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News and comments on community broadband networks, the communities deploying them and the technologies that support them. Published by Denise Frey and Al Bonnyman.

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Sunday, July 20, 2003


Ouch: "District balks at utility fees"

Ouch: "District balks at utility fees"
Make-ready costs eat up their budget

The Lake Orion school system is in litigation with Detroit Edison over, among other things, the costs of "make-ready" for a fiber system the system is building to link its schools. (There are also other issues the school system has with the utility as the article by Tiffany Woods points out).

"Make-ready" is the work necessary to make utility poles ready to accept another cable. Make-ready costs can quickly overtake the cost of both the fiber cable and the labor to install it.

Here's why:
There are safety code requirements that dictate how far apart various pole-users' communications cables have to be from each other on a pole and from the energized power conductors that are above the communications cables. Often, there's no more space for another cable in the communications space on the pole; when this happens, the company that wants to attach a new cable is stuck with paying to have the power utility replace the entire pole with a taller pole.

Because this requires moving heavy transformers and live 15,000 or 34,500 volt conductors from the old pole to the new pole, skilled labor costs for just replacing one pole may typically run $3,000 or more. A typical urban or suburban area may have 35 poles per mile with 30% of the poles already at capacity. In such a case, make-ready costs would exceed $30,000 per mile.

Make-ready costs are hard to predict (someone has to go out and inspect each pole) and usually under-budgeted.

Power utilities can get around this when they're running their own communications cables because they are allowed to use special all dielectric self-supporting ("ADSS") fiber cables and run them up near their conductors (where there's room for more cable) and outside the normal communication cable area. A properly planned ADSS installation may only require replacing one pole every 20 or 50 miles.

This is one reason municipal power utilities entering the cable TV business can save money by building FTTH (fiber to the home) systems instead of traditional HFC (hybrid fiber coax) - they use ADSS in the power space and eliminate most pole replacements (coax, being metallic, is normally not allowed in the power space).

(Link from Neil Lehto)


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