Don’t dig up trouble in 2018—Call 811 first

Call before you dig, because you don’t want to be that guy!

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By Scott Finley, Texas811

“Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.”

Those words, spoken over a thin wire stretched from one room to another in the attic workshop in Boston on March 10, 1876, were the first stitch in a complex fabric that covers the world. Alexander Graham Bell and his assistant, Thomas Watson, could never have envisioned the universe they made possible on that cold day.

From that single fragile wire, microphone, and speaker bloomed a massive telecommunications industry—forecast to grow to almost $1.7 trillion in size by 2019.

Mobile connections alone are predicted to hit the nine billion mark by 2020, with worldwide spending on wireless data telecommunications rising to $550 billion next year.

Did we say wireless?


According to a U.S. government study released in May 2017, 50.8 percent of homes and apartments had only cellphone service in the latter half of 2016, the first time such households attained a majority in the survey. Forty-five-point-nine percent still have landline phones. The remaining households have no phone service at all. (That’s 3.3 percent, by the way.)

How much time did people spend on mobile devices in 2017? The average works out to be about four and a half hours a day.

That’s a lot of service and a lot of money—and a lot of that money is literally buried in the ground.

Can you imagine Bell getting the “all trunks busy” tone or “we’re sorry, your call cannot be completed” message because his wire was cut? Where would he be today?

Twenty-five percent of the nation is already covered by fiber, and miles more go into the ground every day. Copper is still king, but that reign likely will be coming to an end in future years. While fiber is more expensive to install, the long-range benefits far outweigh the initial startup costs.

That is, as long as you can get it into the ground without tearing something else up.

Many times you’re laying down cable on top of existing cable. You don’t want a cut or mangled copper or fiber line—and a sliced power conduit can bring down a network just as quickly as a severed fiber-optic line. Don’t even think about hitting a gas pipeline.

That’s where the national 811 system comes in.

Did you know that there are about 100 yards of buried utility for every man, woman and child in the United States? That’s more than 100 billion feet.

Did you know that making a call to 811 before a dig reduces your chances of hitting a buried line to about 1 percent?

Did you also know that a buried line is hit somewhere in the nation every six minutes because someone didn’t call 811 first?

Let’s face it. You don’t want to be this guy:

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Every single state has an 811 call center for getting underground utilities located before any excavation takes place. Not sure of where yours is? It’s not really an issue; just dial the 811 number and you’ll be connected to the nearest call center. For those who want to know, the complete list of 811 centers can be found here. Just click on the “811 in your state” tab on the upper right. There’s also a lot of good information on 811 on this site as well.

Remember, the call to 811 is always free, as is the subsequent locating of buried lines. Two business days are allowed to get the lines marked following the end of a request call.

You can help us by making sure that you, your contractors or subcontractors, and anyone doing any digging for you calls 811 first.

I’m writing to you from my call center, Texas811. We’re a non-profit with more than 1700 members, and in 2017 we took about 3 million incoming locate requests. If you work in our state, come by and see us:

In the meantime, all of us working for 811 in all 50 states want to help you keep people talking, texting, Amazoning, Facebooking, YouTubing, Netflixing and otherwise sending and receiving data.

And if someone wants to say, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you”—well, we can help with that too.

Know what’s below. Call 811 before you dig.

Scott Finley is media and public relations manager for Texas811. He can be reached at

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