Checks and balances

At a recent conference a speaker was asked to describe the differences in cabling installation practices between his country--Australia--and the United States. He pointed out a number of differences, but then went on to imply that there might be some similarities as well.

Apr 1st, 1998

ARLYNN S. POWELL, JR.

At a recent conference a speaker was asked to describe the differences in cabling installation practices between his country--Australia--and the United States. He pointed out a number of differences, but then went on to imply that there might be some similarities as well.

"I know it wouldn`t happen here," he said slyly, "but in Australia we have what I call the `nvp problem.` When an installer tests an unshielded twisted-pair cable for category compliance and the result is a `fail,` he or she adjusts the nominal-velocity-of-propagation setting on the handheld lan cable tester until it reads `pass.` "

Another problem that `wouldn`t happen here,` according to the speaker, was what he called the "spelling error problem." This problem arises--in Australia, at least--when the installer simply deletes all documentation from a cable-plant verification that includes "fail" readings for cable runs. "These readings must obviously be the result of spelling errors," the speaker said. "The spelling should have been `pass.` "

My first reaction was one of outrage at the dishonesty the speaker was describing, and my second reaction was a mild sense of disgust at the sly implication that `it would happen here,` just as it happens in Australia. When I stopped to think about it, however, I recognized that there was a deeper problem underneath the abuses the speaker described.

That problem, as much as we don`t like to admit to it, is that everyone in our industry may not be as ethical as we would hope. Under the pressure of completing a job on time and within budget, an installer--somewhere and sometime--may be tempted to falsify test results. This may happen less than one percent of the time, or even less than a tenth of a percent of the time, but we have to admit that it may happen, somewhere and sometime.

That being said, what should we do about it? Not surprisingly, this problem is not unique to the cabling industry, nor is it particular to our era. We`ve all seen newspaper headlines about medical researchers and scientists falsifying results, and who can question the prevaricating and `stonewalling` that our legislators do from time to time?

The framers of the U.S. Constitution were well aware of the problem of human fallibility, and they took precautions to ensure that those entrusted with political power in the United States could not easily abuse it. As anyone who has taken a high-school civics course knows, what was built into the Constitution over two hundred years ago was a system of checks and balances--the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government were each granted powers to check potential excesses in the other branches.

It is encouraging to note that the cabling industry has recently taken a step toward establishing its own system of checks and balances. As we will see in our cover story this month (page 23), Intertek Testing Services of Cortland, NY, has launched an independent testing and verification service for telecommunications cabling installations.

What this means to end-users is that they can now hire an independent, third-party agency to verify that all the cable runs in their installations meet specifications. This service will be a comfort factor for clients and will check that very small percentage of contractors who may be tempted to cheat.

We at Cabling Installation & Main- tenance salute Intertek Testing Services for developing this testing and verification service, and we offer our congratulations to bicsi (Tampa, FL) for recognizing its importance--by being one of the first establishments to go through the testing and verification process.

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