Cockatoos peck $80,000 from nbn coffers

Peter Terlato 4 November 2017 NEWS

cockatoo power lines large

Technicians discovered eight towers where cockatoos have stripped back and destroyed around 200 cables.

Australia's native parrots, cockatoos, have been causing a surprising amount of damage to the National Broadband Network's power and fibre cables, already costing around $80,000 in repairs and replacements.

In a recent blog post, nbn revealed that it "used to be nut, fruit and cereal crops that were ravaged" but instead, the birds have developed a taste for cables strung from fixed-wireless towers across regional Australia.

The cockatoos aren't targeting live or active cables that are protected by a ribbed plastic casing. Rather, they're going after spare cables strung on the towers for future capacity needs. Because these cables are not active, there's no way to know whether or not they've been damaged until technicians inspect or upgrade them.

The infrastructure repairs already total approximately $80,000 and multiple network disruptions have occurred. Damaged power and fibre cables can reportedly cost up to $10,000 each to fix and replace.

Technicians discovered eight towers where cockatoos have stripped back and destroyed around 200 cables.

The cockatoos bite the cables to wear down and maintain the condition of their continually growing beaks.

"You wouldn't think it was possible, but these birds are unstoppable when in a swarm. I guess that's Australia for you; if the spiders and snakes don't get you, the cookies will," nbn build manager Chedryian Bresland said.

"We've been going back to our sites and discovering all this damage on the spare cables we had been hoping to use on our towers. They were damaged to the point of not being repairable, which has forced us to rip out the whole lot and completely re-run new fibre and power cables."

The cockatoos have managed to cause damage to Australia's regular telecommunications infrastructure too. Flocks of cockatoos have actually gnawed through stainless steel braid to get to telecommunications cables.

nbn has replaced the damaged cables and installed small UV-stable canisters on fixed-wireless towers that encases cable ends and ideally keeps them far out of reach from the clamorous flocks of native cockatoos.

The canisters – which cost just $14 – are also being installed at all new nbn fixed-wireless tower sites.

The high cost of NBN plans, connection delays and underwhelming network speeds of NBN services could lead to many Australians substituting their fixed-line connection for a mobile-only broadband service.

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