Brett Gailey, the mayor of Lake Stevens, Washington, heard loud and clear from his constituents that they want more choice when it comes to Internet service providers in their town. And what they ideally wanted was fiber internet.
Yet the U-shaped town surrounding a lake at the foot of the Cascade Mountains with very few utility poles made it a classic “hard to service” area, which is why Lake Stevens, just 36 miles from Seattle, is not wasn’t even among the 100 most connected cities in the state.
The solution for Mayor Gailey and the people of Lake Stevens was to partner with Ziply Fiber to build a super-fast, 100% fiber optic network that would bring fiber internet to more than 12,000 homes and businesses through a construction technique innovative. known as microtrenching… which happens to be about 80% faster than traditional construction.
The microtrench has evolved considerably over the years. What previously involved large equipment and massive clearing has been improved to the point where crews can drive past a single house in less than 15 minutes, leaving no construction debris behind and a road surface that withstands the weather of the North- West. In addition, microtrenches lead to fewer complaints from residents.
So why isn’t everyone using the microtrench to lay fiber lines? The answer lies in each city’s regulations and permits, which are often more complicated than the actual microtrenching process.
But Mayor Gailey and the people of Lake Stevens were ready to give it a shot. By keeping the permitting process simple and barrier-free, they may have created the model for hundreds of towns in the Northwest.
We have all been in a typical construction zone. Long waits. The STOP/SLOW signs alternate back and forth. Big equipment. Giant holes. Torn roads for weeks. When this is the only option for fiber constructions, only a few hundred feet of fiber can be laid in a day due to the much wider and deeper digging, stabilizing and additional repair and clean-up steps that make all part of this type of worksite effort. Sometimes it’s unavoidable.
However, when microtrenching is used, the entire process can take place in the space of a working day with minimal disruption to traffic and daily life. The microtrench allows the installation of 2,000 to 3,000 feet of fiber per day, with entire neighborhoods connected in the space of a few days.
How is it possible? Microtrenching is done efficiently and quickly, in part because of the staffing of the crew. Equipment is set up like cars on a train so construction can be streamlined. This is simply not possible with traditional construction.
The construction technique also lends itself to efficiency. In microtrenching, Ziply Fiber’s construction partners will make a 1-2 inch wide cut (hence the “micro”) in the road to a depth of approximately 12-16 inches. This minimizes the impact on streets and municipal infrastructure, avoids most underground obstructions and existing utilities, and is deep enough not to conflict with future road works. Cuts are also typically made 18-24 inches from the curb so that cars parked alongside the road do not park directly over the closed area, further extending the life of the pavement. The surface disturbance is so light that it can be crossed on foot or by car before construction is complete.
Still, the small cut doesn’t mean limited fiber lines. Microtrenches are giving way to microducts, which bundle multiple ultra-thin fiber lines together so that as community use increases, there is plenty of room for more connectivity in the future.
In locations where microtrenching is not possible, Ziply Fiber can work with cities to perform aerial installation or overlay, where new fiber is rolled over existing phone lines. But when trenching is required, microtrenching should be considered an alternative to traditional drilling and digging to increase speed and reduce aggravation. Municipal leaders who have given serious thought to how they can help bridge the digital divide and increase economic benefits for their communities might consider following the example of Stevens Lake and taking a closer look at microtrenching to see if it suits their businesses and residents.
#cities #faster #fiber #optic #internet