Avoid shooting at power lines, Firefly Broadband officials caution

Published 1:36 pm Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Please avoid shooting at power lines. That was the request issued Friday, Nov. 17 by Firefly Fiber Broadband, in the wake of several incidents already this fall. Actually, this was more than a request. It was the answer to a question The Dispatch has asked a couple times over the last month, as to what was disrupting internet and phone service. 

In multiple incidents, Firefly officials said hunters attempted to shoot doves perched on or near a power line. They missed, hitting the fiber optic casing instead. During the first segment of dove season, which ran from Sept. 2 to Oct. 22, Firefly officials say their fiber optic cable was damaged not just here in Lunenburg but in Appomattox, Buckingham, Cumberland, Powhatan and parts of Prince Edward counties. 

The problem is that the new fiber optic cables were set up on electric poles, running adjacent to and underneath the electric lines. The actual optical fibers are protected by glass tubing, which shatters on impact when shot and disrupts both internet and phone. And so, as the second segment of dove season opened on Saturday, Nov. 18, Firefly officials are asking hunters to avoid targeting the lines. 

Firefly CEO Gary Wood says he understands this is a new thing that hunters have to adjust to. But every time one of these casings get hit, you run the risk of internet in the area going down for hours while the problem gets fixed. 

“Damage to fiber during dove hunting season is a new phenomenon for Firefly and for local hunters,” Wood said. “These folks have been hunting the same land for years and rarely caused damage by shooting at doves on the power lines. However, now there is fiber just beneath the power lines that is susceptible to birdshot.”

Shooting at power lines is illegal 

Now there’s one more problem to mention. Technically, the act itself is illegal. By that, we mean shooting at power lines can lead to charges. Section 8, Article 18.2-153 of the Virginia Code states that any injury or damage done to “any lines of any electric power company” can lead to Class 6 felony charges. That means hunters simply aiming at a bird and missing, as the Code includes incidents “committed unlawfully, but not maliciously.” 

The second segment of dove season runs through Sunday, Nov. 26. The third segment this year starts on Dec. 22 and runs through Jan. 20, 2024.