City takes fibre network provider to task

This spot near Valyland is one of several areas around the valley where the fibre-optic cable reels are stored.

The City of Cape Town has halted operations of a licensed fibre network provider and withdrawn its way-leave permissions after it damaged water and power cables in the valley.

According to mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, Felicity Purchase, Frogfoot, the company responsible for fibre-optic installations, will be held liable for the costs of damages incurred.

Since trenching started on Wednesday January 23, 42 cases of damage had been logged and 26 leadings (water connections to homes) had been damaged, she said.

In an meeting with Frogfoot and its contractors on Friday February 22, the City agreed Frogfoot would continue to safeguard already excavated areas in the interim, but no additional work would be done until the City gave the go-ahead.

The City wants Frogfoot to outline the measures it will take to prevent further damage. It told the company that it was working out the cost of the damage, including the cost of the water lost.

Fish Hoek community Facebook pages were abuzz last week with complaints from residents across the valley, reporting no water, power outages, damaged pavements and driveways.

Residents asked why they had not been informed of the installations beforehand.

They said while the prospect of fibre for high-speed internet was exciting, dealing with the havoc caused by installation was not.

Fish Hoek resident Sandy Naude said that when her power had gone off on Tuesday February 19 she had immediately blamed Eskom.

Later she learned there was no load shedding scheduled and, after a few calls, established a construction crew working in her road had cut the cable.

Frogfoot, she said, had told her City technicians were working on it and power should be restored within an hour.

However, six hours later there was still no power and she called Frogfoot again. Frogfoot, she said, had then pointed the finger at LinkAfrica, another licensed fibre network provider. However, LinkAfrica denied being responsible.

A call to the City’s electricity department shed no light on the problem, and Ms Naude was told “they were working on it”.

The power eventually came on 11 hours later but this was not the end of her woes with Frogfoot.

On Thursday February 21, her family arrived home, in two separate vehicles, to a dug-up driveway making it impossible to access the the house and garage.

She had earlier been told by Frogfoot that they would have her driveway restored by 1.30pm that day.

But that was not to be, and the family ended up parking their cars at Longbeach Mall and taking an Uber home.

Another resident, Monique Sham, who lives near the area where the fibre-optic cable reels are stored, said she was “horrified” by the lack of safety and planning by the contractor.

She said the heavy reels were delivered by rolling them off a truck and it was impossible for a few workmen to stop a reel that she estimated weighed at least a ton.

“Last week, one of the fibre reels rolled off the truck, down the hill, across the road, over the pavement and into our fence. I go numb to think what might have happened if anyone had been walking down the road at the time,” she said.

She said that far from that serving as a lesson for the contractors, the next day other workmen with a different foreman had arrived and had started to pull the reels off a truck just like they had done the day before.

“I rushed out there and told them to be careful, and they said they knew nothing about the previous day’s events,” she said.

Lorna Lavarello Smith said as excited as she was about getting fibre, Frogfoot had dug up a huge trench across their road and left no way for them to get out except to climb through the trench.

Frogfoot had then damaged their electricity cable and they were without power for 14 hours.

She said she had called Frogfoot, which had promised to call her back but had not done so.

“If this is the way they treat prospective customers, I would rather stay clear,” she said.

Frogfoot marketing specialist Kayleigh Rossler said a letter drop had been done for all residents in the valley ahead of the work.

She said all reinstatements of roads, pavements and driveways were inspected by Frogfoot consulting engineers and, upon completion, by the City.

Residents who are not happy with the reinstatement of pavements and driveways could contact Frogfoot, she said.

Regional manager of LinkAfrica, David Ashdown, said LinkAfrica had existing telecommunications infrastructure across the valley from Kalk Bay to Kommetjie, Noordhoek and Glencairn carrying services for the cellular network providers.

He said LinkAfrica was not responsible for any power outages in the valley and wherever possible it preferred to drill (mole) under paving or tar and would only trench as a last resort but
would close up trenches the same day.

* Ms Purchase said she apologised on behalf of the City for the water and power disruptions.

“We are desperately trying to get a better result in this much needed roll out of wi-fi to the far south,” she said.