Editor's Note: Do you want to build your business in home networking? The following questions for homeowners regarding their home communications wiring needs can help. These questions are excerpted from a mailer developed by the Copper Development Association (CDA), New York, N.Y., for electrical professionals. For more information and to download the complete CDA brochure, visit the CDA Web site at www.copper.org.

QUESTIONS THAT CUSTOMERS SHOULD ASK THEMSELVES ABOUT THEIR WIRING NEEDS

  • Are you an active Internet user?

    If the Internet is important to your home lifestyle, or if you rely on the Internet for a home business, your need for data-transmission speed will only increase in the future. Be aware, however, that computers connected to old-fashioned telephone wiring often experience poor Internet performance.

  • Does your computer operate in slow motion when interacting with the Internet?

    If you have to wait every time your computer dials up your Internet provider or downloads programs, you're probably using an “old-fashioned” slow-speed modem rather than modern high-speed technology. Obsolete telephone wiring only makes this problem worse.

  • Are poor connections ruining your calls and Internet sessions?

    Although “party lines” are a thing of the past, virtually all telephone lines today share voice and data calls simultaneously. Crosstalk, static interference, inaudible signals and interrupted service are common problems with outdated wiring.

  • Do you have old-style phone wiring in your home now?

    If you don't know the answer to this one, you probably have obsolete wiring. Structured wiring, also known as telecommunications wiring, is a general term for today's high-capacity telephone, video and data-transmission wire systems. Installations usually include a central distribution panel where all connections are made, as well as outlets with dedicated connections for phone, data and TV jacks.

  • Is structured wiring superior to wireless communications systems?

    The problems described above are typical with old-style phone wiring, but are not necessarily improved upon by the new wireless systems. Certain geographic areas and some buildings are simply unsuitable for wireless installations. Many incompatibilities exist with various wireless systems, forcing you to choose among them. Now and for the foreseeable future, structured wiring will be the best system.

  • Do you have, or have you applied for, a high-speed Internet connection, such as DSL, cable modem or satellite?

    These services are, or soon will be, available in most residential areas. They provide a high-speed data highway into and out of your home. If you don't have structured wiring for it to connect to, this highway could become a cowpath when it reaches you.

  • Do you own more than one computer, and are they networked?

    A structured wiring system can help link computers in a home network and is critical to error-free, high-speed connections between them. Structured wiring can also connect your computers with printers, scanners, telephones, fax machines and even home-security systems and home-entertainment equipment. Networked computers can also share a high-speed Internet connection at any given time.

  • Is structured wiring needed when adding new computer or phone lines?

    The law now requires that all new or replacement copper telecom wiring be “Cat. 3” or better. Today Cat. 5 or 5e wiring, properly installed, is the foundation of most structured wiring systems.

  • Do you think rewiring an existing home is too difficult or expensive?

    This job can be done quickly and affordably in most cases, and homes with attic and basement space make it even easier. To an installer with the proper tools and training, no obstacle is insurmountable.

  • Will you be selling your home anytime soon?

    Even if you're not an Internet or computer user, chances are your potential buyers will be. As more new homes are built with structured wiring, these systems will be required in existing homes as well. Without such a system you could be at a competitive disadvantage at resale.


Bill Black is vice president for Wire & Cable for the Copper Development Association (CDA), New York, N.Y.

QUESTIONS YOUR CUSTOMERS SHOULD ASK CABLING INSTALLERS

  • Are you trained in telecom wiring installation? Phone companies have withdrawn from wiring customers' homes, so finding a qualified installer can be a challenge. Tradesmen who advertise themselves as telecommunications specialists are usually serious about their business.

  • Are you affiliated with, or a member of, any professional (telecom) organizations?

  • Can you provide references from recent customers?

  • How do I know what kind of structured wiring system and equipment I'll need? The most important terms you'll hear include Cat. 5e wiring and “home-run” or “star configuration.”

  • What do telecom wiring installations typically include? Structured wiring has special installation requirements.

  • Can you explain the new FCC ruling on telephone wiring? For the record, in July 2000, the Federal Communications Commission implemented a new minimum standard requiring Cat. 3 or better wiring for all new or retrofit home and commercial telecommunications installations.

  • What do you charge for your services?

  • Are your work and materials guaranteed, and for what period of time? Wiring and equipment may carry a limited warranty from the manufacturers.

FREE FLYERS FOR CONTRACTORS

CDA will provide you with up to 200 marketing-flyers, free-of-charge upon request. Call Bill Black at 1-800-CDA-DATA (1-800-232-3282) to order. You can print or stamp your own name, address and phone number on these flyers, and mail them to prospective customers in your area. Another flyer, covering residential power-wiring, is also free to contractors.

CDA also offers videos for installers on communications wiring, both for retrofit situations and for new homes. The set of two videos (3½ hours plus) focus on use of new tools and techniques for home networking. CDA's “Infrastructure Wiring for Existing Homes” and “Infrastructure Wiring for New Homes” videos can be ordered by calling 888-480-8353: $30 each or the pair for $50. For more information visit www.telecom.copper.org.