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October 2020

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News     Technical    Worth Reading    Q&A    Training/FiberU    Resoures    Safety   About

In This Issue
Note we have changed the format to place articles in sections on one topic and all articles are dated so you know if we repeat one - whcih we often do when we think it's very important!


3 More New Fiber U MiniCourses.
2 New FOA YouTube Videos. 
FOA Certs For Experienced Techs Done Online
Great Ideas -
DUDC -  Motorozed Underground Vault
Microtrenching Street Savers
RayDius Bend Radius Block
History, From Peter Morcombe

Newsletter Sections

Click on any link to jump to that section

News  COPPER IS DEAD - AT&T Declares, Verizon Movie on 5G, 5G lie, AT&T Plans, Tight Cable Fit, Broadband Study, New Products  
Technical    Total internal reflection , the mystery of loss in dB solved, splices on OPGW, manufacturers of prepolished connectors, more

Worth Reading    Damage Protection, Passive Optical LANs, more

Q&A    As usual, new questions

Training/FiberU   New schools, remote OTDR for training, making training classroom safe, onine training, materials, more
Resoures Safety  


FOA Certifications: 

CFOT Total

Time To Renew Your FOA Certifications?
Special offer - 1/3 Off Renewal

See FOA Jobs Web Page and FOA on FOA on LinkedIn
The FOA Jobs Web Page has been updated and a new page added on Using your FOA Training/Certification to Find the Right Job in Fiber Optics

Where Are The Jobs In Fiber Optics? FOA talks about all the applications for fiber optics, what jobs involve and the qualifications for the workers in the field in this YouTube video.

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FOA Guide
Want to know more about fiber optics? Study for FOA certifications? Free Self-Study Programs are on "Fiber U®." Looking for specific information? Here's the largest technical reference on the web: The FOA Online Fiber Optic Reference Guide.

Free online self-study programs on many fiber optics and cabling topics are available at Fiber U, FOA's online web-based training website.

 FOA Reference Books
Available Printed or eBooks
The fiber book is available in Spanish and French

FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optics book FOA Reference Guide to Premises Cablng book FOA Reference Guide to OSP Fiber Optics book FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optics book
FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optic Network Design book FOA Book on Fiber Optic Testing FOA Outside Plant Fiber Optics Construction Guide  Lennie Lightwave

Lennie and Uncle Ted's Guides are now also available as free iBooks on iTunes.
Lennie Lightwave's Guide To Fiber Optics   Uncle Ted's Guide to Premises Cablling
Click on any of the books to learn more.
Fiber Optic Safety Poster to download and print

FOA Videos on videos

FOA is a member of:

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FTTH Council

The FOA Newsletter is edited by Jim Hayes - send your stories, leads, ideas, comments to <jim @>
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SPECIAL OFFER - Save 1/3 On Your Certification Renewal Cost

In the near future, there will be a requirement for continuing education to renew your FOA certifications. FOA is testing an option for renewals where you take a short Fiber U online course. 

If you would like to help FOA test this option, you can save 1/3 the cost of your renewal.  Go here to take the Fiber U CFOT Renewal Course:

FOA Newsletter - Features

3 More New Fiber U MiniCourses

Got An Hour Or Less? Learn Something New About Fiber Optics.

Last month we introduced a new type of Fiber U course, the MiniCourse, a free online course you could take in a short time, perhaps as you ate lunch at your desk or took a long coffee break. This month we added 3 more courses:

Fiber Optic Cable Bend Radius

Fiber Optic Link Loss And Power Budgets

Fiber Optic Connector Inspection And Cleaning

The topics of these three courses should explain what they are about, and these are all very important topics to fiber optic techs.

The courses have two components, video lectures and readings, that are complementary. As usual there is a self-test to allow you to check your comprehension. As with other Fiber U courses if you desire, you can take a short test for a Fiber U Certificate of Completion that costs
only $10.

