Jurisdiction needed before integrating systems

As you may know, we at the Massachusetts Telecommunications Contractors' Association (MTCA) have legislation pending for the fair and equitable licensing in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Mar 1st, 2000

As you may know, we at the Massachusetts Telecommunications Contractors' Association (MTCA) have legislation pending for the fair and equitable licensing in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The legislation is House Bill 2328: "An Act Relative to the Licensing of Telecommunication Professionals."

We have been working on licensing for nearly three years and have been directed by the legislature to negotiate with the opponents of our legislation (the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) for a common ground. We proposed a separate board of examiners for telecommunications workers, but our opponents believe that we should be governed by the existing electrical board of examiners, which is heavily weighted toward electricians and electrical contractors. So it is with great interest that I read the Endface article by Bill Fortin and Chas MacKenzie in the December 1999 issue (see "It's time to integrate telecom and building automation systems," page 96).

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to passing any legislation is just what this article is promoting: the integration of telecommunications cabling and building automation systems (BASs). Our opponents argue that the merging of these elements-as well as alarm; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning; and especially the low-voltage control of lighting and elec trical receptacles-mandates that telecommunications licensing should be under electrical jurisdiction instead of a separate entity.

Some "smart" systems applications that were data-based (Ethernet) have already been shut down by local wiring inspectors because they were being installed by a telecom technician and not a licensed electrician. The cease-and-desist order was appealed to the present board of examiners. The board upheld the decision that a licensed electrician had to perform the work even though the telecom technician never touched the line-voltage side of the circuit.

The point I am trying to make is that before we merge telecommunications and building automation systems, clear jurisdiction should be established so that governing boards have a guideline to follow. And the manufacturers of equipment clearly bar the low-voltage or data side from the line-voltage side. If this is not engineered in, you can be assured that this telecom work and all associated systems will be deemed licensed electricians' work and not telecom work.

So let's be careful what we wish for, as it may come back to deny us the industry we have developed over the years.
Philip N. Milan
President, MTCA
Boston

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