The Fiber Optic Association - History


1995-2020 - FOA's 25th Anniversary!

As part of celebrating 25 years of serving the fiber optic industry as its primary source of technical information and independent certifying body, FOA thought it appropriate to provide a short history of the organization and how it has developed the programs we have today to help the fiber optic industry. We also want to recognize the contributions many people have made to the organization over the years that made FOA what it is today.


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The Fiber Optic Association Inc. (FOA) is an international non-profit educational association chartered to promote professionalism in fiber optics through education, certification and standards. FOA's main purpose is to develop a competent workforce for the fiber optic industry and be a certifying body for fiber optic workers, offering certifications for fiber optics. FOA was founded in 1995 by more than a dozen prominent fiber optics trainers and leaders from industry, education and government as a professional organization for fiber optics and a source of independent certification, the FOA has grown to now being involved in numerous activities to educate the world about fiber optics and certify the workers who design, build and operate the world's fiber optic networks.

Founded soon after the initial commercialization of the Internet, the FOA became a "virtual organization," perhaps one of the first organizations so created. There is no FOA headquarters building or any "brick and mortar" presence - appropriate to its technology, FOA exists on the Internet and in the work of its people. Those who run the organization live and work all over the world, using modern communications to communicate and collaborate. The network of experts working to create the FOA knowledge base and programs include our technical advisors who average more than 20 years experience in fiber optics. Their experience ensures FOA curriculum and certifications are the most comprehensive and up to date available.

The Beginning

The Fiber Optic Association Inc. was created by the instructors and participants of the 1995 Fiber U training conference held in Boston. Fiber U was a week-long fiber optic training event with mornings devoted to classroom courses and afternoons to hands-on training by numerous vendors of fiber optic equipment.

EP at Fiber U 1994 Eric Pearson teaches a class at Fiber U 1994 in Long Beach, CA

Fiber U was the creation of a company called FOTEC Inc. of Boston, MA. FOTEC was started by Jim Hayes (founder and current FOA President) in 1980 and began manufacturing test equipment for fiber optics in 1981. By 1982, FOTEC began to start training courses for its customers who were all new to fiber optics. Throughout the 1980s, FOTEC ran short courses in fiber optics around the US and eventually in many other parts of the world. FOTEC was only in the test equipment business, so it invited other manufacturers in areas like fiber optic cables, connectors, splicing equipment, etc. to participate in these courses.

Dan Silver 3M Founder Dan Silver (R) at Fiber U 1994 in Long Beach (more Fiber U photos)

In 1992, Dan Silver, the fiber optic trainer for 3M Corp. who was a regular participant in these courses, suggested that FOTEC expand the program to become a full week conference. That seemed like a good idea, so the first Fiber U was held in Nashville, TN in 1993. It was a good idea - over 200 students came from the US, Canada, Mexico and several other countries and 40 vendors joined to offer training. Fiber U became an annual event with international participation.

During a meeting of instructors at Fiber U 1995, the discussion focused on the need for a vendor-independent certification for fiber optic technicians. Manufacturers had contractor/installer certifications, but they were primarily aimed at marketing the vendors products. Over lunch, the decision was made to start a professional society for fiber optic personnel and offer an independent certification for techs. All the Fiber U instructors volunteered their services to build the organization.

The instructors decided the industry was mature enough to support a professional society and needed to create industry-wide certifications. The founders included experienced instructors from industry (3M, Siecor, Panduit, FOTEC), government (US Navy and Air Force), education (Lincoln Trail College and Wentworth Institute) and private trainers (Pearson Technologies, Conquest Communications) who were teaching fiber optics and who provided the expertise in management, technology and education needed to create a new professional society.

In July of 1995, The Fiber Optic Association was incorporated in Massachusetts and was recognized as an educational non-profit corporation, 501(C)(6), by the IRS. The FOA charter was (as it still is now) to promote professionalism in fiber optics through education, certification and standards.

The FOA decided to use the new communications medium, the Internet, to create an international professional society that would utilize the expertise of the Fiber U participants without the financial overhead of a traditional organization. The FOA website, created at the beginning, was one of the earliest websites for an organization.

FOA web FOA website ca. 2000 (view here on the WayBack Machine Internet Archive)

Who Were The FOA Founders?

Those listed below in BOLD are still active teaching and working with FOA. See Profiles below.

