The U.S. is currently experiencing a tight labor market, and no industry is left untouched. However, with high demand for broadband expansion and increased network speeds, the telecom industry is facing tough decisions on how to meet consumer needs while juggling the labor burden.
Clearfield Chief Marketing Officer Kevin Morgan and broadband providers Cruzio Internet Director of Technology and Infrastructure Chris Frost and Midco General Manager for Regional Engineering Jeremy Billings joined the Fiber Broadband Association’s Fiber for Breakfast webinar to discuss how service providers can continue to deploy fiber while considering the ongoing labor market strains.
Cruzio Internet, based out of Santa Cruz, has managed services from dial-in bulletin board to resold DSL and from wireless to fiber, Frost said.
“One of the huge challenges for us has been how do we get everyone the best available internet at reasonable prices in a small community and still stay viable?” Frost questioned. “Finding a modular way to do it has been key to keeping lead time down and to keeping training costs from getting a new hire to a fully-functional tech down.”
Cruzio and Midco utilize Clearfield’s cassette technology to simplify fiber deployment.
“The cassette itself allows the right amount of fiber management and splicing if we need it. It also can hold the splitters if needed for your fiber deployments,” Clearfield’s Morgan said, explaining that the cassette can then be placed in the central office frames or panels, cabinets in the wiring center, pedestals along the roadside, and into wall boxes. “The idea is that if you can train your technicians to be familiar with how to connect into the cassette, then that reduces the amount of complexity for putting together fiber networks.”
Frost said simplicity is key in achieving Cruzio’s fiber deployment goals.
“If we were only going to train our techs on one type of connection system, it just makes life easier,” Frost admitted. “None of our field techs that are doing installs are splice trades, which means that we can use our apprenticeship program and bring folks in at a low wage. We can train them not just to do the things that we do, but to do them the way that we want them done in our company.”
He said this shift has been huge for the provider because it eliminates the need to retrain new techs, but also, the modularity means that the techs are always working with the same basic building blocks, regardless of whether it’s a fiber-to-the-home build or fiber for a MDU.
“For anyone that’s ever built with LEGOs or anything like that, it’s fun,” Frost joked. “This is LEGO for grownups, and it’s really cool to use.”
Morgan said Clearfield further simplifies fiber deployments with pre-connectorized drop fibers, which save deployment time by eliminating the need for splicing.
Billings said Midco aims to limit the number of tools and devices that techs have to carry, and Clearfield’s pre-connectorized drop fibers make that possible.
“For anybody that has been in the coax world and has done install there, you have splitters, connectors, and cable wire, and you’re going into the house with almost a Rubbermaid tote full of stuff, plus their tool bag and everything else,” Billings painted the picture. “With these pre-connectorized drop fibers you’re basically cleaning the fiber and plugging it in. The tools required are slim to none and you can almost teach anyone to do it.”
Billings said by making the whole system Plug-and-Play, field techs with experience in coax are easily transitioned to Fiber-to-the-Home builds.
“Our techs are trained in telecom DSL lines and wireless, and they’d rather do fiber. It’s just easier,” he admitted. “After one fiber install with our apprentices, we say, ‘OK, you’re running the next one.’ It really is that simple.”
“We’re trying to make deployments as quick and efficient as possible,” Billings concluded, expressing Midco’s gratitude for a modular solution that alleviates the stress of labor shortages in a time of increased demand. “We take techs, train them, quickly get them on the field doing installs and get them going from there.”
Listen to Kevin Morgan, Chris Frost and Jeremy Billings’ full remarks on the Fiber for Breakfast podcast.