North State Communications Embraces Testing Changes in the Field
“There is an ancient Chinese proverb that says When the wind of change blows, some people build walls, others build windmills.”
Change can be perceived as an opportunity or a threat.
The challenge we face when change is presented to us is:
Do we take the opportunity and run, moving away from the comfort of what we already know?
Or do we simply stay put, continuing to hold on to the familiar?
Change is a funny thing. It can cause people to become frightened. Oftentimes, they want to stay with what’s known, even when it’s rendered obsolete. However, life teaches us that the only constant is change. Some changes are big while others are small, but they are all still change. Change happens rapidly and frequently in the information and communications technology (ICT) markets. And if you aren’t changing, the winds will blow you and your business off the map.
Making a Smooth Transition
North State is an independent information and communications technology company that provides Internet, TV, and voice service to an area of 370 square miles in north central North Carolina. The company works daily to deliver the best, most technologically advanced products and services to its customers. The company has aggressively built and continues to build fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) infrastructure in order to provide customers the Internet speeds and entertainment services they desire.
Although the majority of North State customers are passed with fiber facilities, the copper infrastructure remains an important transport medium for critical services to a substantial amount of consumers and businesses. Providing knowledgeable, friendly technicians and sales advisors for that same customer base is also a priority. So when experienced technicians began to retire, North State needed to support their newer technicians and get them up to speed on copper bonding and grounding.
Keever Lambeth, director — operation facilities, at North State said, “North State provides voice, TV, and broadband Internet over its gigabit fiber infrastructure and provides high-speed Internet and voice over its copper infrastructure to both residential and business customers. Over 50% of our customers enjoy services provided over fiber, while the remainder have services provided over copper. For those services over copper, we wanted to ensure optimal quality and service, so we began to assess the many facets of our network.”
It was decided that North State’s bonding, grounding, and shield continuity methods needed to be assessed, while further developing best practices for the company’s network. They also wanted to ensure that industry standards were being met, while providing a safe environment for its field technicians.
“North State, like many other telecommunications carriers and power utilities, has had a rash of copper ground wire theft. The lack of proper grounding is a safety concern and negatively impacts our copper Internet services. As we developed approaches to correct the grounding issues in the theft areas, we wanted to also verify that all grounding in a geographic area was within industry standards. We went even further to develop processes for our technicians to begin verifying all bonding and grounding locations in our network and cataloging that information,” said Lambeth.
To test very-high-speed, twisted-pair data circuits, North State needed an instrument that could check for earth leakage currents, narrow results by measuring quickly and accurately, and be able to determine the presence of a ground and the quality of that ground.
Sometimes earth leakage is simply the result of various undetected faults like deterioration of cable insulation, damage to the cable, or moisture getting into areas where terminals or connections are exposed. “We wanted to supply our technicians with a tool that could measure a wide variety of conditions in any environment and provide grounding solutions,” said Lambeth.
Change for the Right Reasons
After assessing the situation and doing a little research, North State decided that each of its technicians needed a clamp meter that was pocket-sized, lightweight, rugged, and easy to use in the field. Clamp meters are excellent for working on existing installations, and are extremely user-friendly. They can easily locate a fault within a circuit without having to disassemble the wiring.
Newer testers on the market offer improved reliability because they feature interlocking teeth and are designed with flat core ends that help prevent dirt buildup and ensure measurement integrity. These are ideal for a variety of applications including pole grounds, service entrance/meter electrodes, service panels, pad mount transformer earth, transmission towers, telephone pedestals, telephone cabinets, as well as lightning protection electrodes.
“We wanted our staff to be able to quickly, accurately, and efficiently determine if ground is present at every location they visit,” explained Lambeth. “A good clamp meter will make technicians more productive, in that they can determine if there is a problem and whether the lack of grounding is causing that problem. We were also using vacant cable pairs, and wanted appropriate testing procedures to evaluate the root cause of issues before replacing copper. The need for quick accurate measurements and a user-friendly device really spurred us to find a versatile tool,” explained Lambeth.
Embracing the Winds of Change
North State realized that they needed to make a change and stop measuring grounds with a volt/Ohm meter. They looked at several clamp meters that measure in amps and milliamps. Because the number of employees that needed training had heavy workloads, the company also needed to find a manufacturer that could perform effective training in a concise period of time.
With a Megger clamp meter, North State realized that they were able to solve several of the challenges they faced and purchased 1 for each field technician. “Once we had the testers in hand, both classroom and field training began. All of our field technicians and managers were trained in fault-finding and ground-related topics by a highly knowledgeable instructor. These changes were beneficial for both North State and its customers. The new process allows us to keep our copper infrastructure viable while we transition to fiber,” said Lambeth.