Skip to main content

Fiber’s Sustainability Benefits Pay Short and Long-Term Dividends

Taking action to mitigate climate change plays a key role in corporate responsibility, with reductions in greenhouse gases leading to near-term reductions in operational expenses. Longer-term planning is also taken on to prevent and reduce impacts from weather extremes such as wildfires and hurricanes. Moving to an all-fiber network provides operators with a substantial tool for reducing emissions towards a net-zero goal that is better for the bottom line and the environment.
“The heart and soul of our network is certainly the network equipment that delivers our mission to connect our neighbors and our communities,” said Nadja Turek, PE, Sustainability Director, altafiber and Hawaiian Telcom. “Our network equipment and the power it takes to power that equipment is 56% of our carbon footprint. In addition to that, cooling our central offices and cooling the equipment is 20% of our footprint. Add those together, and 76% of our carbon footprint is the network equipment and cooling equipment.”
Turek said its legacy copper network makes up 48% of its greenhouse gas emissions, a chunk that altafiber and its subsidiary Hawaiian Telcom are working hard to shut down by migrating customers to its fiber network.

“It kind of slapped us in the face,” said Turek. “If we can get out of the business of operating as much of that legacy copper network as possible and continue to serve our clients on a better, faster fiber network, we can reduce our emissions associated with copper, [and] keep providing great connectivity and service to our neighbors and our communities.” 

Fiber’s sustainability benefits go beyond pure power savings, with copper wiring having an 85,000 times higher carbon footprint than fiber. Between its production and operation over its lifecycle, and with legacy copper being less durable than copper, fiber results in fewer interruptions, service calls, and truck rolls. Also, fiber is more easily recyclable being it is glass at the core.  

Climate change is requiring altafiber to assess weather extremes upon its facilities, with Hawaiian Telcom being particularly impacted both today and in the future. “One of the unique aspects of serving the state of Hawaii is that so much infrastructure is coastal,” said Turek. “We’ve been doing sea level rise risk analysis, climate risk analysis, looking at the effects, for example, of sea level rise on where our infrastructure is, of storm surge, inundation of coastal erosion. and doing a very scientific analysis of those clear and dramatic effects on our infrastructure and the infrastructure that affects the quality of life in the state of Hawaii.” 

Altafiber’s climate assessment mapping of Hawaii using publicly available data showed the highest wildfire risk around Lahaina. “It was fascinating to see how accurately that risk map correlated with where this terrible wildfire event occurred,” said Turek. “The data that’s out there is very good and really informative.”  

To learn more about altafiber’s game plan to reduce its carbon footprint to net zero by 2040 and the benefits it expects by doing so, listen to the latest Fiber for Breakfast podcast.