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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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Thursday, October 16, 2003


Alabama: "Courtland utility worker recovering from severe burns"

"A city utilities worker badly burned by a 7,200-watt power line was in critical condition but appeared to be progressing, Courtland Mayor Ted Letson said."

The power lineman was moving a pole when he was badly shocked and burned. See the article for more details. A local TV station reported the injuries were bad enough to require helicopter evacuation to Birmingham.

Pole moves and replacements are always expensive and frequently difficult. Highly-skilled, power-qualified linemen with expensive special equipment are required to make these moves.

Avoiding pole replacements and moves; why municipal broadband developers should care

The Courtland tragedy may have nothing to do with a municipal broadband system; the article doesn't say. I included it in this blog, however, because in the U.S., pole moves and replacements are usually the biggest single cost when constructing a municipal broadband system the "old-fashioned way". That is, their designer tells them to build it the way cable TV companies do it -- by stringing fiber or coax in the communications space. The communications space on the poles is usually so crowded that usually 20% or more of the poles have to be replaced with taller poles at $3000 or more per pole just to meet National Electric Safety Code (NESC) requirements for adding a new cable. With 30 to 40 poles per mile, the pole replacement costs may exceed the cost of the initial transport electronics equipment purchase.

How municipal power utilities cut pole replacements by 98% when building broadband systems

A power utility can deploy all-dielectric self-supporting (ADSS) fiber cable in the power region of the pole, where there's more space, and virtually eliminate all pole replacements. For instance, when Fiber Planners designed the ADSS fiber backbone for Bristol Virginia Utilities Board (BVUB), only one pole needed replacement in over 100 miles of system.

Note that because of the pole replacement cost issue, it's now actually cheaper for a power utility to deploy fiber to the home (FTTH) than a hybrid fiber coax (HFC) system. (Metallic coaxial cable pretty much has to be installed in the communications region to meet NESC safety requirements; a few utilities have tried installing it in the power region, but the code requirements are onerous)

Some companies with cable TV construction crews and cable TV system designers will tell a municipal utility that they will in fact install ADSS for them -- but they install it in the communications region, totally eliminating the reason for doing so. (I can think of three just in Georgia alone that were conned this way).

For more information on ADSS installations

The Fiber Planners web site has some useful information on ADSS installations. In particular, you might want to look at the best practices and the distribution design section. (Yes, there is some advertising for Fiber Planners, but there's also good technical information as well.)


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