Internet outages due to fiber cable cuts is a common experience in Nairobi. Whenever there are road constructions, repairs, installations of new water lines, or underground power cables, fiber cables end up being the first casualties. Although the economic impact of these disruptions has never been quantified, it could run into millions of shillings every year.

Why does this happen regularly?

Optical fiber cables are the most innocent victims who do not pose a threat to anyone who interferes with them. For power, water or sewerage lines, any cut demands immediate attention and may paralyze any other work until the cut is fixed. However, anyone with a backhoe can cut tens of cables and only the ISPs and users will feel the pressure.

Here are a few reasons why fiber cables keep getting cut.

Shared corridor

To start with, the areas in which these optical cables are installed are mostly road reserves.

These are the designated locations of such services and many others like the road itself, road drainage, water supply, sewerage systems, and power lines. The corridor is thus shared by many users. It is not clearly indicated in the Kenya laws which user is supposed to use which part of the road reserve and hence they end up criss crossing each other making disruption common when one is being worked on.

Failure to do due diligence

Secondly, the road contractors usually carry out very minimal studies of the areas where they are to work, especially if it does not pose any danger.

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This leaves them with very little information regarding the exact locations of the optical cables. They only discover that there existed a cable in a certain section after it they have already tampered with it.

Failure to employ a multi-sectorial approach during the implementation of government projects

In addition, the various sectors or government agencies implement their projects without consulting one another. This often causes an overlap of projects being implemented and also a replication of projects, all at the expense of the taxpayer.

If the various sectors, especially the ones that use shared resources in the implementation of their works, could share their plans with each other, it would be possible to come up with a strategy of preventing interruptions and even cutting costs by sharing resources.

Inappropriate or no labeling on the fiber cables

Once installations are done, some optical cable companies do not clearly label the locations of their services. The ones that attempt to label do so with very weak mark posts that are easily removed and/or vandalized leaving the route taken by the optical cable unknown to the contractors.

Finally, these fiber cable companies do not generate location maps indicating areas where they have installed their cables. When and if they do, they do not share the said maps with the various stakeholders who share the same corridor with them.

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