Jim Hayes, President of FOTEC Inc. Pioneering fiber optic entrepreneur in test equipment and trainer who was trained in physics/astronomy. Author of many EIA/TIA standards and the instigator of the NBS/NIST fiber optic calibration program. Creator of the Fiber U training conferences. Author of ten textbooks, hundreds of technical articles. Current FOA President.
See Profiles below.

Eric Pearson, Pearson Technologies. Trained by Corning in the 1970s, considered an industry expert on termination and splicing, training since the early 1980s. Respected expert witness in legal cases. Active FOA Instructor.
See Profiles below.

Dominick Tambone, Engineer, Automatic Tool and Connector, fiber optic termination and installation, training since the early 1980s. Contractor and
Active FOA Instructor.

Bill Graham, Mississauga Training Associates, Toronto, ON, CN. Background in utilities, military, metropolitan fiber optics, training since the early 1990s. Current FOA Director.
See Profiles below.

Prof. Elias Awad, Wentworth Institute, Boston, MA. Started one of the first fiber optic academic programs in the engineering department in late 1980s. Creator of NSF program “Fiber Optics For Engineering Technology” (NSF#9353997).

Prof. John Highhouse, Lincoln Trail College, Robinson, IL. Head of telecom training program, started teaching fiber optic outside plant construction in late 1980s. Masters in Education, specialty testing.
See Profiles below.

Paul Rosenberg, writer and technical trainer
Dan Silver, Product Specialist, 3M Fiber Optics, trainer and applications. The man with the idea to create the Fiber U training conferences and active FOA member.

Eric Loytty, Field Engineering, Corning/Siecor, applications and training.

Bob Mason, Product Manager, Network Systems, Panduit, applications and training.

Doug Elliott, IBEW Instructor, Toronto, ON, CN. One of first IBEW apprenticeship instructors to teach fiber optics.

Tom Collins, Northern Kentucky Technical College, Professor. Techtricians, Owner/instructor. Current FOA Director.
See Profiles below.

Dan Lyall, Project Engineer, Lockheed Martin, applications and training.

Jim Davis, Program Director, U. S. Navy Navsea 56ZC, Navy fiber optic standards.

Dave Chaney, Disney, Network Manager

Tony Beam, Tyco/AMP, Product Manager 

Richard J. Smith, FOTechnologies, Technican/Instructor

Profiles Of FOA Founders Still Active

Jim Hayes, FOA #1, Founder and President, and Karen Hayes, VP Administration

JH Jim Hayes working with IMSA Instructors on lab techniques

Jim Hayes was recruited into the fiber optic business by the scientists at Bell Labs who were developing the technologies in the late 1980s. They wanted the company he worked for to build test equipment for AT&T. When his company declined the opportunity, Jim and his wife Karen, now FOA VP Administration, started one of the world's first fiber optic test equipment companies in 1980, called FOTEC for, simply enough the Fiber Optic Test Equipment Company. FOTEC quickly became involved in training people in this new technology, inviting other manufacturers to participate, leading to the Fiber U training conferences. FOA evolved from Fiber U as a certification body for the fiber optic industry. Jim has remains active in FOA, serving as President, writing and editing the FOA textbooks, newsletters and online Guide, while Karen manages daily operations as she has done since the beginning and generally avoids the limelight. 


Karen (R) inspects a traffic management system during a training program in Mesa, AZ.

Eric Pearson, FOA #5, Pearson Technologies

Eric Pearson Training
Eric (back row, right) shows students how to interpret their work.

Eric Pearson and Jim Hayes are probably the two FOA Founders with the most years in fiber optics, both started in the late 1970s and are still active today. Eric began in the fiber optic cable business, then transmission systems and designed field installation equipment. He began training more than 30 years ago and has published his workbooks and manuals as what we like to call the "cookbooks" of fiber optics. Eric may be the world's top expert in the process of fiber optic termination and his books certainly are the best manuals for termination.  Eric still travels the world doing training courses, finds time to continue writing and updating his books (See note below on the new Kindle version of his installation handbook) and consulting as an expert witness in legal cases.

