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Fiber Optic Cable Cuts: Most Common Causes & How To Combat Them

Some of the most common reasons for fiber optic cable cuts include bad weather, wildlife and construction work

Fiber optic installations are quite reliable. However, that doesn’t mean that they are indestructible.

No matter how well-planned and well-built a fiber optic line is, chances are that sooner or later it might get damaged, interrupting the availability of the network it supplies.

The most common reason for interrupted fiber optic service is fiber optic cable cuts. And the list of causes of causes for fiber cuts, believe it or not, is a long one.

In this article, we’ve rounded up the most common reasons for fiber optic line cuts and the best ways to combat them.

Fiber Optic Cable Cuts Cause #1: Wildlife & Stray Animals

Animals, especially wild and stray ones, tend to eat everything they encounter.

And fiber optic cables are no exception.

Squirrels, rats, dogs, bears and even monkeys, depending on the location, are not exactly opposed to an exquisite fiber optic appetizer, sometimes causing services outages that affect entire cities and thousands of people.

In all seriousness, wildlife activity is among the leading causes of fiber optic cable cuts. As it happens in everyday life, rodents and insects are the most common culprits – particularly in more remote, forested areas.

Luckily, there are several solutions available that can help prevent a newly installed fiber optic line from becoming rodent food:

  • Fiberglass insulation is arguably the most effective solution. The glass shards that the fabric is made of can irritate the animals, making them think twice before chewing on another cable.
  • Steel tape is another common insulation material that makes the cable stong enough to withstand the bite of larger rodents. However, it may cause electromagnetic interference in the optic fiber and should be used sparingly.
  • Chemical-infused cable jackets can be used as an additional layer of protection on a fiber optic cable. They can be infused with various repellent substances, such as capsaicin or denatonium. The former is what gives spicy peppers their heat, while the latter is the most bitter substance in the world. However, the effectiveness of such cable jackets is often disputed.

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Fiber Optic Cable Cuts Cause #2: Weather & Natural Disasters

As humanity has learned over thousands of years, Earth’s natural forces can be unstoppable.

However, it’s not only the ancient temples and other historical places that can fall victim to extreme weather and natural disasters.

So can fiber optic installations.

Strong wind, rain, snow, hail and even an earthquake can easily sever fiber optic connectors.

The good news is that there is little else extreme weather can do to a fiber optic line apart from physically cutting it. Unlike copper wires, optic fiber does not rust and can operate even in extremely low temperatures.

The bad news is that there is truly little you can do to ensure that your fiber optic installation is safe from natural disasters.

While strong winds and rain can be mitigated by reinforcing the connection points of the cables and the cables themselves, a strong earthquake, a tornado or a tsunami can, unfortunately, do irreparable damage.

Earthquakes cause irreparable damage for fiber optic cables

Fiber Optic Cable Cuts Cause #3: Intentional Damage

If animals like to eat things, we humans like to break things – at least some of us.

Vandalism is yet another common cause of fiber optic line cuts. In fact, the FCC estimated that between 2007 and 2014 there were over 1,200 intentional attacks on telecom infrastructure.

It’s hard to pinpoint the motivation behind such acts of vandalism – whether it’s just blind rage or the desire to make some money stealing and reselling fiber optic network components.

Regardless of the reason behind it, you should do your best to protect your fiber-optic cables and other network components from vandals by:

  • Installing the key components of a network at considerable heights or out-of-reach areas
  • Concealing the cables
  • Installing video surveillance at key locations
  • Locking the equipment away in containers that can only be opened by qualified personnel

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Fiber Optic Cable Cuts Cause #4: Construction Work

Fiber optic cable cuts are not always intentional. More often than not, the damage to a network is accidental and happens during construction work.

There are countless cases of municipal workers damaging fiber while digging their way to a burst public water supply pipe or homeowners severing cables while installing a fence around their property.

And while the latter case is usually a result of ignorance, the former comes from either negligence or poor communication.

However, there is a simple solution to this problem: making sure that each underground installation of optic fiber is clearly mapped, recorded and marked with visual cues, such as poles or plaques.

Ensure that your optic fiber installations are marked with visual cues including poles

Fiber Optic Cable Cuts Cause #5: Fire

The last but not least most common cause of fiber cuts is fire.

We had to point it out as a separate cause, as fire damage can take many forms and have various origins.

First, there are wildfires, which fall more into the category of natural disasters. Sadly, there is little you can do to prevent damage to a fiber optic network if a wildfire is ravaging through the area – apart from hoping that the local fire brigades are on the way.

Second, there is arson – which can also fall under the vandalism category. Using fireproof materials in key elements of the fiber installation might not prevent the damage entirely, but it could minimize it at the very least.

Finally, fire damage can be indirect – for instance, in a situation where a building or a landfill is burning and the fire catches onto the nearby fiber installation.

As mentioned, fireproofing is your best bet at preventing your fiber from burning to a crisp. And if it doesn’t work, you might just be facing costly and complicated power supply repairs.

In such situations, it’s best to trust a team of qualified fiber repair specialists such as Commercial Electronics Inc. to ensure that the damage is reversed, and the network service is restored in the quickest way possible.

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