Closing the digital divide. How High Speed Broadband rollouts can stay on budget, on time, and safe, with GIS for telecommunications software, SiteMap®

How telecommunications companies can increase broadband rollout safety while ensuring the lines they build and install are accurately mapped, securely documented, and easily accessible with SiteMap®

Closing the digital divide. How High Speed Broadband rollouts can stay on budget, on time, and safe, with GIS for telecommunications software, SiteMap®

How telecommunications companies can increase broadband rollout safety while ensuring the lines they build and install are accurately mapped, securely documented, and easily accessible with SiteMap®

Telecommunication lines and cell sites keep people connected.

Whether it’s the new high-speed underground fiber lines that ensure your office at home has the fastest upload and download speeds available, or the 5G broadband signal from a small or macro cell site to your phone to give you high speed internet and four bars wherever you go, this critical infrastructure helps ensure you never miss a beat.

Man looking at cell tower and new telecom lines laid in trench
Telecommunication lines and cell sites help people stay connected.

Cellular and internet infrastructure is vital to our daily connectivity and workflow. That’s why it’s so important to protect it when new construction begins. One way to do this is through accurate utility mapping before digging or directional drilling. Once utilities on site are mapped, the next best step is to store that data within an intuitive and user-friendly GIS software for telecommunication lines, like SiteMap®. Mapping & digitizing telecommunications infrastructure helps to increase connectivity across America with highspeed broadband internet. Currently 14.5 million Americans are without access to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) baseline (25/3 Mbps) for broadband connectivity. This is hindering their ability to have high speed internet and communicate digitally and quickly at the same pace as the rest of the U.S. Despite this, the FCC as well as fixed and mobile providers all throughout the country have continued to make impressive gains in bringing about high-speed internet to all the United States.

In the Fourteenth Broadband Deployment Report, the FCC provided the telecom industry with an in depth report of updates on this progress where stakeholders shared an evaluation of the progress being made in the deployment of advanced telecommunication capabilities and infrastructure throughout the U.S., and whether that progress is occurring in a reasonable and timely fashion. The report details how both fixed and mobile services were capable of independently meeting the definition of advanced telecommunications capabilities. This is defined as high-speed, switched, broadband telecommunications capability that enables users to originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video telecommunications using any technology. However, customers “tend to subscribe to both services when they have the ability to do so, which suggests that, even though there is some overlap in functionality, both services continue to offer distinct capabilities for consumers.”

What’s the Difference Between Fixed and Mobile Broadband?

Fixed broadband services, such as underground telecommunication utilities (fiber, cable, T1, etc.), are known for transmitting high speed internet capabilities to homes and businesses (commonly known as Wi-Fi) with greater reliability and generally higher speeds.

Mobile broadband, on the other hand, is defined as wireless internet access delivered through small and macro cell towers and other portable devices that offers the convenience of internet access outside of the home or office. Some may refer to the use of mobile broadband as using their “cellular data” when not connected to a fixed broadband Wi-Fi network.

The Main Goal: Closing the Digital Divide

In this case, if the goal is to achieve standard FCC connectivity of (25/3 Mbps) to all Americans throughout the U.S and closing the digital divide between rural and urban areas, the question then becomes, how?

The answer is expansion. Whether its underground communication lines being directionally drilled into the ground in communities all throughout the U.S., or new macro and small cell sites being constructed, new infrastructure is needed in place to help bridge the digital divide. Without this, the goal to achieve total connectivity and eliminate the gap between rural and urban areas will be a far cry for both fixed and mobile providers throughout the country.

And with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act unleashing over half a trillion dollars in new infrastructure investment, with roughly 65 billion allocated towards helping to ensure that every American has access to reliable high-speed internet, the time to act is now. The problem with this however, is that without proper damage prevention practices, ground disturbance policies, and GIS utility mapping software in place, more damage can be done then good when installing new telecom lines and macro and small cell sites.


Two men working on cell tower
Cell Tower being worked on by crew members

Directional Drilling new utility line
Directional drilling telecommunication lines involves drilling a pilot hole along a predetermined path, followed by enlarging the hole to accommodate the utility conduit, which is then pulled through the opening.

Dire Need To Expand Without Damaging Existing Underground Infrastructure.

Currently, the telecommunication industry is made up of companies that make communication possible on a global scale for billions of people. However, underground telecommunication lines continuously are the number one utility type to experience underground utility damage during excavation and drilling, according to a report released in late 2023 by the Common Ground Alliance titled Telecom’s Critical Role In Reversing Utility Damage Trends.

damaged telecom lines
Damaged underground telecommunication lines are known in the industry as “rainbow roots” for their distinct multicolored strands.

In 2022, telecommunication and cable TV lines also showed up at the top of the CGA’s Dirt Report as the most damaged type of underground utility. In the report, these lines added up to 47% of all utilities struck when underground utility damage occurred as shown in the image below.

CGA’s 2022 Dirt Report displays percent of facilities damaged by work performed in the field.

On the other hand, work done by telecommunication contractors– including the installation of new telecom lines, and repairs or modifications to existing utilities – contributed to the most damages to all facilities by work performed and the third most damages to telecom facilities in 2022 as shown in the images below. Telecom operators were also among the largest contributors to instances in which excavators could not legally begin work 56% of the time on their planned start date. Additionally, telecom contractors were involved in over half of damages that occurred while telecom and natural gas work was being completed.

