Interoute Uncovers Duct Squatters

You never know what you're going to find when you lift a manhole. Just ask European operator Interoute Telecommunications. A recent inspection of its ducts in London and Paris revealed not only its own fiber, but rogue cables belonging to other carriers.

In London the unannounced tenant was Colt Telecom Group plc (Nasdaq: COLT; London: CTM.L), while Interoute claims it found fiber in its Paris network belonging to two other unnamed carriers that had been laid without permission. Now Interoute is to conduct a full duct audit in both cities.

Colt admits the incursion, but says the London incident was a small and isolated incident that was the result of "human error." A spokeswoman confirms it's not Colt's policy to lay fiber in others' ducts without an agreement, and that this instance only involved a 50-meter stretch.

She adds that Colt wasn't one of the duct squatters in the sewers of Paris, where Interoute has now agreed on a settlement with the two unidentified perpetrators.

So who could these other manhole marauders be? Interoute's not naming them, but a list of the potential suspects would include not only local French network owners but some international operators that don't need their reputations tarnished any further.

Companies that have laid fiber in Paris include incumbent operator France Telecom SA (NYSE: FTE), French CLEC LDcom Group, Global Crossing, and WorldCom Inc.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Editor, Boardwatch

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