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Action 9: Fiber crews charged $1.5M for damage over the years

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — AT&T and Google Fiber are supposed to provide faster internet, but there certainly have been growing pains.

Action 9 asked the city of Charlotte for a list of examples.

The city spent months gathering the information and provided Action 9 a spreadsheet that shows 955 fiber-related problems from July 2014 to the end of April 2018.

The city blames AT&T subcontractors for 675 of them and Google subcontractors for 257 of them. It doesn't get that specific for the remaining 23.

Altogether, the city charged companies more than $1.5 million for damage.

The three biggest bills involve crews hitting water lines on English Saddle Lane ($53,000), Richland Drive ($54,000) and Tuckaseegee Road ($203,000).

"My wife was here when it overflowed and she's bailing raw sewage out of the toilet to save the hardwoods," said Brian Trei after crews hit a sewer line in his Piper Glen yard.

Nishi Bryska said a crew hit a sewer line in her mother's yard near Sardis Road and then again in her Ballantyne neighborhood.

She said a crew hit a gas line and then a water line in the same day.

"They're damaging people's properties," Bryska said.  "The whole neighborhood was on lockdown."

Both families told Action 9 they spent about $3,000 cleaning the sewage.

They asked the companies to pay them back, but the companies initially said no.

After the families continued pestering the companies, they were finally reimbursed.

Crews hit gas lines twice in Highland Creek in February 2016, leaving hundreds without heat in winter.

"As we work to upgrade our network in the Charlotte area, our goal is to minimize the effects on residents as much as possible,” an AT&T official said. “We have installed fiber services to more than 200,000 homes and businesses in the past two years. While completing this project, we worked with contractors and those affected to repair any issues resulting from the construction as quickly as possible."

Google hasn't caused any reported damage since September and told Action 9: "Google Fiber takes construction issues very seriously. We're working to innovate on the construction process as we deploy our network, including new techniques, like shallow trenching, which are designed to be faster and less disruptive for residents."

Charlotte City Council members told Action 9 they aren't regretting fiber.

"You just have to hold the folks doing that work accountable," said City Council member Larken Egleston. "So, with some of our projects, we have found a point where we've said the level of disruption you've caused in this neighborhood is not acceptable and we need you to work cleaner and we need you to work more efficiently."

"We have to be forward-thinking and fiber is the way forward," City Council member Braxton Winston said.

If you have problems with an AT&T contractor, call 800-331-0500; if you have problems with a Google contractor, call 877-454-6959.

Action 9 offers this advice: Be persistent, know who the contractor is doing the work for AT&T or Google on your street and take pictures of any of the work vehicles and any damage.