LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- A generation ago the people who built
and maintained America's digital plumbing often spent their days on
But with the wires within buildings multiplying and becoming as
important as the wires leading to the curb, many of the plumbers
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
Warmke said. …