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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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Friday, July 25, 2003


Pole replacement underway

Pole replacement underway

Pole replacement

Pole replacement

Municipal utilities that follow cable TV designers' practice and lash fiber or coax cable to steel messenger wires ("strand") in the communications space usually end up replacing 5 to 15 poles per mile because their existing poles don't have enough clearance for a new cable between the existing communications cables and the power conductors to meet the 40 inch safety zone requirement of the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC).

Poles usually cost $3,000 or more to replace. I captured these photos this week of a 'simple' pole replacement underway. It required an auger to bore the 10 foot hole for the new pole plus two bucket trucks. Don't confuse these trucks with the light duty trucks the cable guy drives -- these have insulated booms, cost $150,000 each and are capable of lifting a 60 foot pole and carefully lowering into place next to the old pole -- without interrupting service. The crews handling the live conductors are much more highly skilled than communications linemen and much better paid for the hazardous task of handling live conductors.

This was a simple replacement because the original line was a single phase line; most pole replacements are trickier and require moving an entire cross-arm with 3 live phases.

Municipal utilities can bypass all this cost and aggravation by simply installing all-dielectric self-supporting (ADSS) fiber cable up in the "supply region" (usually near their neutral wire) where an experienced planner can always find room for an all-dielectric cable. (See the Fiber Planners web site for more info on ADSS installations)

A final note: pole replacement expenses are why cable TV companies so often just ignore the NESC-required safety zone and illegally install their metallic coax cables too close to the power conductors on overcrowded poles; they're willing to risk an occasional electrocution to avoid paying the power utility to install a new pole.


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