The three MiniCourses introduced last month are "Fiber Optic Restoration,' Connector Identification" and "The Mysterious dB of Fiber Optics."

Fiber Optic Network Restoration 

Fiber Optic Connector Identification

The Mysterious dB of Fiber Optics

All these free courses and many more are available at Fiber U.

2 More New FOA Video Lectures On YouTube

As part of developing the new Fiber U MiniCourses, we added 2 new YouTube videos also, in addition to the 5 new videos added last month:
Lecture 56 explains the issues of cable bend radius limitations, typical cable specifications and how to gage the proper radius or diameter when installing or storing cable. Lecture 57 covers problems with dirty connectors and how to inspect and clean them.

Videos added last month:

FOA Lecture 51 Fiber Optic Restoration Part 1 - Causes of Damage To The Network  
FOA Lecture 52 Fiber Optic Restoration Part 2 - Planning For Restoration 
FOA Lecture 53 Fiber Optic Restoration Part 3 - Troubleshooting And Repair
FOA Lecture 54 Fiber Optic Connector Identification - New and old
FOA Lecture 55 The Mysterious dB of Fiber Optics. - Understanding dB 

Lectures 51, 52 and 53 are about fiber optic network restoration, broken into 3 parts: what causes damage, how to plan for restoration and finally troubleshooting and repairing a network outage. Lecture 54 is a short history of the development of fiber optic connectors and a overview of the ones most used today. Lecture 55 will teach you about dB, it's origin, an explanation of the math behind it and why standards can make it confusing. 

Like all our YouTube lectures, they are all short and easy to understand.

FOA "Work-To-Cert" Program

Experience Plus Online Study At Fiber U = FOA Certification

This year, more techs have become comfortable with online conferences, webinars and training. Many have discovered that they can become FOA Certified using their experience in fiber optics and study for the FOA certification exams online at Fiber U. Thousands of industry professionals have applied to the FOA directly for certification without the need for classroom training, based on their knowledge and skills developed working the field. Since FOA certifications are based on KSAs (knowledge, skills and abilities), current techs already show the skills and abilities required through their field experience. FOA provides free online self-study courses at Fiber U for the knowledge part to prepare you for FOA certification exams which you can also take online.

If you are an experienced field tech interested in certification, and FOA is the internationally recognized certifying body for fiber optics, you can find out more about the FOA "Work to Cert" program here.

If you are already a CFOT, FOA also offers many specialist certifications you can obtain based on your experience as a field tech. See what's available at
Fiber U.


Two great ideas (and one good one too) for products came to our attention this month.

MetroFibre DUDC - Dry Underground Distribution Chamber

FOA Instructor Joe Botha in South Africa told us about this DUDC - Dry Underground Distribution Center - underground distribution rack developed by MetroFibre in SA for their own use and not available commercially. MetroFibre's Johan Booysen, Optical Assurance Manager, provided this description:

"Metrofibre currently utilize these in instances where the municipality don’t allow SDC’s (single door distribution cabinets) and where the risk of damage could be high. You will see that the pictures I took are relevant to my training center and pre-populated already. Don’t mind the different high density patch panels, I populated it this way relevant to what we could utilize in the field."

MetroFibre DUDC

Front view in the MetroFibre lab above and rear view below.

MetroFibre DUDC

But the movie below shows the really neat part of the idea, it has a "elevator" feature that allows it to be raised and lowered into the special sealed handhole.


As we said, this is custom for MetroFibre and not available commercially. However we bet such a good idea won't take long to become a commercial product!

U-TECK Street Savers - Microtrench Protectors

Microtrenching has become a very popular technique for installing fiber optics because it's fast, inexpensive and creates less disruption during construction. Sometimes during the process of microtrenching there is a need to leave an open trench for a short period of time before cable installation and backfilling. During that time, there is a possibility of vehicles driving over it, and it needs protection. For this, U-TECK developed Street Savers.

