AUSTIN (KXAN) – Google Fiber is turning to a new concept, not a common practice in the industry, to speed up work by weeks. They are the first company to work with the city on a new pilot program.
In South Austin, crews have been busy for a few days installing the high speed fiber lines. They are using a new method called microtrenching. The process doesn’t go as deep into the ground and doesn’t require as much machinery and equipment to complete the work.
The microtrencher has a blade which makes a narrow cut between the road and the curb, then another machine vacuums the dirt. Crews can then go in and put in the fiber lines while another machine follows behind filling in the narrow cut with cement.
“The goal here is to make it an experience that folks find to be a day or two out of their life and we’re gone, and the next conversation they have with us is that the service is available and you can sign up,” said Mike Leddy who is in charge of Network Deployment and Operations with Google Fiber. “This enables us to move much faster through the neighborhood and also to have a much lower impact to the residents in the area that we are building.”
Last year, there were complaints from people dealing with Google Fiber construction in their neighborhoods, including months of construction, torn up yards and even flooding. Leddy said that before the microtrenching method crews had to dig 3 feet underground. He said the problem was that the space was already crowded with utility lines including gas, water, wastewater and even electricity.
Microtrenching allows crews to go about 12-inches deep under the road, avoiding all the lines and even digging through limestone. Leddy says crews can lay the lines to more than 50 homes in one day instead of taking up to a month to do the same work.
“They haven’t had to dig in our yard at all,” said Heather Maza who lives in the neighborhood where microtrenching is being done. “Definitely seems like way less of an inconvenience,” she said. Crews are expected to wrap up work her neighborhood in the next few days.
Google Fiber says because this isn’t standard in the industry, they thought about the concept late last year and then had to apply for a permit.