Eric Pearson, Pearson Technologies

Bill Graham, FOA #168, Representing FOA In "The Frozen North"

Bill Graham

Bill Graham (second from left above with the white beard) lives near Toronto and has probably trained half of Canada in fiber optics. Bill sold his company, Missisauga Training, several years ago to another active Canadian who took over the training but Bill is still active as a FOA Director and promoter in Canada. Bill is famous for training in the Frozen North, still in competition with Ian Gordon Fudge of Fiber DK in Denmark to see who has trained closer to the North Pole. Bill always sent us photos from his trips, like these:

Tom Collins, Director, FOA's IBEW and IMSA Liaison

Tom Collins at NTI 2016

Tom Collins joined the FOA while a teacher at Gateway Community and Technical College near Cincinnati, OH. Tom has about 40 years of experience in the electrical and voice and data fields.  He is a master electrician, voice and data technician, fiber optic technician, contractor, and a technical instructor. His experience as an electrician and apprenticeships has proven invaluable for FOA as Tom has become FOA's liaison to the IBEW apprenticeship program and has trained numerous IBEW  apprenticeship instructors at their National Training Institute (Tom's at NTI 2016 above).

Tom became a FOA Director almost 20 years ago and we've benefited greatly from his experience. He and John Highhouse created the FOA Train-The-Trainer program and FOA's unique in the industry instructor certification program. Tom has helped us understand technical training issues, online training and testing and a lot of other educational topics.

Tom has a training partner too, his wife Donna, a FOA CFOS/I instructor herself. Together they have been instrumental in helping the FOA develop and manage its certification programs.

John Highhouse, FOA #2, Retired, Still Influences FOA Activities
John Highhouse John Highhouse teaching a FOA Train-the-Trainer Course

John Highhouse started the first OSP/telecom college program for fiber optics at Lincoln Trail College in Southern Illinois. John was a  Fiber U instructor and FOA founder. He participated in the development of FOA technical materials like our original textbook and the CFOT certification. One thing John brought to the group was his background in education with a specialty in testing. He taught us how to test properly and fairly: have definitive reference materials for the test that can be also used for developing curriculum and develop test questions that determine if the applicant's knowledge is adequate. FOA still uses the test methodology that John taught us before he retired.

Certification Program Development

FOA Board 1997
FOA Advisors Meeting in 1997.
From left around the table: Eric Pearson (Pearson Tech), Bob Mason (Panduit), Dominick Tambone (Automatic Tool & Connector), Dan Silver (3M Fiber Optics), Elias Awad (Wentworth Institute of Technology), Doug Elliott (IBEW Toronto), John Highhouse (Lincoln Trail College), Dan Lyall (Martin Marrietta) and Eric Loytty (Siecor), photo by Jim Hayes

This group of FOA founders began meeting quarterly and collaborating via email while working to analyze the job tasks of the fiber optic technician and creating a list of knowledge, skills and abilities(KSAs) that such a technician should have. It was an excellent group for this task as they represented many aspects of the fiber optic field and all had many years of experience. New recruits joined also. Tony Bean, an applications engineering manager at AMP who had previously worked at Siecor, Paul Rosenberg, a trainer for electrical trades and author who with Hayes had written the Data Voice and Video Cabling textbook and Dave Chaney, a contractor who became network manager for Disney Corp. also joined FOA to assist in the development of FOA programs.

The FOA Board of Advisors 20 years ago, meeting to work on FOA certifications.

FOA Directors 1999

One aspect of the creation of a general fiber optic certification was the different types of applications that fiber optic technicians were involved in. Technicians working for phone companies building long distance or metropolitan networks (OSP or outside plant networks) had different job tasks that those working on premises cabling for LANs (local area networks), or those in the military building tactical systems or cabling on platforms like ships, helicopters or airplanes.

The group was able to define the basic knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) expected of all fiber optic technicians, no matter their specific applications or jobs. In addition, the group identified three areas of skills that were often jobs done by fiber optic specialists: splicing, termination and testing. These were also identified as subjects for specialist training and should be considered for specialist certifications.

It became obvious that FOA was not going to be a training organization; that would be impossible in light of the international scope of the organization. Training would be the duty of the schools, manufacturers and independent trainers who had been training fiber optic technicians for over a decade. The FOA would set the standards for certifications and manage the certification programs and leave the training to others.

Then the task of creating a certification program began in earnest. At this stage, the academics became the group leaders, offering their expertise in development of educational programs. Professor Highhouse became the project leader. He created the checklist of requirements for a certification: KSAs from job task analyses, reference materials for trainers to use to develop curriculum and for students to study, criteria and procedures for certification examination and the examinations themselves.

