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Connecting two fiber optic cables, which are one-third the thickness of a human hair, requires special equipment. In this photo, combination technician Fritz Ludwig demonstrates how the machine lines up the two fiber optic cables perfectly to join them. Fiber is being installed along County Road 3 in Crosslake along with road reconstruction. Photo by Kate Perkins

Fiber optic cable installed on County Road 3

Web posted May 13, 2014
By Kate Perkins, Northland Press Correspondent

The act of carrying information over a wire has come a long way. Beginning with fence wire that carried telephone messages, the telecommunications industry has progressed all the way to carrying information over strings of glass thinner than a human hair- - which is what’s being installed along County Road 3 from Crosslake to Fifty Lakes.

While Crosslake Communications never had to use fence wire for its telephone lines, it is certainly seeing an upgrade in technology.

Fiber optic cable being put down along County Road 3 (and that’s already installed in many parts of Crosslake) allows phone, internet and cable television to be carried to a home on a single, super-thin fiber optic cable, replacing half-inch cable television lines and twisted-pair telephone wires. Installing fiber reduces the bulk of former technologies and prepares the  company for the future of the industry.

Jared Johnson, operations manager for Crosslake Communications, explained that homes in Crosslake can get the same level of service and internet speed whether or not they have fiber to the home; former technologies aren’t any slower than fiber optics.

But because Crosslake Communications utilities had to be moved to make way for the reconstruction of County Road 3 this summer, the company decided to install fiber rather than what it’s used in the past, as the cost is near the same and the benefits of fiber optics outweigh that of former technologies.

“The capacity of fiber is almost limitless,” Johnson said. In lab testing, a single fiber could handle every single phone call from Los Angeles to New York. Troubleshooting is also easier with fiber optic cable, he said.

“You want to put in fiber because it’s the future of where we’re headed,” Johnson said. While the telephone wires and cables that represent the former technologies of the city are still adequate for service, the city stays ahead of the curve by installing fiber.

As of May 7, crews on County Road 3 had moved much of the utilities on the east side of the road and were in the process of moving utilities on the west side of the road. Crosslake Communications’ crew was using directional drills to install the lines that will hold fiber optic cables. The directional drills prevent the company from digging a five- to eight-foot deep trench along the road, and instead can drill longer distances underground with a single hole.

Working with fiber optics is very precise work. While it’s strong, the fiber is so thin that special machines must be used to line up the ends perfectly and bind them together. Connecting the fibers from the office to each individual home means attention to detail. Johnson said that Crosslake Communications’ team has the experience though, with employees ranging from eight to 40 years of experience at the company.

Johnson said that currently the communications company’s work on County Road 3 is going well and ahead of schedule. Crosslake Communications had assumed it would have a lot of long days and overtime, but so far that hasn’t been necessary.

“It’s been a moving target,” Johnson said. “We have had to redesign some areas,” he said, but overall it’s going smoothly.

Crosslake Communications plans to have its new lines in place by next Friday. There are no planned outages in connection with the project.

Weather permitting and barring unforeseen circumstances, Crow Wing County’s schedule for County Road 3 has grading operations, storm sewer, and concrete curb and gutter completed by the end of July, final aggregate base placement and final shaping completed in early August, and bituminous surfacing, turf establishment, and pavement markings completed by Labor Day.

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