Coherence After Turbulence: Coherent Links for Hurricane Relief in the Sunshine State (2023)

By Venk Mutalik, Comcast; Amarildo Vieira, Principal Optical Engineer; Dan Rice, Vice President; Eric Moore, Engineer; John Chrostowski, Executive Director; Scott Wood, Engineer; Elad Nafshi, Chief Network Officer

Travel sites are filled with glowing reviews of Sanibel and Captiva Islands on the West Coast of Florida, just south of Fort Myers. Home to the famed J.N ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island is connected to the mainland via the Sanibel Causeway, its lifeline to the mainland [1]. So powerful was Hurricane Ian that when it made landfall in late September of 2022 the winds and storm surge that followed collapsed the Causeway. With it, communication lines between Sanibel Island and the mainland were also cut. Of course, widespread destruction on the Island also destroyed much of the infrastructure. Most heartbreaking of all, the human toll approached 150 lives, with nearly half of those in Lee County alone [2]. With sustained winds approaching 155 mph, the winds and storm surge caused by Hurricane Ian caused parts of Florida to be without power for weeks. Cleanup took even longer. During this time, it was all hands-on deck at Comcast, as Comcast focused on restoring connectivity to locations impacted by the storm. This paper is a case study of our efforts to provide connectivity to Sanibel Island in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. After initial rescue efforts, power restoration, and cleanup were in full swing, it became clear that connectivity to the region was just as important as well. With respect to Sanibel Island, an initial survey of fiber infrastructure showed limited accessibility from the mainland to the island, but that the secondary site on the island could be brought up with backup power. To conserve limited fiber and available critical infrastructure, Coherent optics were used to light up the trunk link and bring up the nodes one by one with backup power, thus, restoring connectivity to affected customers as quickly as possible. This paper will focus on innovative technologies dep

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