Street Savers are short lengths of high strength plastic (HDPE) with fins that drop in the microtrench groove to hold them in place. If they have to be left for longer periods like overnight or has higher speed traffic, there are holes provided to allow screwing them into the pavement. Two lengths are available and the joints are moveable to allow them to follow curves.

Here are Street Savers being used on a suburban street:

U-TREK Street Savers

U-TREK Street Savers  U-TREK Street Savers  U-TREK Street Savers

Note how the flexible joint allows them to follow curves.

Go here for more information on U-TECK Street Savers.

And we also suggest you look at U-TECK's RayDius Fiber Quadrant Block for pulling fiber optic cable without damage caused by violating the cable minimum bend radius.


If you don't know what this is used for, you need to take the Fiber U MiniCourse on Bend Radius or watch the new Bend Radius video on YouTube.

History - From Those Who Lived It

By Peter Morcombe, FOA Master Instructor, Retired

Yesterday I “Skyped” my friend Frances who lives in Canberra, Australia and we spent fifteen minutes swapping information about our children.  The quality of the video was amazing but even more remarkable, the call was free of charge!   So how is it that intercontinental video calls are “Too Cheap to Meter”?

In 2018, Telefónica, a Spanish company, opened a submarine cable called MAREA from Virginia Beach to Sopelana in northern Spain.  The capacity was 160 Tera-bits per second, equivalent to 2.5 billion simultaneous digital phone calls!

Charles Kao at Nobel Website
Dr. Charles KAO at STL in 1965

This amazing cable rests on an invention that led to Charles Kao being awarded the 2009 Nobel prize in physics.  His invention affects the lives of every one of us every single day yet you have never heard his name.  Charlie invented the high performance optical fiber that makes those free video calls possible.  Yet the first inter-continental optical cable was installed only 32 years ago.  It is scary to realize how profoundly scientists can affect our lives for good or for ill.

The first intercontinental fiber optic cable was called TAT-8 (TransAtlantic Telecommunications, cable #8) with only 40,000 telephone channels. It cost $335 million when it entered service in 1988.  Even though optical fibers have very low loss the cable was over 3,000 miles long so more than 60 signal regenerators were needed.  The regenerators were built by AT&T.  The cable itself was manufactured by Standard Telephones & Cables a subsidiary of the ITT corporation.

The prototype of that cable was installed in Loch Fyne near Glascow, Scotland ten years earlier.  That cable was built by at STL (Standard Telecommunications Laboratories) in Harlow which is roughly 20 miles north of London.   The same year (1978), STC built a fiber optic factory in Harlow since the demand for fiber had grown beyond what Charlie’s team of researchers could produce.

Charlie’s team at STL installed the first high speed fiber optic data system in 1975 for the Dorset Police.  Two years later a fiber optic link was installed from Hitchin to Stevenage, a distance of roughly 10 km.  The system had two regenerators and it is probably the only high performance system to use multimode optical fiber.  The fiber was unusual since it had a core diameter of 40 microns and a cladding of 100 microns.  The link remained in service with British Telecom for many years with a capacity of 1,920 telephone channels or two 70 Mbit/second digital TV channels.

In 1968 Charles Kao and M.W. Jones published a paper describing optical fiber with a loss of 4 decibels per kilometer and that was considered an outstanding achievement considering that most coaxial copper cables have five times higher loss while offering only a tiny fraction of the bandwidth of optical fiber.
So how do I know all this?  I worked with Charles Kao to build and manage that 1978 optical fiber factory.

Peter Morcombe

Peter Morcombe joined BDI Datalynk as an FOA instructor in 2007 after a long career in lasers and fiber optics including working in the UK with fiber pioneers Charles Kao and David Payne and projects like TAT-8, the first fiber optic transatlantic fiber optic cable. He retired recently. 

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 create a short history of the organization and how it has developed  to help the fiber optic industry. We also wanted to recognize the contributions many people have made to the organization over the years that made FOA what it is today.

