To get a better idea this week, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai went down to a Louisiana bayou where a local company, Southern Light, was laying down some new fiber. In many cities, fiber gets strung up on telephone poles. But in many other places, companies have to dig up the ground. In this case, Southern Light needed to break out some heavy machinery.
Using a big drill, workers basically created a horizontal tunnel underground with a big pipe. That's the thing you see in the bottom left-hand corner here, connected to what looks like a Ditch Witch directional drill.
At the far side of the tunnel where the pipe emerged, the company attached the fiber optic cabling that eventually carries your Internet traffic. Then the pipe retracted, pulling the fiber back along the tunnel toward the digger.
In case you haven't already figured it out, "boring rig" doesn't mean a rig that puts you to sleep. It's the most important part of the job!
In essence, the process isn't much different from tying a thread to the end of a needle and pulling it back through a hole. But although it sounds simple, it's incredibly costly and time-consuming. We've laid millions of miles of fiber in America already, and even that isn't enough to satisfy our insatiable demand for data. As companies keep installing more fiber — perhaps thanks in part to legislation that some in Congress are working on — expect more of these scenes to play out all across the country.