The difficulty and expense of connecting a home to a fiber-optic network led Cedar Networks of Durango to explore alternatives to make that “last mile” hookup more affordable and practical for homeowners.
Chris Stebner, vice president of Cedar Networks, said the Durango internet and telecommunications firm is looking to use a vibratory plow that requires only one person and equipment rental to hook up a home to the “middle-mile” neighborhood fiber-optic line.
The vibratory plow, which looks something like a rototiller, he said, is a small version derived from a larger machine used to hook up businesses to fiber-optic networks.
The plow leaves only a narrow cut in disturbed ground and avoids major disruption of landscaping, and with a sewing machine-like action, buries cable from a spool a few inches underground.
Typically, Stebner said it costs about $7 to $10 per foot to hook up a home to the fiber-optic network. If you have to dig 100 feet, it’s about $1,500, he said. If you cross another utility, such as a water line or a phone line on the route, it costs an additional $160 for each utility line crossed.
The result, Stebner said, during a session of the Tech Knowledge 2018 Conference held Friday at the DoubleTree Hotel, is that homeowners often find it too expensive to hook up to faster fiber-optic lines for internet service, even if the neighborhood is served with a “middle mile” fiber-optic line to the neighborhood.
With the vibratory plow, Stebner said: “It’s cost effective. You only need one person and equipment rental.”
Brad Fuqua, who lives in Durango West II, said a fiber-optic line put in place by Cedar Network terminates a little shy of 50 feet from his house. However, he said hooking his house to the tantalizing line so near has proved “cost-prohibitive too say the least.”
Fuqua said he is eager to determine if using a vibratory plow to lay fiber-optic lines to his home would prove affordable and increase his speed from about 30 megabits per second to 100 megabits per second.
Growth of home use of the internet and an increasing trend toward home-based businesses makes adoption of fiber optics-to-the-home more critical than ever, Stebner said. Communities encouraging fiber optics to homes often prove more attractive to luring new businesses than their slow-footed internet competitors.
A current home, Stebner said, has 9.9 internet-connected devices. In addition, he said 37 percent of job-holders conduct some work from home on the internet for their business. Eight in 10 people said they would prefer telecommuting if it were an option, he said.
Durango’s internet profile looks like many small Colorado towns that are away from the fiber-optic dense Front Range: broadband fiber optic is available in the core, but it grows progressively more sparse on the periphery.
Many communities have been able to cut the cost of delivering middle-mile fiber optics to neighborhoods by adopting a “dig once policy,” a practice in which fiber-optic lines can piggyback on digging done for other utilities such as natural gas lines, electric lines and water lines.
Stebner said recent work to replace natural gas lines down the center of many of Durango’s streets was a missed opportunity to also lay fiber optics to those neighborhoods, a simple move that with some coordination and cooperation would have enhanced Durango’s middle-mile fiber-optic network.