The FOA history is now archived on the FOA website where you can read it anytime or link to it.
Updated info - dB, total internal reflection and science projects,

In Case You Missed The Last FOA Newsletter

You can still read these feature articles in the last issue:

FOA Turns 25
Projects For Teachers, Kids and Parents
Winter Installations
Mystery Connectors
The Cost of Connectivity
Replacing A Utility Pole

FOA Newsletter Sections

News     Technical    Worth Reading    Q&A    Training/FiberU    Resoures    Safety   About


Headlines That Got Our Attention: (October 2020 FOA Newsletter)

COPPER IS DEAD! AT&T No Longer Will Sell DSL Services

AT&T ditches DSL  Stephen Hardy, Lightwave, October 5, 2020

AT&T (NYSE: T) has informed subscribers that it will no longer accept new orders for DSL-based services. The change, effective October 1, was communicated to subscribers in a billing notice this past summer. The company has posted a confirming statement on its website among its service descriptions.

In a statement sent to Fierce Telecom, AT&T said that existing customers could retain their service or switch to a fiber-backed service, where available. Service based on fixed wireless access also may be available, depending upon the service area.

While AT&T has consistently emphasized its plans to invest in its broadband networks, those plans center on 5G and fiber-optic network infrastructure.

“Priority #1 is to make sure that we're investing in our core businesses, and that's fiber and making sure that we have broadband connectivity on 5G,” said John T. Stankey AT&T CEO and director at a virtual Goldman Sachs conference in August. “And when you think about it, those two aren't dissimilar. When you have a great 5G network, you're deploying a lot of fiber, and that's something that we think are married well. And we think we're in a very unique position because the fiber that we deploy, not only powers our wireless business, but it helps our consumer business and fixed broadband. It helps our enterprise customers and how we deal with them as well, and so we strategically want to make sure we're doing that.”

AT&T reported 469,000 DSL customers at the end of its fiscal second quarter (June 30, 2020), a drop of 23,000 from the previous quarter and nearly 300,000 less than totals on June 2018. The company reported 4.3 million fiber internet users in the most recently reported quarter.

2nd Opinion

AT&T Is Abandoning Tens of Thousands of American Households in the Deep South Who Have No Other Internet Access Option ILSR Community Networks

All across the country, municipal networks, cooperatives, and cities have been putting in extra effort to make sure that Americans have the fast, affordable, reliable Internet access they need to conduct their lives in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

AT&T has decided to take another route. A USA Today report last week revealed that the company has stopped making connections to users subscribing to its DSL Internet as of October 1st. Anyone calling the company to set up new service is being told that no new accounts are being accepted.

The decision comes right as the National Digital Inclusion Alliance has released a report detailing that only 28% of AT&T’s territory can get fiber from the company. AT&T has deliberately focused investment in more urban areas of higher income. From the report:

"The analysis of AT&T’s network reveals that the company is prioritizing network upgrades to wealthier areas, and leaving lower income communities with outdated technologies. Across the country, the median income for households with fiber available is 34 percent higher than in areas with DSL only — $60,969 compared to $45,500."

Verizon Goes To The Movies To Promote 5G (October 2020)

In the last FOA Newsletter, we quoted from the article below from the Washington Post Sept 8 about the slow speed of 5G today. The article had an interesting comment: Verizon, the largest U.S. wireless carrier, has announced it also will launch a low-band 5G network by the end of the year. And at least to investors, Verizon’s CEO also has been blunt about the incremental improvements nationwide 5G will offer over 4G. “In the beginning, it’s going to be small,” Hans Vestberg told a JPMorgan conference in May.

