Water companies to deliver Gbit broadband over wet string

Warning: to avoid wasting your time, and since it is no longer April 1st, be aware that this was published as an April Fool joke. Please enjoy it but don’t take it seriously:

Optical fibre is sometimes laid in conventional cable form just like copper wires, but because the actual fibres are so light, they can be coated with a rough surfacing that lets them be blown through plastic ducts using compressed air (the plastic ducts are under 1cm diameter). The fibre wiggles its way to the far end, carried by the air flow. It is simply called ‘blown fibre’ and is used extensively where ducts can easily be laid.

The water industry obviously has huge experience in making smooth channels for water to flow through to every building in the land. Blown fibre technology can adapt to this. Several years ago, advised by future technology consultants Futurizon, research produced a soft furry coating that makes it easy to flush coated fibres down water pipes. The coating is based on sugar and has the consistency of candyfloss. The clever breakthrough was making it so that it lasts until installation is complete and then dissolves harmlessly away in less than an hour.  It is of course safe to drink the tap water even soon after installation.  The remaining problem was how to route the fibres when they come to a junction. The inspiration came from optically guided missiles, which have steerable nose cones, that allow the missile to be routed in the required direction just by rotating the cone. Adding a tiny reusable nose cone capsule to the head to the fibre, and knowing the architecture of the pipework, the fibre can be routed correctly at each junction.

A global consortium of water companies now plans to install nationwide fibre networks via the water supply via a company called Fallopior. The main offices and roll-outs will be in the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and the USA, all of which face issues of getting access to ultrafast broadband for rural areas and all of which have the carbon subsidy economics to make it work. The name of Fallopior presumably emerged because the system uses tubes for delivery and perhaps to try to tap into the female broadband market. At the home, a broadband ‘tap’ is installed that allows the fibre to emerge. Once the fibre is delivered and connected, it is pushed through a silicone plug that is pushed into the tap to completely seal it.

The fibre is routed all the way to the home by this means, and then the broadband tap is opened. A few litres of water later, and the fibre is delivered. It is far more environmentally friendly way of installing the fibre than digging up pavements and roads. The carbon savings and the selling of the associated credits are calculated to reduce the cost of installation to almost zero. This even works in remote areas since the carbon savings are of course far higher here too. The costs of the fibre are low enough to be absorbed into even a low rental agreement. Fallopior say that they can will offer 1Gb/s to any home even in the remotest parts of the country for as little as £5 per month, and this is easily enough to deliver all the high definition TV and internet a home.

Broadband providers have struggled with the economics of fibre to the home and many homes still have to suffer slow broadband, even though they pay far more than this, especially in the country. But all homes have a water supply, so this technology is perfectly adapted. Since the roll-out plans of the other UK providers are so sluggish, the water companies expect to seize massive market share almost overnight.

Some homes questioned about the potential service insisted they don’t want ultra-high speed broadband with the temptations it brings, and amazingly would prefer to have a slower service, even if it means they have to pay more to get less. Engineers have solved this one too. The coating allows very smooth thin nylon string to be coated temporarily and flushed down the pipes in the same way instead of fibre. Since the water keeps it lubricated, wear would be very low and it will only need replaced every 5 years. But that re-installation increases the cost to £7.50 per month.

Now to every nerd’s dream – just like two cans with string between them, this wet string will transmit high audio signals, 100KHz. With the phenomenal ability of today’s coding and compression schemes, this allows 3Mbit/s to be delivered, comparable with what many people receive today on their low speed broadband. Those questioned said they would be happier with this limit which lets them do basic internet access but not much else. It still competes extremely well on price with offerings from other providers so again Fallopior expect massive demand. In an emergency, when there is no electricity supply, a home-owner can still signal the emergency services by making a short series of tugs on the string. Simple Morse code SOS can easily be sent this way. 

A string plant in Cornwall has secretly been built in preparation and has stockpiled  over 100 million km of string. Others have been established on similar basis in the other consortium countries. As another carbon-subsidised activity, the UK site is attached to a 3MW wind turbine. This one looks a little unusual since the spinning motion of the blades is used directly via gears rather like a traditional windmill) to spin the string and power the machinery. String output therefore varies according to wind strength, hence the need to stockpile supplies. Nevertheless, the result is string that is entirely paid for via carbon subsidies. Location in remote Cornwall was chosen because of high winds and proximity to seaside resorts with easy access to local expertise from candyfloss experts. The late arrival of spring and hence the candyfloss market has meant that many were available and willing to assist on the project.

In spite of all the many benefits and promises of very low cost ultra-fast broadband, there is just one problem – as hinted by the unusual just-after-midnight timing of the press release by the Fallopior’s HQ in Auckland, New Zealand, and of course the company’s name.

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