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Dedicated Locator – What Utility Owners Need to Know

Another article we posted focused on additional info that broadband and major project owners needed to know in order to set up a successful Dedicated Locator (DL) program. I mentioned in this previous article that a DL program is administered by Ontario One Call, however many aspects are not contemplated as part of this formal program, so there are additional considerations to be prepared for when you are a utility owner impacted by a 3rd party DL program, especially considering the newly implemented penalty and compliance regime.

In an ideal world, the project owner, likely a telecom, has contacted you proactively in advance of an impending broadband project. Given the speed these awards and the regulations around DL programs have progressed, its highly unlikely this is happening, but we hope to be at that stage in the future. Assuming there was no advance warning, lets go down two potential paths and how you as a utility owner can manage DL requests.

First, the most likely scenario is you will be notified of an impending DL project in your area by Ontario One Call via an email notification. You have 10 days to respond and agree on an Dedicated Locate Service Provider (DLSP). Its likely the project owner has already selected and planned to use a DLSP and will expect you to agree with their choice. There is no obligation to do so, but if the majority of the owners in the impacted area agree on this DLSP, then you cannot legally hold it up.

Now what happens from here? You have 90 days to sort out contracts, administration, records transferal and other issues with the DLSP. This may seem like a long time, but from experience, it is a tight timeline and the project owner will be placing tremendous pressure on all owners and DLSPs to implement quickly so drills and plows can get in the ground. You will need to come to a non-financial contractual agreement with the DLSP covering procedures, liability, records access, and other components in order to get the DLSP moving. This process can take time with legal reviews, changes, and council approvals. Records access is challenge too if you haven’t considered how to get an outside party access to your records or have them in a proprietary system that is not easily accessible to the DLSP. You will also be asked to assist the DLSP with training, usually through in-field assistance, if the LSP is not familiar with your records or area. Please also consider having additional tools available to access any field components. There may also be reporting requirements to be set up with One Call or with the OEB to manage the DL impacts to regular compliance.

The best practice at this point is to be prepared for impending DL programs in your area. There are 5 things you can do now to get ready:

  1. Be ready with a standard contract that your legal has approved that can be issued to the DLSP when a DL program is identified in your area. I would suggest being prepared with an understanding of any areas with wiggle room you may have mostly around liability, records reliability, insurance, and procedures since these are the key stumbling blocks with DLSPs.
  2. Review with your IT group on your records access and how to be set up with providing 3rd party access. Don’t assume they will have the capabilities or technology to access your system. Be prepared with a manual option if needed while technology is sorted. There are 3rd party GIS providers that can help act as a bridge too.
  3. Be prepared with procedures and basic records training materials to provide the DLSP, along with a technical procedures point of contact. This will save considerable time if you can provide these upfront to allow the DLSP to prepare a training program.
  4. Identify someone internally or externally who can manage DL requests and administration in the event you are impacted. Having a resource ready to go will be invaluable when keeping up with the various demands and avoiding potential fines from One Call.
  5. Review the Canada and Ontario broadband project award locations to get a better idea of proximity to your area. Keep in mind the large telecom providers will also be working through their own broadband expansions separate from these awards, so this will only provide a high level idea. Links are below for these awards, providers, and locations.

You may also be wondering, can we use our internal locating resources or our already contracted locator for DL requests? The answer is yes and no. It will depend on the project owner. If you can prove to them that you have sufficient resources to keep up, they may be ok with this. But more than likely, its not in your interest to do so. The benefit of the DL program is that it removes the liability, onus, and cost to provide a locate for a major project in your area. This reduces your unplanned operating costs, so its in your interest to agree to the DL program immediately rather than risk tickets going into the public load in the meantime.

UBF Project Awards (Federal): https://ised-isde.canada.ca/site/high-speed-internet-canada/en/universal-broadband-fund/selected-universal-broadband-fund-projects

AHSIP Project Awards (Provincial): https://news.ontario.ca/en/backgrounder/1002219/ontario-increasing-access-to-high-speed-internet-across-the-province

This article has been written from the perspective of infrastructure owners. Please visit https://enertiasolutions.ca/insights for past articles from the project owner or DLSP perspective.

For more on how Enertia can help visit: https://enertiasolutions.ca/dedicatedlocator

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