Broadband Communities

JUL 2018

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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J U LY 2 0 1 8 | w w w. b r o a d b a n d c o m m u n i t i e s . c o m | B R O A D B A N D C O M M U N I T I E S | However, no other providers stepped up to provide modern, competitive broadband. Estes Park reached out to private firms to assess interest, but they answered that the projected return on investment was too low because of the rural population base. BUILDING THE SMART GRID Whether or not the town builds broadband for its citizens, the municipal utility needed fiber to manage its electric grid more intelligently, and in 2015, it decided to go forward with a fiber build for a smart grid. is would allow for two-way communication between components of the electrical infrastructure, resulting in more efficiency in the transmission and delivery of power to customers, quicker restoration of power after outages and better integration of renewable and customer-generated power. But even that limited project wasn't easy. Estes Park is known for its rugged terrain, in which extreme changes in elevation levels are paired with harsh winter weather, including wind, snow and ice. ese natural conditions created unique installation challenges, so burying fiber optic cable in conduit was not a perfect solution, even though it works in other parts of the United States. Estes Park Light and Power determined that it could use its existing utility poles for a smart-grid capital improvement project, but aerial installation, too, presented serious challenges, including multiple crossings of rivers and highways. "We are in the Rocky Mountains," says Joe Lockhart, line superintendent for Estes Park Light and Power. "A lot of our poles are still being climbed. We have only 40 percent access. We just can't get to them with a bucket truck because they are up on the side of a mountain." is installation difficulty was anticipated in the NEO Fiber report, which stated: "e town of Estes Park has higher than average capital costs due to being both located in the mountains with rocky conditions and in a rural area with a relatively low customer base." According to Lockhart, the utility spent a year investigating various options, looking for a way to install a network while saving on cost and person-hours. Traditionally, strand and lash techniques are used to mount aerial cables. "A cable company will put a steel guide wire, or support wire, in place and then come back and install fiber optic cables, and then come back with a machine that connects the fiber to the steel pole – that's three things you have to do," Lockhart says. "It's a cheap product to buy, but the man- hours add up." Instead of using strand and lash, the utility made the decision to use small- diameter conduit for its smart-grid project. With this type of technology, an in-house, four-person crew trained in fiber splicing could handle 100 percent of the project. "We are pulling in about 10,000 feet a week. at Estes Park's location, though beautiful, makes fiber installation difficult. Photo by Eric Rose

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