Contractors installing a fibre optics network in Tzaneen, have managed to step on the toes of residents in some of the neighbourhoods.

Tzaneen’s homeowners are up in arms over the network of fibre optic cable trenches that have destroyed pavements in certain neighbourhoods around town the past week. Many took to social media to air their frustrations which resulted in the establishment of a WhatsApp group where residents can log official complaints and have them rectified immediately by the contractors responsible. So far, the quick response on this platform from the contractor supervisors have been promising.

Bulletin did some investigating and disco -vered that there is in fact more than one company doing the digs, and for similar yet decidedly different reasons. In the long run however, the installation of a fibre optic network in Tzaneen will be to the benefit of every resident, albeit right now, the rose does have its thorns.

The green and yellow nets noticeable in Premier and Arbor Park neighbourhoods indicate the presence of a Cape Town based fibre optics network installer, Frog Foot. We spoke to Frikkie Basson, the site supervisor for the company. “We are not an internet service provider, we are installing a fibre optic network which will eventually lead to every home in Tzaneen having access to a fibre optic connection point. Various internet service providers such as Vodacom and MTN will use our network to connect their customers and provide them with high speed internet connectivity.”

Local labour is employed in the form of sub-contractors which serves to create jobs in a time where unemployment is at an all-time high and serves as a means to educate the locals around this new technology. “This means that we will be able to physically show the workers the cable and explain to them that it contains no copper. This should eliminate concerns that have been raised around cable theft and an increase in criminal activity in neighbourhoods because of the presence of these networks. It also constitutes skills and knowledge transfer.”

In this past week some residents voiced concern over the sub-contractor’s workers urina -ting in public and peering over the walls into their homes. Concerns over the destruction of pavements have also been raised. All of these were addressed by the contractor involved, and the representatives of the municipality, who requested that residents communicate any concerns with them to receive immediate attention.

Frikkie Basson can be contacted on 064 517 2691, Dirk Grobler on 068 020 7630 and Willem Matthysen can be reached on 076 539 8915.
Prior to their digging operations, all companies reportedly have an extensive strategy and “box checking” planning session with the local municipality. Once the “okay” is given, the work commences.

According to Frog Foot, the work in Arbor Park and Premier Park should be completed within the next two months, weather permitting. They work closely with the GTM maintenance teams to ensure that as little as possible interruptions are caused to neighbourhoods.

“In total, we are installing a trunking network of around 100 kilometres in which the fibre optic cables will buried before we close up the trenches again. We also will not lift your paving or damage your driveway if we do not need to. We dig our trench on both sides of your driveway and use a special horizontal drill to bore from one side to the other. If we have no other way but to go through your driveway, we will first contact you personally to make arrangements.”

What concerns residents most, however, is the fact that four service providers are planning on installing fibre optic cable networks in Tzaneen. “Will every one of them come and dig a new trench once the other one is finished?” is the concern most often raised. So far, the answer we received is “yes” and “no”.

According to our information, some of the service providers have taken hands and agreed to use the same trenches to lay their networks beside one another. In areas where this is not possible, contractors will dig their own trenches. Two other companies have adopted a strategy where they install their cables above ground, like telephone poles, in areas where digging is not possible.

Residents expressed their dismay at the complete destruction of their plants and lawns on the pavements in front of their homes. Though these pavements are municipal property, homeowners are enraged as some have had very expensive Clivia’s and irrigation systems damaged and destroyed, and in the area next to Minitzani Park, a waterpipe was struck twice in one week causing households in those areas to be without water for an entire day. In a communication to one resident, Dirk Grobler said “all irrigation pipes damaged will be repaired according to spec and all plants damaged will be replaced. Still in this week.”

A Wild Fig tree in Maroela Street now stands in the way of the trench diggers and residents in that neighbourhood have banded together in an effort to save the tree which according to them has been planted at that spot many decades ago. At the time of going to print yesterday, negotiations were still underway.



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