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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, March 19, 2004


Kentucky: Consultant warns Hardin County and Elizabethtown against running fiber cable ...

... but did he have the information he needed?
"The author of a study on high-speed information access in Hardin County cautioned Thursday against government agencies laying new lines because access is already available. H.B. Clark, a consultant hired through the Elizabethtown Innovation Center and private businesses to assess the telecommunications capabilities in the area, called Elizabethtown a 'competitive market.' He estimated it would take between $1.5 million and $2 million to connect a line to a major fiber optics cable in Upton that runs along the CSX Railroad and another $200,000 to $300,000 a year to maintain it. "

I have met some consultants who have never recommended against a city or utility deploying fiber in their feasibility studies and I have found this disturbing since I have seen some utilities go on to get in over their heads, financially.

Our fiber construction cost data is very different
On the other hand, the numbers I read in this article are puzzling. Elizabethtown does not own its' own power utility, which makes things a bit more expensive and tricky. Nevertheless, Hardin County is served by not one but 5 power utilities. Two just have medium voltage distribution lines (Meade County RECC and Nolin RECC), two others just have high voltage transmission lines (Big Rivers Electric Corporation and East Kentucky Power Cooperative) and a fifth utility (LG&E) has both. On the high side, it costs about $10,000/mile to deploy a very high fiber count ADSS cable on a power distribution line (with lower fiber counts, the number drops in half). Upton is 20 miles away from Elizabethtown, the county seat, so the total construction cost for a power utility to link the two locations would be about 10% of the estimate the consultant gave.

ADSS construction on high voltage transmission lines is more expensive. On the other hand, there is a very good chance that at least one (if not all) of the 3 transmission line operators in Hardin County already has fiber running into substations in the county and could lease dark fibers to take county traffic to major data hubs elsewhere in the state.

If instead of cooperating with a utility, the county just leased pole space and strung their own cable in the communications space of the utility's poles, the construction costs might double but would still be substantially less than the consultant's lowest estimate of $1.5 million. The county would also have to pay annual pole attachment fees to the utility owning the poles but this would probably still be less that the annual maintenance figure quoted by the consultant.

If the city used ADSS (all-dielectric self-supporting) cable, there would be no routine ongoing maintenance costs.

Fiber outages are very rare on ADSS lines run near conductors on distribution lines. Even if a pole snaps due to an ice storm or traffic accident, the nearby aluminum and steel conductors usually protect the ADSS from damaging tensile loads. If the power goes out it's usually because the lines have been short-circuited; the conductors and the ADSS still retain their mechanical integrity. Fiber outages on transmission lines are even rarer (it usually takes a tornado to topple a transmission tower).

Repairing a rare ADSS outage on a high fiber count cable should cost under $20,000 (and half that for low fiber count cables), so the cost of non-routine maintenance should average no more than $250 to $2,000 per year over the life of the cable (probably 40 years or more).

These figures are based on Fiber Planners' experience in designing ADSS and OPGW fiber cable systems for over 50 power utilities.


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