Telecom work contributed to the most damages to all facilities in 2022.

Telecom/CATV work led to the third most damages to it’s on facilities in 2022.

In the December 2023 report or Telecom’s Critical Role In Reversing Utility Damage Trends, the CGA’s President and CEO, Sarah Magruder Lyle stated “As both substantial contributors to and recipients of damages, telecom stakeholders have much to gain by enhancing prevention efforts.”

“…While telecom rightfully prioritizes expanding its networks and customer base, a competitive advantage does not need to come at the expense of safety,” Magruder Lyle continued to write “Boosting damage prevention’s profile internally and collaborating more extensively with partners are pathways to improved outcomes. Locating processes, in particular, need to be rethought, revised and reinforced to curb the crisis of inaccurate and late marks.”

Further down in the report, the testimonials support the fact that telecommunication companies can increase subsurface damage prevention efforts through investment in reliable mapping technology, the decrease of information siloes internally, and the increase of damage prevention awareness throughout all levels of the company. GPRS’ easy-to-use GIS utility mapping software SiteMap®, powered by GPRS’ 99.8%+ accurate data, can fit that need.

How GPRS Can Help.

For nearly 20 years, GPRS has been in the telecommunications industry and has worked closely with companies such as Crown Castle, American Tower, MasTec Communications Group, DISH Network, and Mobilitie, among many others, to develop and implement specific processes that benefit contractors and service providers to prevent subsurface damages to critical facilities as discussed in the previous paragraph.

In the past few years, the large-scale adoption of 5G has essentially every telecommunication service provider in the world building out its infrastructure to offer 5G functionality. Now more than ever, it’s imperative that clients quickly receive a comprehensive report of any subsurface issues to ensure that these infrastructure upgrades are not delayed. At GPRS we have completed projects for many of the largest telecom companies in the United States; in fact, our highly trained nationwide network of Project Managers has experience in all telecom-related settings such as OSP construction, macro tower placement and modifications, ISP placement and installation, small cells, fiber optic installation, and much more to help ensure a timely, consistent, and on budget project delivery.

Our service lines, such as pre and post-sewer line inspections prior to directional drilling new telecom lines and accurate utility locating on macro cell sites prior to the upgrade of generators, fiber lines, shelter buildings, or grounding grids can help your team operate your telecom projects safely. While there is always a risk involved when underground utilities are near your excavation or drill project, our team at GPRS adheres to the industry’s lead methodology for ground disturbance, SIM, which has led to our 99.8%+ accuracy rating on over 500,000 utility locating projects, nationwide. This 99.8%+ accurate and complete utility data collected by our Project Managers in the field and marked with paint or flags on the ground, is also uploaded into our easy-to-use GIS for telecommunications software, SiteMap®. In this platform you can reference your entire projects above and below ground infrastructure data in a secure and cutting-edge mobile app from the palm of your hands.

SiteMap® helps you Intelligently Visualize The Built World® of your facilities and towers all across the country from one secure location. Inside you can access digital floor plans of your cell towers collected with 3D photogrammetry technology, precise digital twins, full site utility locates, underground sewer inspection reports for cross bore prevention, fully rendered 3D BIM Models, and more. GPRS provides you with a one stop shop for all your telecommunications infrastructure data above and below ground needs with SiteMap® so you can operate, plan, design, communicate, dig, and ultimately build, better.

If the goal is to continue to close the digital divide and extend the reach of broadband deployment to all Americans, why does that have to come at the cost of risking  existing underground infrastructure?

It doesn’t.

Contact the nationwide network of GPRS Project Managers today to learn how we can help you enhance subsurface damage prevention during your broadband build out, increase the accuracy of your infrastructure data with existing condition documentation, and simplify your telecommunication and cell tower facility and project management with SiteMap®.


Telecom utility flag
GPRS’ utility locating and sewer line inspection services can ensure the success of your telecommunications infrastructure project.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How Does My Telecom Infrastructure Get Uploaded Into SiteMap®?

Great question! SiteMap’s data is collected by the SIM-certified Project Managers at GPRS. So, when you call out our team to map out your sites underground utilities, that data is accurately mapped by our team members in the field with a suite of technologies including Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and electromagnetic (EM) utility locators, among others, per SIM standards. This data is then collected and uploaded to SiteMap® utilizing either a GNSS Geode or our proprietary GeNiuSS iQ device. Within five minutes of data collection, in most cases, your underground utility infrastructure data will be accurately displayed within SiteMap® for your reference, as shown in the image below.

As built utility map of campus

How Does SiteMap® Display My Data?

SiteMap® displays your data within its Map Viewer feature. This gives you the capability to search for your job site or projects, depending on your needs, and reference each and every line you have within the system. Whether your infrastructure is on one campus, or spread throughout multiple facilities nationwide, with SiteMap®, you’re able to easily reference and view each and every place you manage with the few clicks of a button. Within the Map Viewer, you can deconstruct the layers of your data within SiteMap® to view an individual utility type, line, or feature to help you pinpoint exactly what you need, when you need it as shown in the image below.

Telecom As built utility map of campus