Developing Reference Materials

The first task for the advisors was to identify reference materials. A problem was immediately identified. Textbooks on fiber optics were too theoretical and none dealt with the installation processes. Materials on installation were available from manufacturers but were all specific to their products. There were no reference materials deemed acceptable, so the decision was made to create a proper textbook for fiber optic technicians.

The task of editing the book was accepted by Jim Hayes who had already created a self-published a book on fiber optic testing for his company FOTEC. The material in that book became the chapter on fiber optic testing for the new technician book. Others contributed their expertise. Everyone contributed to the chapter on applications. Prof. Awad had created a curriculum on basic fiber optics under an NSF grant and it was adapted to become the chapter on the basics of fiber optics. Eric Pearson and Dominic Tambone created on the chapter on termination and splicing. Professor Highhouse, Dan Silver and Eric Lloytty wrote sections on installation.


The material for the textbook was produced quickly as the authors were all experts in their field and created chapters on their expertise. Delmar, the publisher of technical books, became the publisher and the first edition of The Fiber Optic Technicians Manual (ISBN 10: 0827374267) was released in 1996. The book was described by Delmar thusly: “This book is intended for training installers of fiber optic networks. Technicians and electricians eager to learn more about fiber optic design, installation, and troubleshooting will find this book a practical and comprehensive source, useful in both training and self-study situations.”

At the same time, FOA began creating a website with the basic fiber optic information contributed by the advisors made available to everyone online. That website, the FOA Online Guide, has been expanded and updated continually until today.

Creating A Certification Exam

With the job analysis and KSAs as a reference guide, Professors Highhouse and Awad and their collaborators began creating criteria for classroom and laboratory training and an exam of the knowledge of certification candidates. The training aspects were covered in an Instructor’s Manual created by the FOA that described the classroom and hands-on labs expected for certification. In the process of creating an exam covering the knowledge part of the exam, Professor Highhouse created guidelines for creating tests and test questions still in use by the FOA today.

The first FOA exam for certification was made released by the Board in 1997. The certification by that time had a formal name, Certified Fiber Optic Technician, CFOT. The certification was first offered by the founders of the FOA to their own students to verify the program before expanding to other training venues. The examination process involved the instructors who were tasked to verify that students showed appropriate skills and abilities during hands-on activities before taking the examination given at the end of the course.

Expanding The Scope Of The FOA

During this development process, the FOA had been introduced to the world as the international professional society of fiber optics. Interest in the FOA certification program was high and trainers around the world began asking to become part of the program. When the FOA advisors agreed that the CFOT was ready to be offered by more trainers, applications were accepted from trainers and training organizations.

Criteria for potential trainers were established by the advisors that included requirements for curriculum in the classroom and hands-on labs, including required training equipment. Educational institutions, commercial trainers and fiber optic manufacturers or vendors made applications. The advisors realized that to maintain the integrity of the certification, it was necessary to create an agreement with the schools or trainers that covered all aspects of the certification process and included regular reviews of their performance.

Some applicants, especially in the academic world, had little or no practical knowledge in fiber optics, so it was necessary to help them learn the knowledge and recommend to them venues to acquire the hands-on skills necessary. Many used the Fiber U conferences which had partnered with other organizations like the National Electrical Contractors Association, the COMNET conference, etc. to offer training at many conferences and meetings. Others used other FOA-approved trainers or vendors for training. To provide a guide to skills training, FOA personnel led by Pearson, Tambone and Hayes developed a Fiber Optic Lab Manual that described in detail the processes used in fiber optic installation and how they should be taught in labs.

TTT John Highhouse conducts class at FOA TTT 2002

FOA began planning its own Train-The-Trainer program to be held at Gateway Community College where Professor Tom Collins taught. Prof. Collins had joined the FOA advisors after attending Fiber U and creating his own program at Gateway and the IBEW apprenticeship program in Cincinnati. The first FOA T-T-T was held in 2002 at Gateway, run by Professors Collins and Highhouse and introduced the FOA certification for instructors, CFOS/I, Certified Fiber Optic Specialist in Instruction. After several years of T-T-T classes, the instructor training was primarily moved online.

