Crews work above, below ground to lay new fiber lines

Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Barry Electric Cooperative crews work on installing fiber optic cable above ground in Cassville. JR Smith, goBEC manager for the cooperative, said crews have been installing the lightning-fast cable aerially, too, because it is faster and less-expensive. Julia Kilmer

Work crews have been making progress laying fiber optic cable in Cassville, the new technology that will bring residents literally up-to-speed with the 21st Century with speed-of-light Internet and communication technology.

Barry Electric Cooperative employees and contractors have been seen working not just on the ground installing the new cable, but up in the air as well.

JR Smith, goBEC manager for BEC, said most of the fiber optic installation will be done aerially because they own the telephone poles and right-of-way.

"It is quicker and less expensive that way," Smith said. "I did pick some locations to bury because there were areas where too many poles would need to be replaced because of clearance issues from CATV and phone that do not leave enough room for our fiber optic cable. Also, I did not want to go up a block and back down a block, then back up again.

"People may have noticed crews in a few different locations. Trans-Tel has multiple crews hired. Two crews are installing aerial fiber optic cable, and one crew is installing underground. Mid-West is the underground crew, who was hired as a subcontractor under Trans-Tel."

Smith said most of the underground cable is laid by a directional bore machine that works by pushing a rod underground and is directionally-controlled by pressured drilling fluid.

"The fluid is generally a mixture of bentonite clay and water," he said. "By boring underground, this helps cleanup and not leave an ugly trench. They also have a vacuum truck also called hydro-excavation. This is a non-mechanical, non-destructive process that uses pressurized water and industrial strength vacuum to simultaneously excavate and evacuate soil.

"This saves from hand-digging and exposing existing utilities that lay beneath the ground. It is required that before the contractors dig, they must have all the other utilities located. After they paint lines on the ground where the underground lines are located, the contractor then uses the vacuum truck to expose."

Barry Electric began exploring the possibility of building a fiber-to-the-home network in 2010 after numerous requests from members. The system design selected is a Gigabit Passive Optical Network, with capability for some active ethernet where required. The design allows for Internet speeds of up to 1 gigabyte per second.

The service area requires eight building areas, including the central office and seven remote locations. A fiber ring will connect the remote locations to each other, and to the central office.

Services are expected to begin in late fall of this year.

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