Reader’s Letters


If you’re a regular reader of Don McCarty’s OSP EXPERT monthly column in OSP magazine, you learned in our July 2015 issue that Don’s been in the column-writing biz for 30 years now — and an OSP expert in the ICT industry for more than 40 years. During this time he’s gained a lot of followers, and a lot of pen pals. Recently, Don sent to us some of his fan mail — and we thought you’d like to read these letters, too. Enjoy! (And do let Don know what you think: You can contact him at 831.818.3930
Karen Adolphson, OSP Magazine

January 2000 – Subjects To Be Seen
Don McCarty voices the concerns, problems and “Just make it work!” attitudes that field technicians like myself are facing today. Instead of finding and fixing our problems with our OSP we are pushed to do X number of jobs per day and hope they don’t repeat for X number of days. New Techs are told to improve while their training comes haphazardly at best, while the bean counters with no field experience still decide OSP policy and practices.

I’ve copied just about every column on Outside Plant magazine that Don has written that pertains to I/R. These columns will be passed to my fellow Techs! Hopefully we can overcome the overall short sights in Telco provisioning (at least in my service area!).

Please keep up the articles, especially on field problems and troubleshooting plant!

K.M., Southwestern Bell Telephone

July 2002 – A Glimmer of Hope
Don –
Right on. I like your column “A Glimmer of Hope for ILECs”. As you point out, the biggest problem is that Congress has tried to MANDATE competition. It hasn’t worked.

I think there are two other contributors to the problem. The first is technology — not the lack thereof, but rather the great capabilities. If a single strand of fiber can carry every telephone conversation in Florida, and the engineers decide that isn’t enough, and go for dense wavelength division multiplexing, and now can carry every telephone conversation in the country on one strand (or, as Wall Street Journal put it, every issue of the WSJ ever printed could be transmitted on one strand in less than one second), then we have gone unnecessarily far. No wonder Corning is hurting, and that our fiber capacity is only 10% utilized.

The second problem is an emotional one. I call it a solution in search of a problem. We got it; now what do we do with it? The techies have all sorts of answers, but the common folk take longer to pick up on it. Hence although there is plenty of DSL and Cable Modems, we are still predominantly a dial-up society.

Finally, you are right. Competition is okay, but we should let it happen, not make it happen.
The Late Bob Stoffels, OSP columnist (d. May 2015)

August 2004 – Competition: Its Impact on OSP Pros
Mr. McCarty,
I just finished reading your article. I found it to be a great piece of Telco literature. As a first line supervisor, I have preached the same content to the craft team in my charge and the management team in charge of me. We have reaped great rewards from this attitude by sowing the seeds of proactive cable maintenance. I have found the craft folks to be receptive to this issue. I have found the management to be a little tougher sell on the subject. The reason is quantifying the cost savings. Accountant-driven minds find it hard to put it all on paper to show the reward. Nonetheless, we will continue to do the right things right and find a way to balance the external pressures. Thanks for your article. If there were a telephone god, this article would surely be the first of the Ten Commandments.

R.H., Ozark, Missouri

January 2015 – The Perfect Test Set
I chuckled while reading your section in the OSP Jan 2015 Issue. This is my 40th year in the business (I am a little younger than you), but cut my teeth on the Delcon and Rycom gear (yes, Rycom was more than a chock block). Then that great day came when I was assigned three new yellow boxes — a 710, 735 and 573A w/A frame. Life was never the same again!

Over the years a lot of new sets came along, but I’ve always said if you could find the “perfect” test set with every feature desired, you couldn’t afford it! It would cost too much and the company would buy a lower cost unit with fewer features.

Joining the vendor community a dozen years ago (after career with GTE Florida and GTE/VZ HQ assignments), we still sell Halcyon instruments for analog & digital circuits. With over 100,000 Halcyons sold, the latest generation is just as simple to operate as the 35-year old units we still see in the field. Since we test circuits rather than wire, other test sets are still required for copper testing, but business is still very strong. In fact, it has seen an uptick in the past few years, as older special services techs retired, leaving SS to the POTS crews. So, a lot of my time is invested in phone support teaching a new generation of techs how to balance a hybrid, perform a wide range of older analog tests such as jitter, attenuation distortion, amplitude distortion, return loss, envelope delay, etc., etc. The resurgence is caused by customers that convert to IP-based (VoIP) CPE…this stuff just does not work well when the customer is close to the CO. Sometimes it is too much loop current, saturating their line cards, other times it is too much signal (signal levels too “hot”), splattering the CODEC. And yes, there are still 56kbps digital data circuits and millions of T1 circuits still in use.

As an instructor, I’m sure you see this every day, but I am on sites every week where the technician can test an OC192 optical connection, but cannot perform a simple T1 test. In other words, this “perfect test set” that can perform RFL on copper pairs and other wire-centric tests can also test all the way up to OC192. Trouble is, it takes two PHd’s and three hours to work through pages of menus to do simple tests!

Oh, for the return of the three yellow boxes!
D.B., Tescom

July 2015
Dear Don,
I wanted to thank you for all the information I have gotten by reading your columns over the years.