Meanwhile, advisors Pearson, Tambone and Hayes were heading a group working on skills specialist certifications in splicing, termination and testing. Job analyses were done and KSAs created for CFOS/S, Certified Fiber Optic Specialist, Splicing, CFOS/C, termination with connectors and CFOS/T for testing. These skills-based certifications had greater requirements for hands-on labs, with more equipment and time for hands-on activities required. Exams were developed with Professors Highhouse and Awad using the criteria they had created. Instructor manuals were developed to assist instructors in setting up appropriate training. FOA schools were then authorized to offer these specialist certifications.

A Virtual Organization

As mentioned earlier, the FOA was a professional society of the Internet age. There was no physical presence, per se, and no employees, just a few contractors and many volunteers. Income from certifications, initial and renewal, and book royalties was sufficient to pay outside services like administration and accounting. By 2002, the daily operations required more time and attention, so Jim Hayes and Karen Hayes, having sold their company FOTEC, were contracted to manage the organization and provide technical leadership, a role they still fulfill today. FOA also has contracted administrative, bookkeeping/financial, software, media and legal services as needed. In 2003, the FOA was legally moved to California when the Hayes’s moved to Southern California.

Growing Into The 21st Century

The early 2000s were a development time for the FOA and its network of schools expanded worldwide. Although the fiber optic industry in the US experienced a severe recession in 2001-2 as the large Internet growth of the late 1990s turned out to be a bubble, the FOA continued to grow, particularly overseas. Programs and operations were continually improved and updated as technology and applications evolved.

With the internationalization of the FOA, the advisors expanded to include some very qualified people. Joe Botha, owner of Triple Play Fiber Optics in Durban South Africa was training fiber techs throughout sub-Saharan Africa and working with governments and telecom companies on manpower development. Ian Gordon Fudge of Fiber DK in Copenhagen, Denmark was a consultant and authorized trainer for many fiber optic and communications companies working an area from the Arctic to the Middle East. Bee Suat Lim of 100G Training and Consultancy in Singapore was involved with projects in Southeast Asia. These three have been major contributors to the development of FOA technical resources and certifications, as have many others involved in the FOA organization.

Like all organizations, the FOA's development was dependent on a group of highly competent, highly motivated individuals devoted to educating the fiber optic community. Some of the instructors and training organizations that were instrumental in FOA's growth deserve special recognition.

Bob Ballard  BDI class Bob Ballard of BDI Datalynk and one of his classes

Bob Ballard started BDI Datalynk, a training organization with a unique approach: Make the classroom look like the real world then pack it into the back of a van. Carry it around the country and partner with the continuing education departments of colleges to offer FOA certification classes.

Joe Botha Joe Botha of Triple Play in his element, teaching in Zambia

Joe has been instrumental in training techs throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Joe is also creator of the FOA OSP Construction textbook.

FiberDK Ian Gordon Fudge of Fiber DK teaching students how to splice OPGW in Greenland. Ian and FOA Director and Canadian Bill Graham have trained everywhere in the far North.

100G  Bee Suat Lim, Director (R) and Isaac Yeo Hock Lai (L) of 100G in Singapore with Karen and Jim of the FOA during a visit to SE Asia. Bee was instrumental in creating the FOA textbook on Fiber Optic Network Design. 

Morla Jerry Morla, 2nd from R, at a meeting of FOA instructors in Atlanta, is the latest FOA Director to join us. Jerry, who came on board in 2008, is FOA's ed-tech person, looking at new methods using technology to make learning better and more efficient, a valuable asset in these times of social distancing and isolation.

Partnering and Promoting FTTH Since 2006
In 2006 when FOA was approached by Verizon to assist them in recruiting and training personnel for a new program of fiber to the home expansion called FiOS. FOA advisors worked with Verizon technical personnel to understand the new passive optical network technology (PON) being used, the installation practices they were developing and create reference and educational materials to support training. In addition, In 2007 FOA and Verizon did several seminars together on both coasts to educate trainers and contractors and help Verizon’s recruiting efforts. This work led to the new FOA specialist certification in FTTx or Fiber to the Home/Business/Curb, etc., FOA’s first application certification. This certification was uniquely structured to be appropriate for both technicians who would be installing FTTx and managers who needed to be trained in the new technology that their company was installing.

