Former president Rafael Correa once commented that the backwardness of Latin America is manifested by the chaos of wires and cables on its utility poles. “Let’s join the civilized world!” he said. “Clean up the noodles!”
The public utility company, ETAPA, agrees and plans to “package” 29 kilometers of cables on its poles around Cuenca. “We don’t have control over all the wires but we can reorganize the ones that are ours, like those for internet, television and telephone service,” says Fabián Brito, ETAPA Telecommunications manager. “The visual pollution is a problem all over the city, except for Centro and newer subdivisions, where the utilities are underground.”
The “noodles,” Brito says, are the result of two issues, the first is the careless installation, the second is the fact that inactive cables are not removed. “The plan is to pull out the dead cables and bundle the ones that are active.”
According to Brito, identifying the functioning cables and eliminating inactive ones will be the biggest job. “Because of the mess, when utility workers make repairs they have trouble identifying the lines so they just run new cables and don’t remove the old ones,” he says. “As many as half the lines you see on the poles are abandoned but no one takes them down.”
He adds: “You see the same problem on buildings around the city. They are covered with cables, many no longer conncected and hanging loose. These are from discontinued accounts but no one comes to remove them.”
ETAPA is working with the regional electric provider, CentroSur, in the clean-up project. “We see the same mess that everyone else does so we want to fix it,” says Francisco Carrasco, CentroSur general manager. “It’s a type of pollution that ruins the beauty of our neighborhoods.”
Carrasco says CentroSur is moving to a system of underground cabling. “Not only does the approach remove wires from utility poles but it’s easier to make repairs and add new accounts. Although going underground costs more in the beginning, it pays off long-term in the reduction of maintenance costs.”
According to Brito, ETAPA has budgeted $100,000 for its cable clean-up but will invest more if necessary.