My interest in telephony began when I was about 12 years old and found some electrical/electronic industry magazines. What a surprise to learn they were free to “qualified subscribers” which I assumed included 12-year-old boys; so I became a consultant to the “Products and Processes Development Corporation.” Loved reading every issue, but being that young it was tough reading. Reading those magazines at that age made me very sensitive to writers who filled articles with technobabble compared to authors that could really communicate. Thank you for your clear and concise style!

About that time I also started reading BSPs. I have never formerly worked in the telephone industry, but during high school (late 1950s) and college I maintained a private telephone system on a 1,100 acre summer camp in upstate NY; single-circuit party-line with beautiful wood phone cases (local battery, magnetos). One day a Chenago & Unadilla line crew showed up and installed two runs of C rural wire down the one-mile-long camp road; the next day a truck dropped off a large box containing 300 sets with the base extension that allowed a magneto to be installed in the phone. Rumor was that the daughter of the C&U Telephone president was attending the camp that year, but never confirmed it. Spent that summer switching out the wood phone for the 300 sets. Took my first pay check and bought a Mathias Klein lineman’s belt and a set of hooks; a local lineman taught me to climb.

Still have a rubber covered butt set that you dial with an orange stick. In the family room is a candlestick set hooked up to a repurposed 425N network.

My best buddy spent his entire career at NY Tele’s East 56th Street CO. He gave me a tour when he started there – 13 floors containing, at that time, one of everything: step-by-step, panel, crossbar, ESS….

Best regards,

You may have never have been in the industry but you are a “fine” telephone man to me. Thank you for your kind comments. Be safe, be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

August 2015 – Great Work, Great Articles, Thank You
I have enjoyed both meeting you in person at an ICA tech training event (Iowa) and reading your monthly columns in OSP magazine. Your most recent one was nice to read behind the scenes of how you gained industry skills and insight.

My hat is off to you in this fast moving industry and I recommend all my students get a subscription to OSP and to follow your teaching. Paired copper cable is not going away anytime soon (in my opinion) and you have given us lots to train and think about with our customers and students in Iowa.

Thanks again and God Bless!
J.N., Des Moines Area Community College, Network Technology/Tel

August 2015 – Good Article
Hello Don
Just read your latest article. Just wanted to let you know that I have kept that corporate mandate of proactive copper rehab while initiating a multiyear fiber build out plan. Although expensive, we are spending nearly $1m a year on copper rehab right now, we see a tremendous improvement in service quality and reduced trouble calls especially in the summer months. If you recall a few years ago we got hammered in the summer months. Not the case this year or last year.

I thank you for getting us on the right track a few years ago. It’s paying dividends now. I hope you and your family are well.

September 2015 – I Don’t Know, But He Do
Saw a recent OSP issue where you were asked about CA’s infamous Delta power configuration. The mark of a true pro is knowing when to say, “I don’t know” or, “I pretty much know, but here is a guy who can explain it better”. Good form, sir! (subject line was a pun)

…Though we still hear death tolls for copper, I’m sure you are convinced as I am, that copper will be here long after we are gone, in spite of everyone’s wish otherwise. In spite of all the fine efforts, only a fraction of US homes have fiber or extreme broadband… (faster the 2gen DSL).

Got Copper?

Thanks for your time and Best Regards,
D.B., Tescom

September 2015 – I Don’t Know, But He Do (cont.)
Your training classes are classic and you have served and are serving the industry well in keeping “clean plant” at the forefront of delivering quality services. In an era where some execs would bury their heads in the sand, you continually remind them that they are only as good as their plant. Buy all the new switching gear you want including the latest services, but you still have to get it to the customer. I chuckle in support of every one of your monthly columns, as I clearly recall my own telco days when executives just tried to wish all their problems away. Your admonitions that keeping cables clear of troubles is the key to reliable broadband services is a drum which requires a constant beat, and you have been faithful to that need.

There are two types of training: maintaining wires and maintaining services. My path has been slated toward services, as people like you were already doing a great job in the area of testing copper and keeping lines clean. In fact, my test sets don’t even perform physical copper tests at all, they only test services. We do not try to duplicate the many fine features already out there, but have a niche in T1 and below services (dialtone, DDS, analog trunks and specials both 2 and 4 wire)….

Thanks again for your steadfastness and positive spirit. Those of us who started out as cable splicers (in 1975 for me) appreciate everything you are saying. Keep the faith!

Thanks for your time and Best Regards,
D.B., TesCom

As you know noise mitigation is a tough subject and 60% of the time we end up chasing the wrong dog. I really appreciate your comments. Be safe, be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

October 2015
Man, you wrote the book, the magazine, the everything on copper. What I have learned from you made my job very easy.
J.R., via LinkedIn


About Author

Don McCarty is the OSP EXPERT columnist for ISE magazine, discussing the issues around provisioning, testing, and maintaining copper for all services from POTs to IPTV. Don is also president of and the lead trainer for McCarty Products, a technical training and products company training field technicians, cable maintenance, installation repair, and Central Office technicians and managers. For more information, email or visit

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