In the Texas Panhandle town of Tulia, the Mid-Plains Rural Telephone Coop built and currently operates a fiber network that offers high-speed internet, telephone and pay television services to its 2,534 customers.
“The take rate for high-speed internet is a very high 80 percent,” said Rick Hurt, Mid-Plains chief executive officer and general manager. “People want fiber.”
Ninety-nine percent of Mid-Plains’ outside fiber plant is underground, installed by vibratory plowing, horizontal directional drilling and trenching.
“We plow almost everything that is constructed,” Hurt said. “Plowing is so much faster and requires less cleanup compared to trenching. On most projects, directional boring is required to cross roadways, driveways and other areas.”
Mid-Plains splits construction between its own crews and subcontractors.
“Subcontractors usually are used on larger projects,” Hurt explained. “We recently awarded a contract to construct 59 miles of fiber in one of our 10 exchanges.”
Three construction crews made up of employees of Mid-Plains are responsible for installing fiber to the home (FTTH), as well as mainline or backbone construction. Mid-Plains has several pieces of Ditch Witch equipment including: a RT120 with backhoe, vibratory plow and trenching attachments; and a RT115 with backhoe and vibratory plow attachments.
“We have two directional boring units – a Ditch Witch JT2020 and a JT5,” Hurt said. “We use Subsite Electronics trackers with our drill units, and all of our crews are equipped with Subsite locators. We also have a SK755 mini skid-steer loader with several attachments.”
Mid-Plains has been using Ditch Witch equipment for more than 50 years.
“I personally have operated the equipment for over 15 years of my career here at Mid-Plains,” said Hurt. “Day in and day out, the Ditch Witch line of equipment performs beautifully. But I think the support after purchase from the local dealership, all the way back to the factory engineers, has been what’s most impressive.”