Practice Makes Perfect

Broadband Installer Eric Thompson

Originally published December 22, 2014

Ever wondered what it takes to be a broadband installer? It’s a yearlong process to master the ins and outs of the job. Only practice makes perfect.

At the entrance to a crawl space, Eric Thompson puts on his blue crawl suit. His mission: to replace a faulty cable splitter somewhere under the house. He pulls a protective mask over his mouth and nose.

Thompson has been an installer for BendBroadband for almost a year.

The old adage “practice makes perfect” guides BendBroadband’s installation department. We want to be sure everything is perfect when our installers are done.

As technology becomes more complicated, so does the training, BendBroadband Field Operations Manager Brad Logan said.

“When I started as a contractor in 1987, training was two weeks,” Logan said. “I rode along with an experienced installer who showed me the ropes. After that, they gave me a test, the tools, and I was off.”

With the increasing change to technology, the two-week session of hands-on training is long gone. Today it takes a year before a broadband installer can say with confidence that he or she knows the job.

The first 10 weeks of training consist of classroom studies, hands-on training and ride-alongs with seasoned colleagues. It’s part of the industry-standard Society of Cable Telecommunication Engineers training program.

“It’s a robust and intensive training program,” Logan said. “There is a series of progressions that the installer has to go through in order to meet different certifications.”

Throughout the training sessions, Thompson is introduced to the “broadband simulator.” Like a pilot, he takes on a series of simulations in which his teacher can throw all kinds of strange problems at him.

“We have everything set up to simulate what an installer may come up against when they’re out on a job,” said Tim Reams, field operations training coordinator. “I can put up an old crummy splitter along the cable in order to mess with the signal.”

The hands-on training doesn’t stop with the simulator room. At the training area at
BendBroadband’s warehouse at Nels Anderson Road, new installers are taught how to scale cable poles or fix a faulty cable drop, the cable hanging from the pole to the house.

After 10 weeks of intensive training, Thompson is ready to start installing cable.
“I was bit anxious the first couple of weeks in the field, but once I got the hang of it, and realized that this is what I have been training for, it’s really wasn’t that daunting,” Thompson said.

A large part of Thompson’s job is understanding what happens to a signal when it travels from BendBroadband’s main office on Sherman Road to the cable outlets in homes. With today’s advanced technology, the signal has to be perfect when it reaches each house.

One of the most important tools in Thompson’s collection is the signal strength meter.

“The first thing I do is to hook up the meter to the cable outside the home to make sure they have a strong signal,” Thompson said. “Once I’m inside the house, I keep checking the signal and make any changes needed.”

Thompson checks his crawl suit before climbing into the crawl space under the house in search for the faulty splitter.

“Our installers are always at risk,” Reams says. “They are working around homes, in construction environments and under homes. We put our installers through electrical safety training, teach them how to work in confined spaces and even how to work around hazardous material.”

Hence the crawl suit, must-have safety equipment when accessing coaxial cable under a house.

The faulty splitter replaced, Thompson emerges from the crawl space. He pulls off his crawl suit and checks the signal again. The signal is now coming in strong. Thompson signs off and prepares to take on the next assignment.