Why run fiber underground instead of on telephone poles? Because it gets shot less often. That’s one takeaway from a talk by Google network engineering manager Vijay Gill at last week’s AusNOG conference in Sydney. Gill said that Google is digging trenches for underground fiber deployment to its data center in The Dalles, Oregon after repeated incidents in which hunters shot up the company’s aerial fiber cables.
“What people do for sport or because they’re bored, they try to shoot at the insulators,” Gill said at the conference, which was recapped at IT News. “I have yet to see them actually hit the insulator, but they regularly shoot down the fiber. Every November when hunting season starts invariably we know that the fiber will be shot down, so much so that we are now building an underground path.”
Are the hunters really shooting at the insulators? Or are they perhaps shooting at the squirrels that regularly create hazards for power reliability by building nests in electrical equipment on utility poles?
UPDATE: Google has issued a statement providing additional context for Gill’s comments: “We use a variety of technologies to interconnect our data centers, including above-ground, below-ground, and undersea fiber optic cables. Each are subject to different failure modes, and because of our large network volume we regularly see events which are, on an absolute scale, still quite rare – including hunting, flooding, fire, road construction and even once a cow funeral. To ensure that these events don’t impact our users and our operations, we have redundant connectivity with multiple diverse fiber paths to all of our important locations.”