back to article Oh crap: UK's digital overlords moot new rules to help telcos lay fibre in sewer pipes

In order to meet its full-fibre pledges, the UK government is examining the possibility of giving broadband firms access to more than a million kilometres of underground infrastructure owned by other utility firms: including electricity, gas, water, and sewerage networks. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport ( …

  1. Dwarf Silver badge

    Just in case there wasn't enough sh*t on the Internet already.

    Next - Internet outages due to the latest fatberg being removed and more chances for a JCB to cut through connectivity.

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      A JCB will always slice through lines by mistake no matter where it is

    2. EvilDrSmith Bronze badge

      Potentially, less chance of something being cut, but with the associated factor that if one utility is cut, several get taken out.

      Urban roads (including pavements) are often full of sub-surface utilities, making digging new holes tricky. Add in to that that not every utility is recorded, and even where they are recorded, the positioning isn't always that accurate. So utility strikes happen.

      There are various ways to scan for sub-surface services before you dig. I'm not sure how well fibre is detected by these methods (Cat-and-Genny wouldn't be much use; no idea how effective Ground penetrating Radar is with fibre).

      Running your fibre alongside something else that's more detectable may actually prove an effective way of reducing cable strikes.

      But just getting people to properly record where their infrastructure is would be a good start.

      1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Underground fibre is usually (always?) run by first burying a relatively large diameter pipe, and then blowing the fibre through it. This allows for far easier additional or upgraded fibre to be run later. So the detectability would depend more on the material that the pipe is made of rather than the fibre.

        If the design is sensible, such pipes would have some sort of easily detectable marker built into the pipe, such as a metallic strip.

        1. Drew Scriver Silver badge

          Maybe in the UK, but certainly not in the USA. Remember Google fiber popping up through the pavement?

          I'm pretty sure I've seen fiber cable going straight into the soil in Europe as well when I was there this earlier this year.

          1. JetSetJim Silver badge

            Gigaclear just chop into the verge on the side of the road and drop in some presumably armoured fibre (which may be detectable with one of those metal detector dinguses that you see civil engineers swinging about before breaking ground). I don't think I saw any form of conduit when they laid their stuff in the village I Was living in, so I doubt it is ever upgradeable without replacing it.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          You can include a metallic tape that is detectable with your fiber and plastic conduit. You can also bury an indicator tape above it, so the future excavation crew hits that first and hopefully notices it, before hitting your conduit.

        3. bombastic bob Silver badge

          "first burying a relatively large diameter pipe, and then blowing the fibre through it."

          I've seen construction electricians do this for power wiring inside conduit, makes sense really.

          A piece of string with a cotton ball on the end is stuffed into the conduit, and blown through into the next junction box with air. Then you tie the string to the wires, and pull them through.

      2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        There are various ways to scan for sub-surface services before you dig. I'm not sure how well fibre is detected by these methods (Cat-and-Genny wouldn't be much use; no idea how effective Ground penetrating Radar is with fibre).

        Our gracious hosts had a lecture/video by Ordnance Survey on utility mapping challenges. UK & probably RoW have depth management, so water/sewer deepest, and newbie fibre the shallowest. Which kind of explains fibre cuts where utilities dig through fibre to get to their own stuff.

        But there can be locator wires embedded in fibre cables, or in ducts to help with cat & gen tracing. Not every operator seems to do this, ie CityFibre's been laying pipe around me & using a mix of polypipe and microducts.. I didn't see them running locator wires though. But shallow depth helps GPR, which works by sensing density changes, so if there's ducting, it should be able to sense the voids.

        1. Stork Silver badge

          In Denmark water and sewers are I think 120cm down, to prevent freezing. Of course, winters these days are not what they used to be...

      3. tarka

        Scanning can detect metals and electrical signals. You can lay down a marker tape 6 inches above with metal through it which can be picked up, this usually isn't done. Digging is easy though, especially if you don't dig. We use vacuum excavators all the time in dense areas, just suck dirt up, just work about 1/10th the speed so costs go up that way so a lot of people just take the risk.

      4. hoola Bronze badge

        There is also the issue of clearing blockages. Given the amount of stuff that clogs sewers up (including some seriously large tunnels) this can only end in disaster. The high-power jets that are used to break up blockage can cut stuff up. There is only so much armour you can put on a cable before it becomes either uneconomic or two heavy to manage.

        Whilst I can see why this might appear it is yet another attempt at doing infrastructure on the cheap. We are spending will over £100 billion on HS2 with dubious benefits to put it mildly. Why the hell do we not just put in some larger, universal ducts that people rent space in. One could also (perish the thought) have a national infrastructure that was coordinated between all the interested parties.

        Nah, never going to happen, too many vested interests and short term profit requirements.....

  2. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    Crack teams of highly trained ninja rats could take out the competition

    1. osakajin Bronze badge

      Cack teams shirley?

  3. PTW

    Err, even the first 2 seconds of the trailer linked, show

    Threads is Sheffield based, not based in the #1 Crap city 2003, 'Ull's actually not that bad outside of Orchard Park and it's ilk

  4. Unicornpiss Silver badge

    Fiber in sewer pipes

    Well, that will be fun for someone when it comes time to troubleshoot and fix a service outage..

    1. BenDwire Silver badge

      Re: Fiber in sewer pipes

      Well, it will drive them round the bend

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Fiber in sewer pipes

      Well, at least TalkTalk will be able to honestly say they run a crap service.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fiber in sewer pipes

      Will this be a fibre to the premises service? Brings a whole new meaning to "Hold on a mo, I'm just in the middle of big download."

