The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Right of Public Utilities to Use Streets

Reference Number: MTAS-716
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: January 12, 2016
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It has been held that both public and private utilities can use municipal streets to install and maintain their infrastructure without the permission of, or payment to, the fee owner of the street. [See Frazier v. East Tennessee Telephone Co., 90 S.W.620 (1900); Johnson v. Chattanooga, 191 S.W.2d 175 (1945); Pack v. Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Company, 319 S.W.2d 90 (1958).] The reason is exemplified in Pack v. Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph, above, in which the Court, citing a multitude of cases from both Tennessee and other states, said

Since 1905 under the holding in Frazier v. East Tennessee Tel. Co., 115 Tenn. 416, 90 S.W. 620, 3 L.R.A., N.S, 323, Tennessee has been committed to the view that the use of public rights-of-way by utilities for locating their facilities is a proper highway use subject to their principal purpose as travel and transportation of persons and property.... [At 792].

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