FTTX summit 2007 FOA and Verizon ran this FTTH Summit in LA in 2007

The success of the FTTx certification program encouraged the FOA to create several new certifications. Professor Tom Collins worked with FOA to develop a certification in premises cabling based on standardized structured cabling for LANs (local area networks for PCs), but expanded to include copper and fiber cabling and the rapidly growing WiFi wireless technology. Several schools wanted a specialist skills certification for outside plant technicians which was also developed, then later updated with material from advisor Joe Botha’s construction course to include aerial and underground construction. Other certifications were created at the request of instructors, schools and industry groups, including optical LANs and fiber optics to support wireless networks.

FOA As A Publisher

As the FOA grew, the FOA Guide’s online technical material became a trustworthy resource for people looking for answers about fiber optic topics. But the FOA textbook was a preferred resource for those who still liked their information on paper.

While FOA was regularly updating its online technical material and exams to keep up with technology, the textbook publisher was much slower to update the textbook which became a problem. In 2008 as the world entered another recession, the publisher postponed an update and raised the price of the book to a point the FOA schools objected. FOA did a survey of publishing, decided that publish-on-demand technology was a more acceptable alternative and began creating its own textbook, The FOA Reference Guide To Fiber Optics, based on the online technical materials on the FOA website. The FOA Online Guide had grown to hundreds of pages of technical materials and became the most popular reference for fiber optics online, with over one-half million visitors downloading about four million pages of the FOA Guide in 2018.

FOA Reference Guide To Fiber Optics

The new self-published FOA textbook was an immediate success. It was more up to date, better organized for both teaching and reference and, even at about one-fourth the price of the previous book, contributed more royalty income to the FOA. In addition, it could be updated anytime, so the FOA has since combined the textbook review with the annual review of the CFOT certification program, updating them in concert.

FOA Textbooks

The ease and success of self-publishing encouraged FOA to expand its offering of books. The original book was translated into Spanish and French for our schools who taught in those languages. Additional books were introduced to support FOA certification programs in fiber optic network design, outside plant installation, premises cabling and fiber optic testing. FOA also printed the textbook created by one of our advisors, Joe Botha in South Africa, for outside plant construction.

FOA Became A Resource For The Industry

FOA began an online newsletter in the early 2000s, covering news of the industry, interesting applications, new components and what became a favorite section, “Good Question.” The FOA had been getting calls and emails from people looking for advice which we were able to answer by using the broad expertise of our advisors. This column in the newsletter gave the FOA an indication of what people wanted to know and insight into issues in the industry. Those questions led to new pages in the FOA online Guide to expand on the answers and have been archived on the FOA website. Today the newsletter has about 20,000 readers per month and the questions keep coming, several every day.

FOA Guide

As the FOA Guide grew to nearly 1,000 pages of technical information and was used more and more, it rose to the top of web searches, increasing its audience even more. After twenty years of growth, the FOA Guide has nearly a half-million visitors each year downloading almost 4 million pages of technical information.

As the Internet became capable of supporting video, FOA offered tutorials online on many aspects of fiber optics. With the advent of YouTube, FOA created a YouTube channel, thefoainc, that hosts over 100 videos, including 50 lectures and an equal number of hands-on tutorials. The FOA YouTube channel has almost 20,000 subscribers and over 3 million views.

Online Education For Free

Fiber U

Along with the Fiber U technical material, the FOA obtained the name “Fiber U”, and used it to create an online self-study website,, inspired by the original Fiber U online created in 1997. Fiber U was one of the first online learning sites based on the work of a Boston school teacher who had developed it for Boston teachers. While he was a summer intern at FOTEC, he created Fiber U online based on the FOTEC/Fiber U online technical website, and it became an immediate success.

Since the FOA Online Guide was so extensive, FOA used Fiber U as a way to assist anyone wanting to learn about fiber optics and for experienced fiber techs to study before challenging the FOA CFOT exam without taking a training class. Several instructors, led by Professor Tom Collins, used Fiber U as part of a blended learning program for their college students, with online study replacing some classroom lectures, allowing in person classes to be primarily devoted to hands-on labs. While Fiber U has been a valuable way of assisting people learning about fiber optics and preparing for FOA certification, it is not used for direct certification, only as a learning aid. Actual certification requires training and/or taking an exam while proctored.

FOA Assistance With Fiber Optic Projects

Quite a few inquiries the FOA gets are about fiber optic network projects. The projects vary from metro traffic and surveillance networks, independent fiber to the home (FTTH), industrial (oil and gas, chemical, automotive, etc.), government/military and much more. FOA provides free advice on a technical level and contacts needed for the projects.

