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Google Fiber Broke My Sprinkler System

We got Google Fiber installed a couple weeks ago, shortly after it became available in the neighborhood. It has been great. There’s still some construction going on at the mouth of my neighborhood and it has caused one overnight outage… But that’s understandable.

What’s not understandable is why my sprinkler system stopped working at about the same time they installed the fiber…

Ok - so I can guess what happened. The fiber trench was run, then a few days later the sprinkler system was scheduled to run, but it did not. The trench for the fiber runs up to the house right next to where the sprinkler system control lines run into the ground. The trench crosses an area where the lines must run from the front into the backyard.

There are two options:

  1. The sprinkler system broke independent of the fiber install, and the timing was coincidental.
  2. The trencher cut some of the control cables for the sprinkler system.

Given the state of the wiring in my neighborhood, I’m guessing it’s number 2.

A cable running across a path

This looks fine!

A cable running across a path, about an inch up

Just high enough off the ground…

These lines have been running across the path here for a few weeks now. It seemed like they’d come back the next day, after re-running this cable for one of the neighbors, but they haven’t bothered. I’ll assume someone just forgot to enter another work order.

My guess was validated.

Multiple wires in the ground alongside a fiber optic cable run, two wires have tape wrapped around part

Tape is no way to splice wires in the ground

Digging carefully along the trench revealed the situation shown above. This looks like someone cut the wires with a trencher then tried to stick them back together. Someone who has no idea what they’re doing.

Pulling the tape off the wires in the ground

Let’s get this tape off

This was almost certainly my problem, so I pulled all the tape off. Playing with the wires, holding them taught then releasing them for instance, caused the sprinkler system to work occasionally. I was getting warmer.

The ground wire just looped together

That’s no way to keep a circuit going

The hot wire looped around a figure 8 wire, loosely

That figure 8 wire looks like a piece of junk from the truck, just stuck in there for fun

These wires would never have worked long term. Water has gotten in here and screwed them up anyway.

I pulled everything apart, soldered the wires back together, then heat-shrink wrapped the result.

The wires soldered together then heat-shrink wrapped

I still didn’t do a great job here, but much better than before

This fix is working, hopefully it’ll last for a while. I wish I’d had a splice block or something to hold these wires together better than solder. Solder works great for circuit boards, but for holding two random wires together it often isn’t mechanically strong enough. I tried to overdue it a bit on these. Plus, the lines are looped around each other and crimped a bit to give some more mechanical strength. The heat shrink tubing is the smallest I had that would fit, but is still a little too large. Oh well.

A professional that’s trenching and running cable should have the tools and knowledge to make a better fix than I can. This person made only the most amateur fix possible. It’s aggravating that this person is probably doing something similar to other folks’ yards, and maybe they’re not realizing the connection to the Google Fiber trench. Maybe it’s days or weeks before their sprinklers act up, or their phones act up…

It’s even more aggravating that this guy left a tripping hazard on our sidewalk. This neighborhood is mostly older folks and Winter is Coming.

Update - 19 Nov 2021

The fiber cable is buried now in the sidewalk.

Update - now buried…

As of today the fiber line is buried below the sidewalk now. No more trip hazard. Back on the 7th I tweeted this at the Google Fiber tweet helpdesk. They steered me to a form to fill in and a number to call. I filled in the form that night. Then I hadn’t heard anything, and called on maybe the 9th. Specifically I got in touch with the Google Fiber infrastructure install team. They took the report and - while it still took over a week - the problem did get fixed.