Fibre laying process stinks, says resident

James Ward of Welcome Gren, Simon’s Town, believes there is something not quite kosher in the fibre installation industry.

This after Frogfoot lifted his paving and dug a hole about
1.2 metres in diameter to put in fibre.

Mr Ward asked councillor Simon Leill-Cock for answers. “Frogfoot is putting fibre in Welcome Glen. The civils foreman of Gabula said the trench will run both sides of our cul-de-sac. I have some established trees, including a 12-year queen protea bush, which will probably die if they trench along this verge. What does the City say about trenching and trees tended by residents that are located in the road reserve? When will the fibre be active, and what is the monthly subscription for residents? There seems to be no information except a notification from Frogfoot that they will be implementing fibre.”

Mr Leill-Cock said the City was compelled by law to allow these companies to lay cabling in the road verges.

“If they need to remove mature vegetation they can. Chris Bonthuys from Parks will be able to provide more accurate information on this (Mr Bonthuys didn’t). Frogfoot is a private company so I don’t know what their business model is or when the fibre will be available,” said Mr Leill-Cock, who told Mr Ward that he sent the questions to the sub-council manager, Desiree Mentor. Ms Mentor didn’t reply to Mr Ward either.

Mr Ward said Frogfoot agreed “to worm past the tree”, and did not dig a trench.

“Ultimately I have no say about what happens immediately outside my house – even though I am a law-abiding ratepayer. We have a sidewalk in our road and wonder why this could not have been used, it needs re-tarring anyway. When I suggested they put it there, they said the City does not allow them to use the side walk. I was surprised as they dug up a section of the pavement along Glenhurst Road for fibre. When I got home after work I discovered that Frogfoot/Gabula lifted my paving and dug a hole about 1.2m in diameter. I was furious, especially as no one had told me that they would do it. They could have used the sidewalk, even the ‘moling’ contractor couldn’t say why they didn’t use the sidewalk,” Mr Ward said.

Frogfoot and their sub-contractors told Mr Ward that the installer had to pay a large amount of money to the council to do this.

“They only put in a 40mm conduit which is just enough for their fibre so Frogfoot will have the monopoly in our area, unless the council decides to allow another contractor to lay fibre (which they probably would because money is involved). As residents we would have to go through this major disruptive process all over again. I also understand that there is a ‘gentleman’s’ agreement among fibre providers on who gets what area geographically, which sounds like anti-competitive behaviour to me, “ Mr Ward said.

Clayton Faccio of Vumatel said that if one company is given a wayleave to complete the installation, it does not stop another company from applying for the same wayleave and getting approval to complete their fibre installation.

The fibre companies hold telecommunication network operator licences, which allow them to install their infrastructure within the road reserve – they are governed by the electronic communication act (ECA).

Mr Faccio confirmed that there is an understanding between Vumatel and Frogfoot that “whoever is the second to trench in the area will be responsible for the reinstatement of the area”.

But Vumatel has not done any work in Muizenberg or surrounding areas so Mr Faccio couldn’t comment.

“Vumatel and Frogfoot both hold a telecommunications licence and have worked independently,” said Mr Faccio, referring specifically to Table View where the chairman of a sectional title complex has been waiting for Frogfoot since before December last year, to restore the area, to no avail, at the time of writing.

Felicity Purchase, mayoral committee member for transport, said the council only charges an administration fee to process the application. “Applicants are also required to lodge a monetary guarantee as surety for any damages caused to the City’s infrastructure during the installation process. Apart from the administration fee, we do not derive any revenue from the fibre installation,” Ms Purchase said.

The fibre provider owns the conduit and the City does not prescribe the size of infrastructure to suppliers.

“In terms of ECA we cannot stop a supplier from installing their services in the road reserve. We have developed minimum standards which governs all fibre providers’ activities. Senior officials from Plumstead authorise the fibre installations in the south,” said Ms Purchase.

If requests to the fibre provider do not resolve the matter, “the resident can report it to Plumstead’s transport department so we can take the necessary action”.

That doesn’t happen as easily as Ms Purchase would have us believe. Perhaps she or the sub-council chair should try to contact the service provider and then ask the relevant person in the department to enforce the City’s regulations.

Said Mr Ward: “While the council only charges an administrative fee, it is concerning that they don’t say how much it is. Referring to the gentleman’s agreement being an understanding, it works well in a supplier/ customer relationship, but among competitors it sounds a lot like collusion? After my discussion with Frogfoot, I know that any fibre company can lay fibre based on a successful application, the problem is that by council not stipulating that the conduit can facilitate at least two or more fibre companies, it gives the monopoly to the first fibre company. Residents would also be hesitant to go through this major upheaval again.”