FTTH has been a popular topic and FOA has assisted in projects as diverse as Southern Fiberworx, a FTTH project done entirely internally by a real estate developer and Anza Electric Cooperative’s project in the CA mountains that became known as “fiber to the ranch.” Other FTTH projects have been in areas as diverse as Lebanon and South Africa. FOA has also been involved in optical LANs based on FTTH technology that has become very popular in the government, medical and hospitality fields.

FOA provides this assistance at no cost, considering it part of our original charter as a professional society. Of course, all the projects require qualified technicians to design, install and operate them, thus promoting the FOA and its certifications, Many of the projects also require training personnel which benefits the FOA network of approved schools and its certification programs. And the FOA network of advisors often take over to provide assistance to the projects locally.

All of this work, the free technical reference materials and online training, assistance in answering inquiries and providing contacts has made FOA the center of fiber optic activity and a trusted source of information.

Partnerships And Affiliates

FOA’s expertise in the fiber optic field has led to partnerships with other organizations wanting to provide their groups with that training. Several members of the FOA founders and early advisors (Hayes, Elliott, Graham, Collins) were involved with the IBEW/NECA NJATC telecom/low voltage apprenticeship program, the largest technical apprenticeship program in the US. FOA became a partner with the NJATC to assist them in developing their program in fiber optics, participating in their annual National Training Institute for instructors, and has trained hundreds of JATC instructors who teach for the FOA CFOT at over 30 local union apprenticeship training centers.

FOA works with IMSA, a century-old professional society for traffic control engineers to provide CFOT certification. The Communications Workers of American Alliance uses FOA certifications to ensure competence for their workers. FOA is now assisting IPC, a trade association for manufacturers of hardware primarily for aerospace industry, create a fiber optic certification program. FOA has worked with EPRI, the Electric Power Research Institute, to create a Strategic Guide To Fiber Optics for their member utility companies.

Fiber optic manufacturers like Corning and Clearfield, telecommunications companies around the world like Cincinnati Bell and Etisalat in UAE and many more use FOA programs for training and certifying employees and customers.

Hundreds of companies, agencies and organizations worldwide use FOA certifications as a measure of competence for employees and contractors. FOA-certified techs build telecom landline and wireless networks, CATV systems, utility networks, data centers, explore for oil and gas, operate remote-operated vehicles for undersea exploration, build military strategic and tactical networks and hundreds of other applications, literally from pole to pole.

Standards And Technology

FOA has been involved with standards programs for many years. FOA is a member of the TIA and ANSI and a participant in the TIA TR-42 committee on fiber optics and cabling. Jim Hayes is the usual FOA representative in the standards committees as he has been involved with developing fiber optic standards since 1983 at TIA, ANSI and several military standards groups. While at FOTEC, the fiber optic test equipment he founded in 1980, he convinced the US National Bureau of Standards that a standard was necessary for fiber optic measurements leading to the NBS/NIST program for calibrating optical power. He is the original author of EIA/TIA standards FOTP-95 and OFSTP-7/14 and a contributor to numerous other standards dating back to the 1980s. Other FOA members have been actively involved in standards, including founding member Jim Davis who was the project leader of the military standards group NAVSEA-56ZC until his retirement.

FOA partnered with NECA (National Electrical Contractors Association) in their NEIS (National Electrical Installation Standards) program to create ANSI/NECA/FOA-301, a standard for the installation of fiber optic cable plants. Today FOA maintains an active role in the TIA and monitors other standards groups for information important to the fiber optic field. FOA helps explain their meaning and importance to the readers of its technical materials. FOA is considering becoming an active ANSI standards member and creating standards for fiber optic network installation.
FOA has worked with organizations like the US Department of Labor to create job descriptions for fiber optic techs and assist in standards for workplace certifications.

FOA advisors had a long history participating in industry standards and co-operative R&D projects. The organization has taken on several technical projects itself in topics of interest to the fiber optic industry, many in the field of testing. Pearson and Hayes investigated the correlation of optical loss test sets (OLTS) and optical time domain reflectometers (OTDR) in multimode tests with mode conditioners. Terry O’Malley, an FOA advisor who created and gave training at AT&T on OTDRs has done several projects to show how OTDR traces show events of interest such as low reflection APC connectors and the condition of the end of an optical fiber that is broken. Joe Botha in South Africa did projects with his students on splicing dissimilar singlemode fibers. Two FOA advisors, Bill Graham and Ian Gordon Fudge, have a ongoing contest of who can do training closest to the North Pole and they share their experiences in cold-weather applications through the FOA newsletter and website.