Less than two weeks later, the Sunday NYTimes Magazine ran 6 full page advertisements by Verizon promoting 5G and inviting you to watch a "documentary" they made on 5G on Netflix called "Speed of Thought." (Details from Verizon and the movie website,) 

V 5G ads

Do not confuse this Verizon effort with the Sci Fi B-movie of 2011 by the same name which got a 15% rating on Rotten Tomatoes!  But is the Verizon movie a documentary as they call it, a infomercial or just science fiction?

The Verizon movie showed people working on projects that they imply will be assisted by 5G wireless or maybe not possible without them at all. The intended audience was certainly not technical people, since there were many instances where we noticed problems with the narrative. For instance:

Nowhere in the whole movie did they mention fiber optics - even when one participant was using his mobile phone on the street to call his parents in Italy. The movie showed diagrams of the network connecting him to Italy but no mention of the fact that the network was all fiber, perhaps leaving the typical person to assume it was all 5G wireless? Absolutely nothing they discussed would work without fiber optics.

The medical app they showed implied that medical devices including a robot would connect on 5G and work right. Why not a fiber tether with more bandwidth and EMI resistance since it was working around all sorts of medical devices like a X-ray machine. What happens around MRI or PET machines? And the idea was the robot in remote hospitals could benefit from doctors in major hospitals, but how could a rural hospital afford such an expensive piece of equipment - typically several million dollars?

The educational app featured would be unlikely to use 5G inside a school since they rely on WiFi for wireless.

The connections for the fireman using the IR headset were not explained, but if 5G is on millimeter wave bands, it's not likely to get in/out of a building, and certainly a shipping container as one demo used.

The section on auto safety did not mention that those applications are long in the future and cellular technology is updated and obsoleted much faster than the lifetime of cars.  Lexus announced recently that they were abandoning owners with 2G cellular connected vehicles only 4 to 10 years old, shutting down their vehicles call for help services. .

The references to urban kids never mentioned the likelihood of installing 5G into their neighborhoods or cost of phones and service which is much higher than normal cellular.

Which brings us to an interesting question. Why did Verizon spend about a half-million dollars on ads in the NY Times magazine and probably that much more making this movie? Probably to impress investors and maybe consumers, but would all that money have been better spent, and produce better PR, by connecting several thousand low-income homes in the NY City area with fiber. We sent letters to the NYTimes tech columnists and Verizon PR but got no response.  Ed.

And this just in...."Verizon forced to pull ad that claimed firefighters need Verizon 5G" Ars Technica  

In case you missed it last month....

"The 5G lie: The network of the future is still slow" (September 2020)

(Washington Post, Sept 8, 2020)

"The Washington Post speed tested 5G phones against 4G ones. America’s new nationwide 5G networks weren’t much faster — and in some places they were slower."

The Post reporter Geoffrey A. Fowler carried 6 phones, a year old 4G/LTE phone and 5G phones from the major carriers around the San Francisco Bay Area and ran speedtests on each phone, over 4000 tests in total. He found 5G speeds were roughly the same as 4G/LTE and some places slower. AT&T speeds were about the same, as was T-Mobile speeds, but Verizon coverage was not available in the Bay Area where he tested the phones.

"AT&T and T-Mobile both market their 5G networks as “nationwide,” though they carefully dance around speed claims. AT&T says 5G means “improved speed” and T-Mobile says “faster speed,” without many specifics. Verizon does make extreme-speed claims about its 5G network — it’s “25x faster than today’s 4G” — but it is, as of this summer, available in less than 1 percent of the country."

Fowler went on to say "When I asked executives at the networks about speed, they acknowledged a truth their advertisements carefully omit. “Our 5G experience initially is as good or better than our 4G LTE experience,” said Chris Sambar, AT&T’s executive vice president for technology operations. Let that sink in: At least for now, 5G is … only as good as 4G.

T-Mobile is equally circumspect, highlighting the range of its coverage, not its jaw-dropping speed. “We’re not claiming that this is where the story of 5G ends. It’s very much a beginning,” said Mark McDiarmid, the senior vice president for radio network engineering and development. He said right now T-Mobile’s 5G network is “two times as fast” as its 4G LTE nationwide average."

