Fibre pros and cons

Brian Barnes, Helderberg

Many thanks to Norman McFarlane, for lightening some of the darkness surrounding the optic fibre activities in the Helderberg Basin.

It is clear that we are all going to have to go the fibre route some time or other.

In Somerset West we received a one-page flier in the mailbox from one of the operating companies, Frogfoot, well before any trenching activities started.

It was adequately informative, and promised a responsible operation to trench, lay the cables, and then reinstate everything (paved driveways included) to its previous condition.

Trenching in our street started in early March, and despite some serious obstacles, was finished in the three days – the trenching teams worked fast and efficiently despite the hot weather.

But then the team totally vanished for more a month, leaving open but barricaded trenches, and holes in driveways.

Nobody, neither Frogfoot nor the City of Cape Town, offered any explanation.

I emailed Frogfoot, and when they eventually phoned me I was told that CoCT was on the point of withdrawing Frogfoot’s permit to operate in the whole area due to the collateral damage being caused to water pipes and electrical cables.

Further, that if the permit was withdrawn, Frogfoot would have to come in and fill in all trenches, whether with cables (or not), and reinstate everything. My jaw dropped in disbelief.

After more weeks of inactivity and many phone calls to Frogfoot, I eventually got through to someone in a bit more authority, who told me the legal teams of CoCT and Frogfoot were in lenghty discussions to resolve the issue.

A number of times I pleaded for some PR action, such as another leaflet drop, to keep affected residents at least a bit informed. Although my contact agreed, there has never been a word said about the matter by either Frogfoot or CoCT.

In the first couple of days in May the teams returned, laid the cable to our huge relief (if only because the street wouldn’t inevitably have to have been dug up again in the future), and very effectively reinstated the sidewalks, some of which were not simple tasks.

Some bricks went missing for our driveway, but they are sourcing new bricks of the same sort to complete the job.

If one puts aside the stoppage due to the dispute, all the trenching and reinstatement activities that I have observed have been very efficiently carried out. I agree with Norman McFarlane – Frogfoot and one other contractor, Last Mile Technologies – deserve our appreciation for the way they have been handling things.

It cannot be easy to dig up kilometres of sidewalk and not sever a pipeline or a cable here and there, and to have to cope with the massive roots of e.g. wild fig trees.

However, one brickbat – to those involved for missing the opportunity to keep us informed of the lengthy delay.