Computer Networks' Spread Keeps Cable Installers Busy

Article excerpt

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- A generation ago the people who built and maintained America's digital plumbing often spent their days on telephone poles.

But with the wires within buildings multiplying and becoming as important as the wires leading to the curb, many of the plumbers have moved indoors, trading their bright orange telephone testers for handheld digital crosstalk and delay skew analyzers.

Some of them may have to wear ties to work more often than they would like, but as more than 2,000 of the people who make their livings installing the copper and glass strands that connect electronic devices met at Walt Disney World earlier this year, they basked in the explosion of demand for information services and technology. "In our newsletter, we generally run about four pages of positions available and one or two people who are looking for work," said Jay Warmke, executive director of Building Industry Consulting Service International Inc., a nonprofit cablers group that sponsored the conference. "It's just a huge disparity. We're rewiring the whole world here." According to Electronicast, a market research firm in San Mateo, Calif., North American spending on cables and connectors for individual enterprises (as opposed to national telephone networks, for instance) increased from $765 million in 1993 to $1.2 billion last year, and will leap to $2.7 billion by 2003. And all of those cables and connectors must be installed. U.S.News & World Report recently listed "commercial-wiring specialist" as one of its best jobs for the future. The most obvious reasons for the bonanza have been the emergence of the Internet and computer users' never-ending need for speed in their local-area networks. One of the latest developments is a sort of network known as 100-megabit Ethernet, which can relay information over copper wires as quickly as 1,500 standard telephone lines. "What we see happening is local-area networks are becoming the lifeblood of everyone's life, whether individually or as a corporation," said Tony Beam, director of systems marketing for Harrisburg, Pa.-based AMP Inc., a big maker of electrical connectors and switches. "There's more people using it, and using it for more things. So the bandwidth for the infrastructure is growing by leaps and bounds, and this is causing cabling to get more attention within corporations, at the CEO and CIO-type levels," he added, using the business world's acronyms for "chief executive officer" and "chief information officer." But that attention is not being paid often enough, Warmke said. Call it oversight or call it a lack of respect. Either way, office buildings are still sometimes raised or renovated without input from cablers, who must then install voice and data networks. "Space considerations are a tremendous problem when an architect is designing a building but physically has not left enough room for the equipment that is going to be required to service that building," Warmke said. …

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