Squirrels Do 17% of the Damage to Fiber Optic Network

Level 3 Communications, a fiber network company with 84,000 miles of cable, comes clean about the real danger to its business

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Among the enemies of the future, we should count the common squirrel. According to Level 3 Communications, which maintains an 84,000-mile fiber network, the cute rodents do 17 percent of the damage to their fiber optic network.

Fred Lawler, a company vice president who "is passionate about fiber protection," wrote about the "furry little nut eater" problem in a blog post for Level 3.

Of all the animals in the whole world, almost all of our animal damage comes from this furry little nut eater. Squirrel chews account for a whopping 17% of our damages so far this year! But let me add that it is down from 28% just last year and it continues to decrease since we added cable guards to our plant. Honestly, I don't understand what the big attraction is or why they feel compelled to gnaw through cables. Our guys in the field have given this some thought and jokingly suspect the cable manufacturers of using peanut oil in the sheathing. If you have any new ideas on how we can combat these wayward rodents, I'd love to hear from you. We are always looking for ways to improve.

First of all, let's stipulate that this is ridiculous.

Ok, now, what could be causing squirrels among all rodents to go after these cables? In 2001, a repairman suggested it was the grease used in the sheathing. A 1989 patent suggests "chewing on objects which are tough in composition is necessary to prevent [rodents] ever-growing incisor teeth from overgrowing." Lawler himself suggested peanut oil.

Someone must have looked into this, no? Hasn't some animal behaviorist picked up some grant money to do some simple testing?

Image: Reuters photoshopped with horsepunchkid/Flickr. Via @rsingel.

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