"When PC Magazine challenged AT&T about shortcomings of its low-band 5G network in January, the company downplayed speed. “We’ve been pretty vocal that early on there’s no tremendous difference,” AT&T vice president Gordon Mansfield said at that time."

"Verizon, the largest U.S. wireless carrier, has announced it also will launch a low-band 5G network by the end of the year. And at least to investors, Verizon’s CEO also has been blunt about the incremental improvements nationwide 5G will offer over 4G. “In the beginning, it’s going to be small,” Hans Vestberg told a JPMorgan conference in May."

"I told AT&T about both of our cases. It sent me a different phone to test, but the result was the same. “You are two data points,” said AT&T’s Sambar. “We’ve done a lot of internal testing ... [and] we’re seeing our that our 5G network is showing speeds that are at least at parity with LTE, if not better.”

"But for everyone else, waiting will bring down the cost of great 5G phones. The extra time also will allow handset makers to improve their hardware and software — and let networks figure out how to make sure 5G phones don’t actually feel like downgrades."

Back in 2019, FOA ran several articles on 5G "hype."

Starlink Sattellites Severely Limited - 12,000 satellites for less than 1/2 million users. (Light Reading)  (October 2020)

Remember the articles we've written on Space-X's plan to fill the sky with satellites? Maybe ruining ground-based astronomy, filling space with hazardous junk and even making launches difficult? Well there is more.

Starlink, the satellite Internet provider from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, will be able to support just 485,000 simultaneous users at 100Mbit/s across the entire US, according to one firm’s new estimates. And that kind of performance won’t even be available until the end of 2026, when Starlink floods Earth’s skies with up to 12,000 satellites.

According to the new estimates from the financial analysts at Cowen, those figures mean that Starlink – a low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite Internet operator that is expected to begin offering a public beta service in November – won’t pose much of a threat to established Internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast.

 “While Starlink has the ability to provide a practical satellite-based broadband solution for the underserved, the capacity has limitations in most of the US, especially considering the growing demand for bandwidth driven by in-home data-rich applications and devices,” the firm wrote in a new report Wednesday.

CRU Conference

CRU is holding its regular fiber optic markets conference online this year. Intended for industry executives, it explores innovative technologies as well as markets in presentations by the leaders in the industry.

For more infomation go to the CRU website.

AT&T CEO John Stankey Lays Out the Company’s 4 Priorities (September 2020)

AT&T’s focus is on investing in its wireless and wired networks, adding content to HBO Max, maintaining its dividend, and paying down debt.

AT&T’s top priorities are investing in its wireless and wired networks, adding content to HBO Max, maintaining its dividend, and paying down debt, CEO John Stankey said on Tuesday. The telecom and media company’s stock has been a laggard in 2020 as investors fretted over its portfolio, which is more-cyclically exposed than those of peers, and its hefty debt load.

On the telecom side of the portfolio, laying fiber-optic cable is first on the list for AT&T. It is killing two birds with one stone, Stankey said at Goldman Sachs’ annual Communacopia media and telecom conference on Tuesday. Next-generation 5G wireless networks are built on a fiber backbone, with the wireless part being just hundreds of yards between a customer’s phone and a cell tower. The bulk of the traffic on the network travels over fiber-optic cable. 5G-capable antennas and other network equipment are also an investment focus.

Read in Barron's - s
hared from Apple News

(This article prompted lots of questions - see below)

Tight Fit: 6912 Fiber Cable Pulled in 1.25 inch Conduit (September 2020)

Furukawa Electric Co., Ltd. (FEC) conducted an experiment in its Mie, Japan facility to demonstrate the installation of a 6912-fiber optic cable with an outer diameter of 1.14 inches (29 mm) in a 696 foot (200m) long conduit with three 90 degree curves and an inner diameter of 32mm. The conduit used was a standard product installed in conventional data center campuses. Engineers confirmed a maximum pulling tension of 84 pounds (372N), well below the maximum pulling tension of 600 pounds (2700N) specified for the cable.

