Today I came across an article from Broadband Communities Magazine‘s May/June 2016 issue that provides such a simple and useful technique for obtaining rough cost estimates for fiber extensions that I couldn’t pass up summarizing it!
Jason Longenecker, of New Light Technologies (which, full disclosure, is the editor of the Utility LINE blog), has developed a do-it-yourself (DIY) process using Google My Maps that can help community broadband providers to provide rough cost estimates to customers, or groups of customers, that call up asking when high-speed fiber will reach them – and at what cost. The full article, “DIY Fiber Mapping,” provides many helpful details on using Google My Maps that I’ll overlook in this post.
It’s a straightforward, six step process:
- Select a mapping tool: Longenecker walks the reader through the process using Google My Maps, but ESRI ArcGIS, QGIS, or Google Earth Pro will also suffice.
- Define and map existing access points: You might have a lot of service addresses, so start simply, “by organizing a list of critical infrastructure locations.” Use a spreadsheet (like Microsoft Excel) to create a table with a record for every location you wish to track (and be sure to input all address information!). Use the spreadsheet to populate a map of critical infrastructure locations in Google My Maps.
- Define and map problem areas: Avoid expensive routes (such as underground routes) by asking senior outside-plant engineers with local knowledge to help identify problem areas, then mark them with polygons in the new map layers.
- Define and map strategic areas: These could be high-density commercial buildings, revitalization corridors, new construction projects… you name it. Create a map layer for these strategic areas.
- Map a route: Now, when a potential customer – or group of them – calls to request service, you can map a route from an existing access point to the proposed service address, avoiding problem areas and potentially routing through strategic areas.
- Use route distances: Use measured route distances to populate a bill of materials (BOM), “or simply multiply the distances by an average cost per foot.” This gives you “the first steps toward qualifying leads faster and allowing your limited technical resources to focus on viable opportunities.”
In short, though there are six steps, and you’ll need to learn how to create data layers in Google My Maps, you’ve essentially created three data layers: Access points, problem areas, and strategic areas. You stack these, and you can start envisioning and estimating costs of route options to new customers.
Now go forth and lay fiber!