IT Solutions Architects and Cyber Security Engineering

Ethernautics, Inc: Outside Plant – Utility Pole Configuration


Many considerations must be taken into account in design of utility poles and during installation and routing of new cabling and conductors. Although our practice is largely concerned with low voltage systems. ICT system are more often collocated with Phased Power and potentially other services. It is important part of asset management of the Outside Plant and the vertical real estate on the utility pole itself has a high asset value over the life of the plant. Rights of way, regulatory and licensing, code, and engineering rigor, and interfacing with the Authority Having Jurisdiction are required and as such a Registered Communication Distribution Designer should be consulted.

“Low- hanging utility lines can impede the use of heavy industrial and agricultural equipment and limit access to otherwise prime lands. Such utility lines can include electric transmission, distribution and service lines, as well as lines used for telecommunications, cable TV, and broad band internet access. The purpose of this post is to provide information regarding the typical configuration of overhead utility lines, the standard vertical distances from the lines to the ground and the steps to take if lines appear to be hanging low.” (New York State Public Service Commision, 2014)

JOINT POLE: A utility pole which supports the facilities of two or more companies.   A typical joint pole supports three facilities: electric power, cable television, and telephone.   Some joint poles also support all manner of other devices: streetlights, signs, traffic signals, seasonal decorations, fire and police call boxes, antennas, municipal communications systems, OPGW (optical ground wire) fire- and police-alarm signal wiring. (Newton’s Telecom Dictionary, 18th Edition (New York: CMP Books, 2002, p. 410; Harry Newton).



Utility Pole Configuration

“The typical utility pole configuration that is seen running down the side of a roadway can be best illustrated by referring to the diagram shown below. The typical allocation of space on joint utility poles in the United States; the allocation is similar in Canada except that cable television and telephone are sometimes lashed to the same supporting strand.” (New York State Public Service Commision, 2014)


Pole Utility Parts

Figure 2: The pole shown illustrates several of the components of a Utility Pole and how they are most generally configured. The diagram aside has three Hot Phase wires, some configurations only have two or even one.

Utility Pole Clearances

Figure 3: (New York Public Utility Commission 2014)

The lowest level utility lines are typically the communications lines (telephone, cable, etc.). Electrical utility lines (phase, neutral, secondary) are at the highest level, or at the top of the utility poles. It is important to note that while this diagram represents the usual utility pole configuration, it does not represent all utility pole configurations. For example, there can be instances where only communications lines are present or instances where only electrical lines are present. The vertical clearances for lines A-D are described below. These minimum distances can vary depending on location, pole/line configurations, and utility line characteristics.” (New York State Public Service Commision, 2014)

“This figure illustrates the typical allocation of space on joint utility poles in the United States; the allocation is similar in Canada except that cable television and telephone are sometimes lashed to the same supporting strand.   Starting at the top and working down, facilities on the pole are allocated into three spaces: Supply Space, Safety Zone Space, and Communications Space.” (McLain, 2004)

Vertical Clearances

“The governing standard for clearances between overhead utility facilities and land traversed by vehicles is the National Electric Safety Code (NESC), which prescribes minimum requirements and is considered the industry standard for such clearances across the country.

NESC Rule 232 covers the “vertical clearances of wires, conductors, cables, and equipment above ground, roadway, rail, or water surfaces.” The required clearances above roads, streets, driveways, parking lots, and other land traversed by vehicles, such as cultivated, grazing, forest, or orchard land are shown below.

Conductor Clearance Comments
A Phase 18.5 ft Applies to phase wires 22kV and below. For voltages above 22kV phase-to-ground, see NESC Rules 232C and 232D.
B Neutral 15.5 ft Applies to neutrals meeting NESC Rule 230E1.
C Secondary 16.0 ft Applies to secondaries 750V or less meeting NESC Rule 230C2 or 230C3 (triplex, quadruplex, etc.).
D Communication 15.5 ft Applies to cable TV, phone, fiber optic cables, etc.


Compliance with Standards

Utilities are required to design, construct, and maintain all new facilities in accordance with this standard. With respect to existing facilities, the code is revised on a continuing basis, and although these facilities are not technically required to comply with the latest editions, most installations provide adequate clearances for the appropriate nature of the surface.


Over time, these utility lines can sag below the original construction level, and the topography of the area can be altered due to changes in land usage. The public should never attempt to touch or move a utility line at any time and should always consider such lines “live” and dangerous. When confronted with what appear to be low hanging utility lines, farmers and growers should first contact the utility responsible for the line, be it the local electric company or phone, cable, or internet provider. If the responsible utility is not known, the local electric company should be contacted.


If the facilities are shown to be out of compliance with current NESC standards, the applicable utility shall be responsible for rectifying the situation. If the facilities are shown to be in compliance with the standards, but the farmer desires the lines to be elevated to allow for access or equipment operation, the farmer shall be responsible for the cost of any necessary work on the part of the utility.” (New York State Public Service Commision. (2014)

Works Cited

McLain, N. (2004). Annsgarden. Retrieved from Utility Poles:

New York State Public Service Commision. (2014). NYPSC – Clearances and Heights for Overheaad Utility Conductors. Retrieved 3 16, 2016, from New York Farm Bureau:

Electrical Engineering World Blog:



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