News & Updates

Digging into Danger: Broadband Installation Damage in Minnesota

by | Apr 15, 2024 | News

In 1998, a crew installing broadband cable for high-speed internet in downtown St. Cloud struck a gas line. The resulting explosion killed four people, destroyed six buildings, and caused $400,000 in damage.[1] More than 25 years later, too little has changed. In March of 2024, broadband drilling performed just blocks away from the 1998 explosion site struck an underground phone line, requiring an emergency repair.[2]

This brief explores the prevalence of such damage to underground utilities caused by telecommunications installation in Minnesota. Five central themes emerge:

Underground telecommunications installation is a leading cause of damage to buried infrastructure in the state.

Underground telecommunications installation is damaging essential lines with potentially dangerous consequences. The lines most frequently hit by telecommunications installation include natural gas and electric infrastructure, along with existing telecommunications lines.

Telecommunications installation accounts for the lion’s share of damage attributable to directional drilling. When focusing on directional drilling work alone, the share of damage caused by the telecommunications industry grows even larger.

The full scope of damage caused by underground telecommunications installation is unclear. While the data reported here are worrisome, it is unlikely that this data is comprehensive, meaning that the true extent of damage caused by telecommunications installation in Minnesota is not known.

Investment in broadband deployment will grow significantly over the next five years, creating greater risk to underground infrastructure. With a large influx of federal assistance, the pace of broadband installation is about to accelerate in Minnesota. In order to reduce the damage caused by broadband installation, actions need to be taken now.

To learn more, read the full brief: Digging into Danger

[1] Jenny Berg, “The explosion that shook St. Cloud: 20 years later,” SCTimes, October 3, 2019,

[2] For the original broadband dig ticket, see The emergency repair ticket can be found at

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