FEC Cable  FEC Cable

The cable was installed in a 1.25 inch (32mm) conduit with a maximum length of 1,411 feet (430m) in a North American data center campus in 2020 to support live traffic. The high fill ratio in this application is not typically recommended for Outside Plant (OSP) cable installation. However, in this application, the end-user was willing to accept the installation risk in return for maximum fiber density. The installation demonstrated that FEC’s 6912 fiber optic cable can be successfully installed into 1.25 inch (32mm) conduit using appropriate tools, work procedures, and optimum installation conditions.

“The FEC 6912 fiber optic cable at least doubled the fiber count possible in a 1.25 inch conduit, compared to competing available designs,” said Ichiro Kobayashi, General Manager of optical fiber & cable engineering department, FEC.

Furukawa PR also on OFS Website. OFS is a FEC company.

New Study Shows State Barriers to Community Networks Decrease Broadband Availability - Community Networks. (September 2020)

That community networks act as a positive force in the broadband market is something we’ve covered for the better part of a decade, but a new study out in the journal Telecommunications Policy adds additional weight (along with lots of graphs and tables) which shows that states which enact barriers to entry for municipalities and cooperatives do their residents a serious disservice.

State Broadband Policy: Impacts on Availability” by Brian Whitacre (Oklahoma State University) and Robert Gallardo (Purdue University), out in the most recent issue of the journal, demonstrates that enacting effective state policies have a significant and undeniable impact on the pace of basic broadband expansion in both rural and urban areas, as well as speed investment in fiber across the United States.

The authors zero in on three particular policies that they say have among the most significant impact on whether a community has broadband or not: whether or not the state has passed laws restricting municipalities and cooperatives from building and operating broadband networks; whether or not the state has a broadband office devoted to expansion and staffed by full-time employees; and whether or not the state has a funding program dedicated to expanding broadband networks. Each of the above is considered against general broadband availability at the national level, but also for counties classified as rural.

Read more: Community Networks

What happens when you remove state barriers:

Mississippi Electric Co-ops Kick Broadband Projects Into High Gear

Less than two years after Mississippi lifted its ban on electric cooperative broadband networks, at least 15 of the 25 co-ops in the state have announced plans to provide Internet access to members, with more on the way.

Read more 

Recycling Fiber Optic Cable - Contact:
Steve Maginnis
LD4Recycle/ CommuniCom Recycling
(Visit website)


On fiber optic technology, standards, equipment, installation, etc.

The FOA Update Page covers all the new technology and applications we covered in this newsletter recently. Now you can review all that new tech at once.

FOA Guide

Want to know more about fiber optics? Study for FOA certifications? Free Self-Study Programs are on "Fiber U®." Looking for specific information? Here's the largest technical reference on the web: The FOA Online Fiber Optic Reference Guide.

Try The FOA's New Online Loss Budget Calculator

FOA has written many articles about loss budgets, something everyone involved in fiber optics needs to know and needs to know how to calculate. We've created a online Loss Budget Calculator that does the work for you. Just input your cable plant data and it calculates the loss budget. It works on any device, especially smartphones and tablets for field use and even allows printing the results.

FOA Loss Budget Calculator

Bookmark this page (especially on your smartphone: FOA Loss Budget Calculator Online

How Fiber Works - Total Internal Reflection - For Math Lovers  (August 2020)

Snell's Law

FOA has always had information on how fiber works using total internal reflection, but we've recently updated our web page on the subject to include a more complete explanation using Snell's Law and the math that allows you to calculate the parameters of the fiber including NA - numerical Aperture.

snell's law

FOA Guide page on Total Internal Reflection

dB or not dB, that is the question (8/2020)

FOA has spent considerable space in this newsletter discussing the confusion of dB measurements. FOA received a comment from a very technical person we know who used to work for a major fiber optic instrument manufacturer. He tries to explain the issue thusly:

"I submit that optical LOSS can be positive or negative.  I submit that optical GAIN can be positive or negative.  I submit that the CHANGE in optical power (note that you use the word “change” in a dB question below) can be positive or negative. 
A negative Optical Loss is a gain.  A positive optical loss is  a loss.  Hence, Optical Loss can either be positive or negative." 

