Pulse uses boring for fiber broadband build, but trials micro-trenching

The city of Loveland, Colorado, created a municipal broadband business in 2018 that aims to pass all 38,000 homes in the city and provide competition against the local incumbents, including Xfinity and CenturyLink. Pulse is a unit of the city’s Water and Power Department.

Pulse mainly uses the technique of boring to lay its fiber, but it has tested micro-trenching, as well.

At the Fiber Connect 2022 conference in Nashville, Tennessee, a couple of weeks ago the topic of micro-trenching came up a few times.

Ryan Smith, engineering manager with Pulse, said, “We’re typically boring; we’re not trenching generally. The trenching is kind of a complement to the boring.”

He said boring is more “aesthetically pleasing” and results in less customer complaints.

Early in its planning and design phase, Pulse decided it made the most sense to bore through front yards to lay the fiber. “Our city is built in such a way the electric is underground,” said Smith. “We rarely have backlot easements. We rarely have overhead lines.” He said boring is also nice because it gets the conduit in the ground to future proof the system.

Because Pulse is part of the city of Loveland, it has easy access to the city’s other utilities as well as its GIS department, which maintains all the maps for water and electric.

Smith said Pulse typically bores for its fiber shallower than where the electric utilities are located.


Pulse has done a pilot project, using micro-trenching in the historic alleys of downtown Loveland. It used a subcontractor that had the micro-trenching equipment. Smith said the company wanted to prove the concept but will only use the technology sparingly. “We luckily found we only needed it very seldom,” said Smith. “We’re not doing an extensive project with it.”

His main objection to micro-trenching is just that it is an “add-on expense.” He also noted that the backfill that goes into the micro-trench was not a perfect match to the historic-alleyway look.

Speaking on a panel at Fiber Connect, the General Manager of Google Fiber’s West Region
Ashley Church said, “One way Google Fiber is able to serve more communities is shallow trenching. It’s more cost effective. It’s faster and less disruptive. It lowers the risk of utility strikes. It’s helped us unlock that total addressable market.”

In Saratoga Springs, New York, SI Networks is using micro-trenching extensively. One of the reasons it cited for using the technology was to protect trees. 

Smith said that in his experience boring doesn’t kill trees. He said the boring is fairly small, and if it hits a tree root it just bores straight through without impacting a significant percentage of the root base.

Municipal broadband

Pulse started its project in 2018 and expects to complete it in late 2023.

Although it’s part of the city, it doesn’t take any tax money. Its capital funding is coming from a bond, leveraged off the city’s electric utility. And it will survive on revenues from its subscriptions.

Pulse offers residential broadband service and voice starting at about $70.00 per month, according to its website.

The company already has over 4,000 subscribers, and it expects to triple that number as it grows.