Submitted by acohill on Thu, 12/21/2006 - 10:35
Much is being made in the media over the rising price of copper. It is apparently now cost effective to melt down pennies and nickels for the copper content, although the Federal government is about to outlaw that.
But there is no copper shortage in the world, and the world's largest copper reserve is right here in the United States. It is not the Kennecott copper mine in Utah, which is the world's largest open pit mine. In fact, these copper reserves are not even in the ground. There is hundreds of millions of pounds of copper hanging on telephone poles in the U.S., and much of it has already been abandoned. One problem communities face is a lack of pole space for community fiber. The problem has been exacerbated over the years because it has been cheaper for the phone companies to simply lash new copper cables to poles than to first take down old cables. It is very common in many areas to see as many as four or five phone cables lashed to poles, which effectively prevents anyone else from using that pole space, even if they have a joint use agreement in place.
As the price of copper rises, someone will figure out it is cheaper to mine copper on poles than to dig it out of the ground, and some of those old cables will finally start to come down. In fact, we may already have crossed the threshold where copper telecom cables cost more than fiber telecom cables. And there will never be a shortage of raw materials for fiber cable--it is made from purified sand.
In any "crisis," there is always an opportunity. The copper price "crisis" will not only create new business opportunities, it may help solve some difficult community broadband problems as well.
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