Little did you know Queen Victoria was a pioneer in the first cable wiring of the world. In 1850, British engineers made a copper-wire cable, insulated it with gutta-percha (a rubberlike Malayan tree sap), and laid it across the English Channel. Soon came a cable across the Atlantic- in July 1865, Queen Victoria sent out from England a crew of 500 men, a dozen oxen for hauling, a cow for fresh milk, a herd of pigs for bacon—and a thickly insulated 2,800-mile (4,506-kilometer) cable that weighed 5,000 tons (4,536 metric tons). They had almost finished laying it when the cable snapped. The next year (1866) they succeeded.

By the early 1900’s cable was faced with competition from telegraphs and radio waves thus came the wireless era. But by the mid 1990’s the fiber optic cable made a comeback – because it uses light not electricity the frequencies are much higher and data capacity greater. It took a hundred years to connect a billion people by wire. It has taken only ten years to connect the next billion people.

An estimated 35 million miles (56 million kilometers) of fiber connect America. The fiber-optic cable itself is made from glass or plastic which is not susceptible to electromagnetic interference like metal cables. This allows data to flow over great distances without degrading. The biggest benefit of fiber is that it can offer much faster speeds over much longer distances than traditional copper-based technologies like DSL and cable. The biggest limitation hindering widespread fiber optic adoption is the cost requirements of implementing new fiber optic lines when old infrastructures such as DSL and cable are still serving customers. Installing a new fiber optic network is a large expense for service providers. However, as the cost to maintain aging copper networks increases over time, more and more will choose to upgrade to fiber. Of course as consumers demand for better and faster broadband increases, service providers will have to install fiber-optic networks (FTTH Fiber to the home) to meet that demand. According to the federal government, Americans living in urban areas are three times more likely to have access to next-generation broadband than those in rural areas — and approximately 15 million mostly rural people lack access to entry-level broadband in their homes.  Due to urban environmental restrictions and city-implemented regulations, horizontal directional drilling (HDD) is the preferred method when installing fiberoptic technology. It’s no surprise, then, that the high demand for fiberoptics is having a significant impact on the HDD market as well.

Fiber work is here to stay for the foreseeable future!  We no doubt are in a fiber boom with the focus on 1 Gig to homes being the benchmark. Perfect un-interrupted streaming of large HD videos, HD TV and faster loading speeds for computer users.  Contractors are investing in the right equipment, the right training and the right technology to capitalize on this booming market and help grow their businesses in the process.

The importance of safe digging and pre project planning are critical to ensure contractors do not create damage to other third party utilities or create unexpected outages or repairs when doing the large scale projects.  Using Vacuum excavation and “safe digging” practices has become the industry standard for pre site investigation and spotting utilities prior to HDD projects, trenching, hand digging or any excavation as contractors work in some of the most congested underground infrastructures in urban areas.  As often fiber builds are in affluent neighborhoods and installed with Horizontal directional drills keeping drill fluids out of sight and out of mind from home owners with Vacuum excavators keeps the community happy and less inclined to filing complaints.

Keeping a locator and Vacuum Excavator on the fiber builds will help you stay safe and productive on your fiber optic install.   Re-verifying existing utilities and potholing to ensure their exact location will save you time, money and ensure the safety of your crew.

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