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Don’t Look Up! You might not like what you see

Fiber Optics Image Credit: Shutterstock / Ranjith Ravindran
Published On
Aug 6, 2020

For the last few months, I’ve been showing you photos of fiber optic installations I’ve taken as I wander around the city of Santa Monica, Calif., where I live. This month is another in this series, with a few detours around Southern California, highlighting installations I’ve seen during my travels.

I’ve learned that aerial cable gets little attention in fiber optics, with the exception of a few vendors that specialize in aerial cable, except for mainly rural projects. Most of the attention is on underground construction because most new urban or suburban installations have to be underground. Or at least I thought so.

I never really thought much about the proper way to install aerial cable. Of course, there are lots of application notes for aerial cable; choosing cables, methods of installation, etc. but not much on the way to install it in a “neat and workmanlike manner.” That’s a phrase I learned from Michael Johnston, NECA’s executive director of standards and safety, who oversees the NEIS—National Electrical Installation Standards—when we created the ANSI/NECA/FOA 301 fiber optic installation standard. (You can download a free copy here: https://foa.org/NECA301.html.)

But about a year ago, I got a call from a state legislator back East asking if there were standards for installing aerial cable. He was concerned because of the workmanship he was seeing in cable installations in his district. I did not know of any. But that made me start looking up and noticing aerial cables.

One of the strangest things I have seen are large storage loops of fiber optic cable lashed to messengers or poles. Normally, an aerial cable will have small excess fiber stored near splice closures by lashing it along the cable near the splice closure and using what’s called “snowshoes” to loop the cable back at the ends. These installations look like this.


Here are some of the things I’ve seen.

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This one is an example of something that is quite common in Santa Monica: lashing large storage loops of fiber optic cable to the messenger and leaving them hanging there. This one is just off a major street next to a new subway line in a mixed commercial, industrial and residential neighborhood. (Yes, LA has a few subways!) When I discovered this on a weekend, I figured the contractor had neatly coiled the cable in a figure-8 in the middle of a span and was coming back to complete the job the next week.

When I next passed here about a month later, it was still there, so I stopped and took pictures of it. When I got back home, I enlarged the photo and tried to estimate the amount of cable coiled up there from the number of coils and their size. I estimated that this was almost 1,000 feet of cable.

Did they come back and finish the job? Not in the six months I’ve been watching it.

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Here is another similar cable in a different neighborhood of Santa Monica. This is the high-end residential area of town toward Malibu, and these houses are worth a lot of money. Look closely and you will see three loops of small, medium and large cable around this pole.

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This loop of about 300 feet of cable is in an industrial area of Santa Monica in an interesting location. It’s right in front of the local CATV service office.

I’ve found these large storage loops in other areas of Southern California. Here is one near USC, south of downtown LA.

This really puzzles me. Why would someone lash a bundle of cable worth thousands of dollars to a pole and leave it? Why would the pole owner allow it to remain there? How would a city allow it to remain, considering it could be a safety hazard, because a big bundle of cable can be quite heavy, and can become entangled with workers at a later date.

Who was checking the work of the contractors doing these installations? Were they subcontractors hired for the lowest bid? That seems likely.

About the Author

Jim Hayes

Fiber Optics Columnist and Contributing Editor

Jim Hayes is a VDV writer and trainer and the president of The Fiber Optic Association. Find him at www.JimHayes.com.

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