead wires to reliably serve westport. I thought after sandy we were going to bury some of these vulnerable lines. Last week we saw how vulnerable our critical infrastructure is subject to length and widespread failures as a result of ignoring the obvious.
    I also find it ironic that we are hanging more wires on poles for WIRELESS services. That can’t be. At any rate – maybe in time we will see the financial benefit of disconnecting entirely by using solar, wireless phones and ultimately 5g (which will replace traditional cable broadband). Then when the poles and wires fall we can just clean them up and throw them away permanently.

    • Arline Gertzoff

      To all
      I thought burying the cables was the answer but learned buried cables won’t work with above ground They are not compatible beyond a small area at best and then it could still explode.In Europe the whole system is underground So we have fancy wires and circuits with 19th century poles.
      Fascinating
      Instead of moon research we need research in the above or more low cost/free generators for all

      • I grew up in central nj. All lines were buried. We never had issues like extended power outages or underground fires.

  16. Necessity is the mother of innovation: this photo from the Blizzard of ’88 (1888) is why NYC put its lines underground. How can Westport innovate?

    https://danwoog.files.wordpress.com/2020/08/dick-lowenstein-photo-blizzard-of-1888.jpg

  17. Aside from the 5G health and conspiracy theories — which are not credible — there is some basic misinformation in this post:

    1) Utility companies don’t make more money by stringing up more wires. In fact they spend money to install new cables to expand capacity or improve service quality. They make money by selling services to customers, with the price based on service usage, not the number of wires.

    2) The thick phone and cable company wires are low voltage, well secured and I’ve never heard of a serious injury or death from one falling down. In fact, the dangerous wires are the relatively thin electric wires at the top of the pole. These are called primary lines, between 7,000 and 15,000 volts, and contact with these wires is usually fatal.

    I do agree that the overhead lines are unattractive and, as we’ve seen, vulnerable to storms. We would be well served by pressuring utilities to bury lines – at least on the main roads where the cables are most numerous. Keep in mind that we will pay more for our utilities to cover this cost – at least in the short run – but will enjoy more reliable service as a result.

    • Undergrounding is likely to be less reliable, not more reliable, in the sense that damage can be located and repaired quickly. Today’s outages in Wilton and Westport being a good example.

      • Since I no longer live in Westport I try not to comment unless I really think I have something that is helpful. Since 1971 we have lived in areas that have underground cables. Those areas are hurricane prone. We rarely loose power for any length of time . When it does go out it is usually from a transformer that was hit. Power is usually restored quickly. There are still overhead lines in some areas. The longest we were with out power was about 48 hours after a hurricane. In some areas that had over head lines it took weeks after that same hurricane.

    • When you say that we will pay more for them to bury the lines, two things should be clarified: (i) we already pay the highest rates for electricity delivery in the lower 48, and (ii) burying lines was supposed to be an action item following the hearings related to Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. Eversource is privileged that the State of CT gave them a monopoly to operate here. Their CEO was paid $19M last year. I think they can find the cash to sink some wires without further soaking Westport residents. If not – as someone above said: time to innovate, and part of that innovation will be re-bidding our valuable monopoly to a company that provides excellent service at a fair price.

  18. All the scrap wire that I come across I make a pile and call for them to pick up. And when they don’t come, I take to the scrap yard in South Norwalk. With the money that I get from these wires, I’ll be able to pay another high Eversource bill.

  19. A disaster waiting to happen and a blight on the appearance of the town. Wasn’t the last storm enough of a wake up call?? The First Selectmen’s office and the Public Works dept should be on this situation ASAP. The state should be included. All have a responsibility

  20. There is no such thing as a 5G cable and I don’t think any of those cables are for 5g cell towers as none are deployed in Westport (yet) – but someone feel free to correct me.

    I am going to guess some are abandoned / no longer in use. Lots of SNET equipment left on poles. No one held them accountable for removing.

    You have power at the top and telcom at the bottom. Probably some POTS, Optimum, Optimum Fiber, maybe some Lightpath fiber?

    • Yes. 5G does rely on the fiber and power for the backhaul, and because the 5G towers are smaller, lower power and more of them the fiber grid supporting them would be more extensive but more resilient than cable to the house.

  21. Bill Strittmatter

    Burying power lines certainly can be done. It’s just a matter of time and money.

    San Diego has an ongoing project to bury their power lines that they apparently started in the 1970’s. They currently underground about 15 miles/year at the cost of $54MM paid for by what appears to be a 3.5% “undergrounding surcharge”. They have 1,000 miles to go which they estimate will be done in 54 years or so. Interesting link to their program though you have to do a little bit of digging to find out how much the customers pay.

    https://www.sandiego.gov/undergrounding/overview

    For a “closer to Westport” example, the Concord, MA municipal utility has had a similar program since the 1990’s currently funded by a 1.5% surcharge. Estimated completion date is 2065 per this 6 year old article.

    https://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/burying_power_lines/

    I suspect everyone has figured out doing it quickly would be unacceptably expensive to ratepayers.

  22. Agree ..it’s too bad we have to depend on our elected officials to even start this process and then to see it through. They probably would think we’re asking too much of them.
    We all need to remember this lack of action when it comes time for re-election. We need to elect a proven tough business leader who has proven he can get things done. Not these career politicians who think all they have to do is appear tough in front of the camera.

  23. I agree our grid is antiquated and not safe or aesthetically complementary to our architecture and natural surroundings.

    “Adoption of the overhead distribution system was based primarily on its advantages of minimum initial investment and less complicated construction. The system was flexible; additional wires meant additional capacity. Overhead distribution, then, was admirably suited to meet any expansion of residential, business, and industrial loads.”
    https://www.planning.org/pas/reports/report163

    The solution for underground wires does not work everywhere due to site conditions and/or existing conditions. Underground wires require an investment the utility will not make. The utility cannot recover the costs unless rates go up and will every utility customer pay more for underground wires? Even if someone pays for it cannot be done overnight.

    As Gretchen Bakke, PHD points out in her book “The Grid”: “The grid, as should be clear by now, is not a technological system. It is also a legal one, a business one, a political one, a cultural one, and a weather-driven one, and the ebbs and flows in each domain affect the very possibility of success of any plan for its improvement. If the integration of systems across domains, especially the irritating bits, cannot be made to flourish, the problem will be not with the machinery we use or the technology we govern, but with us.”

    It would be better we reinvent a smarter grid by for example using integrated resilient solutions like grid interactive buildings, microgrids and energy independence from renewable energy and using less energy.

  24. Michael Savignol

    It is about time to bury all these cables, it will will take a long time, be expensive but cheaper on a long run and surely prettier. In most of Europe all cables are buried.

  25. I believe the electric utility must allow cable installation.

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