As a certifying body, FOA follows the guidelines of ISO/IEC 17024, the international standard for certifying bodies,  to create a better certification program.



As of July 2020, our 25th Anniversary, FOA has certified more than 81,000 technicians who have achieved over 110,000 certifications. FOA has approved schools offering FOA certifications in more than 40 countries around the world. Besides the US, FOA instructors teach in locations as varied as First Nation villages in the Canadian Arctic, villages in Greenland, the Middle East, most countries in Africa, South America and Asia. FOA’s Advisory Board has members in the US and Canada, Copenhagen, DK, Durban, SA, Singapore, Nairobi, Cairo, and more, assuring the FOA maintains an international perspective on the fiber optic field.


Comments From Some Of The People Who Helped Build The FOA

John Highhouse: I just remember us at our first meeting discussing the importance of putting together a certification program that had real standards and not just some "mail order certification".  I believe it worked quite well as evidenced by the high regard people have for the FOA name.  Thanks for all you've done for the industry.  I honestly think that you got the ball rolling and kept it straight down the alley.  Congrats for 25 excellent years.

Joe Botha: An educational association reputation is something that you should consider when choosing a place to study. You should focus your attention on those that have name recognition and are known the world over for being “good”. The FOA embodies “good”. FOA is particularly known for its more than ample online resources. Access to approachable, helpful, and passionate about their subject matter experts. And you will be able to find amongst a wide selection, the right course or mix of courses to suit your interests and career ambitions.

Bob Ballard: Happy 25th Anniversary to the FOA - my past business "partners"!  I would like to say, "thank you" for your many years of dedication to the fiber optics industry and may it continue its growth in the future - especially during these uncertain times.  You have provided this industry with an endless supply of professional guidance, course curriculums, and market knowledge. 

I would like to offer a very special "thank you" for allowing me to be a part of your organization for the past 17 years.  Now, in my retirement from the fiber optics industry, I look back on the extremely successful opportunities your organization allowed me to be a part of.  The overall growth and success of my company can only be attributed to your efforts to provide only the best and most current fiber optics training curriculums available anywhere in the world.  Thus, the FOA allowed me to use these materials, its guidance and its website to build one of the largest and most successful fiber optics training companies in the world.  Unfortunately, times, circumstances, and opportunities have changed and, while the current road is not as clear as it was in the early days, the FOA is there to assist and, hopefully, will be there for many more years to come.

Thank you FOA for many past years of success in this great industry.

Bill Graham: While Fiber Optic training was my main occupation, I found myself involved in many other industries such as mines, nuclear, aviation, industrial machines, homes and many places using optical fiber, in many case of odd types and sizes of fiber. Work in this field took me to the USA, Europe, Caribbean, Baffin Island and the furthest First Nation reserves in Northern Canada.

I joined the Fiber Optic Association and became a Director.  I found myself part of a group of the most knowledgeable people in the industry. The original group represented many facets of the industry. Jim and Karen Hayes took the lead and have to be credited with the original organization of the FOA as well as their dedication bringing the FOA to the present state. The industry owes them a debt of gratitude.
The rest of the years to this date have been terrifically exciting, learning new technics in an ever changing, life-long learning industry and meeting great people as students and as vendors. All in all, it has been an exciting trip and I am eternally grateful to all the great people with whom I have been associated with over the years.

And from FOA Director Jerry Morla, a relative newcomer to FOA (2008): Over the last 25 years, the FOA has incessantly worked to deliver on its mission of professionalizing the fiber optics industry. After over two decades, de FOA has achieved to contribute to the development of hundreds of thousands of fiber optic technicians and industry professionals around the world, resulting in direct impact and quality gains for stakeholders at of levels of the telecom industry. We are extremely thankful with everyone that has contributed to these achievements, especially our instructors and schools that have partnered with us throughout this endeavor. As the world goes through unprecedented times and increasing reliance on broadband networks and fiber optic professionals for ensuring continuance of services, overcoming global challenges, and continue improving our way of life, the FOA will continue to illuminate the way by sharing knowledge, skills building, and professional development opportunities with colleagues and apprentices from all over the world.

And from Bee and Isaac at 100G:


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