Not only does fiber offer the fastest speeds on the market, but it is also a greener Internet solution. Fiber has a minimal ecological impact, reduces waste, consumes very little energy and helps decrease greenhouse gas emissions. With Earth Day just around the corner, OTELCO wanted to highlight the environmental benefits of fiber optic Internet.
Reduces the Demand for Copper
DSL and cable Internet, fiber’s top alternatives, use copper wire to transmit data. Copper mining is harmful to the environment and dangerous. It produces hazardous chemicals and toxic byproducts. According to the University of West Virginia, “the environmental consequences of the [copper] mining process are substantial and have both acute and chronic effects on the geography, water, vegetation and biological life in the surrounding areas.”
Acid rain, caused by Sulfur Dioxide emitted into the environment from copper mining, can destroy crops, forests, and buildings for miles. Mining also results in deforestation and habitat destruction. At a minimum, this forces animals to leave their homes, and at its worse can prove fatal. GreenSpec found that copper mining can also result in the poisoning of animals “by mine products and residuals.”
Lastly, mining of any sort has proved dangerous to workers for eons. Remember in 2010, when 33 miners found themselves trapped in a Chilean mine? Not to mention the lasting health effects caused by mining, which can range from tuberculosis to lung cancer.
Unlike its copper counterparts, fiber production doesn’t have a large ecological impact. Corning Inc., a leading provider of fiber optic technologies, claims that “the mining required to provide two kilograms of copper wire (roughly the amount you would need for a 200-foot length of copper cable) translates into about 1,000 kilograms of environmental impact. The creation of that same length of fiber requires only about .06 of a kilogram of environmental impact.”
The optical fibers that make up fiber networks are primarily made of glass, which is created out of Silicon Dioxide (SiO2). Silicon is one of the most common elements found on earth, second only to Oxygen. SiO2 naturally occurs in sand, clay, rocks, and even water. Extraction doesn’t cause harmful byproducts and production is not detrimental to the environment
A Lasting Solution
Fiber is more sustainable to natural elements, especially electrical storms which often take down whole networks. That hardiness means it doesn’t have to be repaired as often as its wireless, DSL, and co-axial alternatives. In fact, Verizon found their repair rate drop by fifty percent in all fiber neighborhoods.
Fiber is already ahead of its time, so updates to networks are rare and in between. As OTELCO is fond of saying, fiber Internet is a future proof solution. We aren’t alone in that mindset though, Cabling experts have determined that due to fiber’s superior bandwidth capabilities, once it is built out it can stay put for more than twenty-five years. What do fewer repairs and updates mean for the environment? They mean fewer trucks being sent out for repairs, and less materials wasted, damaged, or in need of proposal.
Less Energy Consumption
Fiber uses up to twelve times less energy than copper by transmitting data using light. This light technology allows fiber to use under 1 watt to send data over 300 meters, compared to the 3.5 watts consumed by coaxial cables to carry data a mere 100 meters.
Energy creates heat, so networks must be kept cool on the backend to prevent overheating. Cooling is accomplished with air conditioners, which consume a ton of electricity (on average, 3000 to 5000 watts an hour). By consuming less energy, fiber networks stay cooler and reduce the need for energy-sucking air conditioners.
Greenhouse Gas Reduction
The main benefit of using less electricity is reducing carbon dioxide emissions. As many know, CO2 is a contributor to the Greenhouse Effect, which is warming the earth at an alarming rate. When we use energy efficient solutions, like fiber optic Internet, we reduce the number of greenhouse gasses being released into the atmosphere. The American Consumer estimated that widespread adoption of fiber internet could result in “incremental reduction of more than 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions over ten years.”
Another way fiber optic Internet can reduce greenhouse gas emission is through telecommuting. The environmental pay off of telecommuting is enormous. According to Global Workplace Analytics, if everyone who had a desire to work from home telecommuted just half the time, the reduction of greenhouses gasses would be equivalent of taking the entire New York State workforce off the road forever.
Unfortunately, insufficient broadband makes telecommuting a challenge. To efficiently telecommute you need an Internet connection that allows you to upload and download content from the Internet at a sufficient rate. Copper upload speeds are often in the signal digits, but fiber offers symmetrical speeds, so you can upload your work just as quickly as you would download it. With a fast and reliable fiber connection, telecommuting can be easier than ever.
For OTELCO, investing in a greener Internet solution like fiber is an obvious choice. As a rurally based company, surrounded by natural beauty, being environmentally conscious is important to us. Our network goes through forests, up mountains, and around lakes, and with every ecosystem we enter we strive to find the least disruptive solution. Fiber offers us that solution while also benefitting our customers and the communities we serve.