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Bizarre and Annoying Causes of Fiber Cuts (level3.com)
106 points by phinze on Aug 9, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 20 comments

For lots more on fiber optics and the colorful characters that lay them down under the sea, this old Wired article is a must-read:


("Mother Earth Motherboard" by Neal Stephenson, 1994)

"Everything that has occurred in Silicon Valley in the last couple of decades also occurred in the 1850s. [...] The only things that have changed since then are that the stakes have gotten smaller, the process more bureaucratized, and the personalities less interesting."

There's a joke that goes: If you need a backhoe, just bury a little fiber cable. One will be along presently to dig it up.

The version I've heard is that you should bring some when travelling, so that if you should be stranded on a deserted island, the backhoe driver will rescue you.

The former mayor of my city (he had been out of office for a few months when this happened) cut through the only fiber line coming into the area with a back hoe while burying a dead dog. Knocked out long distance, cell phones, and the internet for about 12 hours.

My plumber nailed the fiber that connected the fire station next door to its dispatching and emergency response network. He knew it was in that strip, but it was in contact with the bottom of the sewer pipe he was cutting and he didn't see it.

On the plus side, in the ensuing maelstrom of very excited people, they discovered the segment was a lesser grade than they thought they had contracted.


Unfortunately for excavators not all buried lines are on the map.

We dug through an 1 -1/4" gas main because their map had it 5' off from where it was. Luckily, the ditchwitch operator had the presence of mind to realize what the sand puffs were, turn off the machine, then run. Mapping accuracy matters.

This happens a lot in Florida. The problem is, water level near the costal cities is so close to the surface, buried lines often move anywhere from 1-3 feet from the original documented location. Verizon was rolling out Fiber to the Premises in Tampa, and finally after so many water/sewer main breaks, the state/county/municipality blocked them from using equipment to dig.. they had to start digging by shovel. That really put a damper on the FiOS deployment. Related article: http://www.heraldtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/2007...

A few years ago the city was running fiber for their internal network. They were directional boring under the street in the oldest part of town (circa 1880s mining town). They drilled right through a clay sewer pipe that was't on any maps and, since it was clay, didn't show up during the locate.

They ended up having to dig up the street anyway to fix it.

How hard/expensive is it to try to verify map data with a metal detector, or sonar, or radar?

Just hope you don't run into some sort of underground power line: http://www.jwz.org/blog/2002/11/engineering-pornography/

He's out of luck with the squirrels. They love to chew cables of all sorts, and death doesn't seem to bother them.

An old landlord of mine bought a car with the intention of fixing it up. It sat quietly in the front yard over winter, until it got warm enough to work on it.

When he opened the hood, he discovered a happy family of squirrels, and not an inch of ungnawed wire left anywhere in the engine compartment.

We can attribute about 7% of our annual outages to people using our fiber cable for gun practice.

Sigh. Prison terms please. Even just a month will do.

I think most of the gun accidents are people trying to shoot birds off the line rather than trying to shoot the line itself: stupidity and carelessness rather than malice. Makes it harder to convict them.

Shooting a gun arbitrarily in the air, even at an angle is criminal because what goes up, must come down somewhere and there's no way you can be certain there won't be people there.


Shooting at a bird or a wire isn't shooting arbitrarily. If it was illegal they wouldn't sell licenses for bird hunting. You do have a duty to be aware of what's in your shot's potential flight path, so one could be charged with that.

People shooting at birds ought to be using shotguns, and birdshot pellets have much lower terminal velocities than rifle rounds, since they're much smaller.

I think the overall cost to society wouldn't be worth the savings on fiber replacement. "Mom, why are we having creamed corn for dinner again?" "Because your idiot father is in prison for shooting at a fiber line."

to give them the chance to meet bigger calibers suppliers?

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