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: Fiber in sewer pipes

        Is it streaming, or bursty?

    4. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Fiber in sewer pipes

      Well, that will be fun for someone when it comes time to troubleshoot and fix a service outage

      Troubleshooting should be easy - there'll be plenty of logs

      1. You aint sin me, roit

        Re: Fiber in sewer pipes

        But performance takes a hit - too many dumps and too much flushing...

    5. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Fiber in sewer pipes

      "and fix a service outage.."

      Or would that be blockage?

      1. Ken Shabby Bronze badge

        Re: Fiber in sewer pipes


    6. RegGuy1 Silver badge

      Re: Fiber in sewer pipes

      You could call this the turd way.

  5. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Porn Bergs.

    NT (no tisuues)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why wait ?

    Whats taking them so long to decide on this simple and obvious solution?

    Oh wait. They have to consider the "square mile's" interests and their shareholders in having their pound of flesh from the action. (Rental revenues, access charges, etc). Evtryone wants a slice of the action pie. And of course, the vested interests of the incumbent operators in losing traditional revenue models (phone line rentals, call charges, other pointless servcies). You see, if every household is wired up permanently with Gigabit fibre, theres no need for the current setup to continue ripping off punters.

    So hey ho. Let the status quo continue till the next elections.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Why wait ?

      It's been done for years.. First I think Urband, then err.. someone else had a deal with Thames Water to run fibre in London sewers. I think it was around 15yrs ago when I did a site visit to see how they installed fibre.. Which was the boring bit, ie tacking ducts to walls, but interesting to do a bit of urbex and get kitted out in all the PPE necessary to end up in the sh*t, safely. I think those deals were exclusive wayleaves, which makes sense given training needed to work in those environments. London also has deep power tunnels that are used for fibre, but also potentially very hazardous environments. Places like NY can also be FUN with additional hazards like high pressure steam pipes.. So wave a stick in front of you, and if the end gets sliced off, it's detected the leak before you lose important body parts.

      As for vested interests, one is of course the government and a decision to charge rates on fibre.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Didn't google do this as an April fools joke years ago.

    Also, IMDB says Threads was the only performance of the late Anne Sellors. An interesting credit.

  8. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

    what could possibly go wrong?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Isn't this already in place?

    Are we sure they don't already run BBC, Sky and ITV News through the sewers already? The mainstream media is full of sh*t.

  10. Gomez Adams

    Presumably this will be called a fatband connection? :)

  11. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    This was available ages ago:

  12. Drew Scriver Silver badge

    The ISP jokes will be in the gutter...

    Imagine the jokes on tech support calls.

    Customer: My connection is incredibly slow.

    Agent: Yep, it stinks. It's totally in the gutter.

    Customer: I think you're charging too much. I smell a rat.

    Agent: Quite possible. We'll have to send a crew down to take care of that.

  13. dgeb

    Fibre in the sewers

    Is that not literally what they are for?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fibre in the sewers

      Not so much Full Fibre as All Bran?

  14. Trollslayer Silver badge
    Thumb Down


    I suspect a certain amount of brute force is needed to get rid of those so what happens to the fibres and their enclosing pipes/

  15. Blackjack Silver badge

    Is the sidewalk not deep enough?

    Around here they just dig like 60 centimeters deep on the sidewalk and bury the new fancy Internet cables there.

    1. Clunking Fist Bronze badge

      Re: Is the sidewalk not deep enough?

      In parts of the UK, or at least London, you'd be in someone's coal-cellar-repurposed-as-a-wine-cellar.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At least, a proper Dark Net

    At least it's a proper Dark Net. Well, Dark Brown.


    Have a nice weekend.

  17. Mike 125

    "the UK government is examining the possibility of giving broadband firms access to more than a million kilometres of underground infrastructure owned by other utility firms: including electricity, gas, water, and sewerage networks."

    Joined-up stinking.

  18. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Gives an entirely new meaning

    to the notion of quick and dirty code (or at least the dirty bit)

    I'll get me coat

  19. bazza Silver badge

    It's Been Done Before, Kind-off

    So far as I understand it, the fresh water pipe to a house in the older parts of Paris is inside the sewers. Explains a lot...

  20. ap011013

    Our fibre through your fibre

    Nevermind the crosstalk...

  21. C. P. Cosgrove
    Thumb Up

    Obvious solution

    There is an obvious solution to the problem of fibre being cut by over-enthusiatic digger operators - site it some little way below a high voltage cable.

    According to a friend of mine who blacked out Central Edinburgh on one famous occasion, to those who know the city he was digging a trench on the Mound just by the Art Gallery, 'You always know when you have hit a high voltage cable, there's a lovely blue flash and a bang !' !

    Problem solved.

    Chris Cosgrove

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sharing with electricity companies

    Wasn't Energis created by wrapping fibres around high-voltage power cables?

    1. NeilPost Bronze badge

      Re: Sharing with electricity companies

      ...acquired by Cable and Wireless, now part of Vodafone. Do they let Openreach, Sky, Vodafone ‘access to their ducting’??

  23. meadowlark

    Why not just run the fibre cables overhead on poles ? They used to do that donkey's years ago with copper and they were called ariel cables.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All this extra effort to allow people to post sh*t on FaecesBook a fraction of a second quicker ?

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