I was really surprised at the response I got to my previous blog post about The Top 10 Most Bizarre and Annoying Causes of Fiber Cuts. I read through the comments posted directly on our Level 3 blog with interest and even skipped over to look at a few that were posted on other sites that had picked it up. Some made me chuckle, and some actually made me laugh out loud, or LOL as they say. I was called everything from genius to stupid to whiney. Ha!
One person claimed I didn’t know what I was talking about because all of Level 3’s cable is buried (really??). As if I don’t know the topology of our own network! It may be a common misconception that 100% of our cable is buried, but you have to remember that Level 3 has made several acquisitions over the past few years, and many of those companies had aerial cable which gives our network a mix with a small percentage of aerial. Another claimed our fiber was only buried 4 inches deep – which is completely wrong. But for the most part, this audience is extremely educated in the ways of telecom and offered up several solutions and some interesting stories of their own.
I read with particular interest the comment about the “Big Dig” in Boston. Fortunately that wasn’t one of our cables that a contractor cut on purpose to gain an on-time bonus, but to all the contractors out there – it will cost you much more than $2500 per cable. We aggressively go after entities that harm our network. As a result, we have successfully recovered millions of dollars. There ought to be a law against cutting fiber cables. Oh wait, there is! Don’t try it, or your on-time bonus is ours.
What was most surprising to me was the fact that the vast majority of folks were not commenting on our biggest problem. They were interested in our SECOND biggest pain – and that’s those crazy squirrels!! My squirrel lament was picked up by newsletters and bloggers all over the world. Apparently squirrels are big news. I took a certain amount of comfort when I realized that practically everybody had a squirrel story. And it’s a problem, as this article from 1956 points out, that’s been giving headaches since the early 1900s. Now some people out there might still believe it’s just cheaper to fix the damage than to try and prevent it. Whatever! We will never give up the fight because protecting your internet connection and preserving communications globally is our passion here at Level 3.
That is why I’m so thankful for all of the suggestions the faithful readers have offered up. I received several comments from people who have tried various remedies – poisons, Cayenne pepper, garlic oil and numerous bitterants, with mixed results. I also received a ton of responses from manufacturers offering solutions and an opportunity to purchase an array of different products guaranteed to deter squirrels. So you might say that instead of snake oil salesmen, I’ve been approached by a new breed of “Squirrel Oil” salesmen.
That’s not to say that some of the remedies shouldn’t be tried. I received a suggestion from a guy in South America who said I should use a combination of Anti-fouling paint and Capsaicin Chili pepper crystals mixed together and then painted on the lines. I’m all too familiar with Anti-fouling paint because that’s what you put on the bottom of boats, and boating is another one of my passions. I was not familiar with the chili pepper crystals. We will run the numbers on this particular remedy to see if it’s a cost effective solution. And, as always, we’ll make sure it’s environmentally friendly as well.
As a matter of fact, we will be conducting a few field trials on some of the products that have been brought to my attention and I’ll share some of our results with you. Case in point, we have demo models of an environmentally friendly and humane remedy on its way to us now. I’ll keep you posted on the success of this field test and others as the squirrel wars continue.
I never dreamed that posting a blog would be so well received or that I would have so much fun reading about similar stories and experiences. I’m kicking around some ideas for a future post that will run in about 30 days. I hope that it will be as interesting, if not more so, than my Top 10 post. Until then – Cheers!
Editor’s Note: Fred’s original post on fiber cuts received over 74,000 page views from readers in 142 different countries. We’re just as surprised as you are.