Easements (was Alamogordo Telephone Office)

As I understand real estate law, such easements for utilities are

> part of the general law and not necessarily shown on someone's > deed. There is nothing to stop the phone, power, or water company > from digging up your front lawn to run or maintain lines, whether > you like it or not.

True, provided that the easement document has been recorded. Such easements may be recorded as part of a plat map, a survey map, or a separate document.

Individual property deeds often include some catchall phrase like "subject of easements of record"; however, recorded easements still apply even if individual deeds don't mention them.

The law is fuzzier when it comes to newer services such as cable > and fiber optic.

Franchised cable TV operators have a federal right to utilize easements recorded "for compatible uses." 47 U.S.C. 541(a)(2). The term "compatible uses" is usually construed to mean easements dedicated for electric power and/or telephone facilities.

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In most states, telcos offering cable TV-like video services must obtain local CATV franchises; thus, they have the same federal right to use easements. In Texas, SBC now has a statewide CATV franchise, which presumably grants it the same right; however, there will undoubtedly be much litigation before it's settled.

They [cable TV operators] don't have quite the same "common > carrier" status as the old line utility service.

Cable TV operators are indeed not common carriers, but that doesn't mean they don't have a legal right to use recorded easements. See my previous post on this subject at

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Even established carriers have to handle things differently for new > services. For example, when Verizon strung fiber through our area > for its FIOS service, they needed municipal permission ...

i.e., a cable TV franchise.

... and they did not provide it universally.

If Verizon obtained a franchise that does not impose the same requirements on Verizon that it imposes on the incumbent cable TV franchisee, you can expect some litigation.

SBC's statewide franchise in Texas contains a similar exemption, and Time Warner has already field suit.

Neal McLain

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Neal McLain
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