Redefining relative dB measurements to make them read positive as was done by some committee rewriting international standards some years ago is simply ignoring the scientific community and producing extreme confusion by making gain a negative number. There is no problem making “loss” just “dB” with no sign, as long as it’s known that it is represented by a negative dB number. Likewise “gain” can have no sign as long as it follows scientific and technical convention which makes it a positive number. 

We have likened this to “profit” and “loss” in our explanations. They use similar conventions. Does any company talk about a negative profit? Of course not.

The issue has always been the display of data on an OLTS or OTDR. If instrument manufacturers had wanted to do it right, instead of ignoring scientific convention and changing the definition, they would have changed displays to have no sign for loss or gain but for, example, make gain readings flash, change color or show “gain” on the display. There is a convention for doing that in scientific instruments for readings that are out of range or otherwise improper.

We cannot accept under any circumstances that “gain” is a negative number. Our scientific and technical education revolts at that!

dBm - Evidence 8/2020 -

We wanted to show a power meter that reads in both watts and dB so you can see the correllation, so we found a 20+ year old meter that still had a scale reading in watts.

Here is an example of a power meter measuring in dBm and microwatts (a microwatt is 0.001 or 1/1000th of a milliwatt.)

Watts to dBm

Here is an example of the conversion of watts to dBm. This meter is reading 25microwatts - that's 0.025milliwatts. If we convert to dBm, it becomes -16.0dBm. We can easily figure this out using dB power ratios. -10dBm is 1/10 of a milliwatt or 0.100mW. -6dB below that is a factor of 0.25 so 0.1mW X 0.25 = 0.025mW or 25microwatts. The other way to figure it is -10dB is 1/10 and -6dB is 0.25 or 1/4th (remember 3dB = 1/2, so 6dB = 3dB + 3dB = 1/2  X 1/2 = 1/4) so -16dBm is 1/40milliwatt or 0.025milliwatts or 25microwatts.

Read a more comprehensive explanation of dB here in the FOA Guide.

Splice-On Connector Manufacturers and Tradenames   7/2020

FOA Master Instructor Eric Pearson of Pearson Technologies shared a list he has researched of prepolished splice connectors with mechanical splices and SOC - splice-on connectors for fusion splicing. This list shows how widepread the availability of these connectors has become, especially the SOCs and low cost fusion splicers.

Mechanical Splice
1.    Corning Unicam® (50, 62.5, SM)
1.    FIS Cheetah (???)
2.    Panduit OptiCam® (50, 62.5, SM)
3.    Commscope Quik II  (50, 62.5, SM)
4.    Cleerline SSF™ (50, SM)
5.    LeGrand/Ortronics Infinium® (50, 62.5, SM)
6.    3M/Corning CrimpLok (50, 62.5, SM)
7.    Leviton FastCam© (50, 62.5, SM)

Fusion Splice
2.    Inno (50, 62.5, SM)
3.    Corning FuseLite® (50, SM)
4.    FORC (50, 62.5, SM)
5.    Siemon OptiFuse ™ (SM, MM)
6.    Belden OptiMax?? FiberExpress (SM, MM)
7.    AFL FuseConnect® (SM, MM)
8.    OFS optics EZ!Fuse ™ (50, 62.5, SM)
9.    Sumitomo Lynx2 Custom Fit® (50, 62.5, SM)
10.    Commscope Quik-Fuse (50, SM)
11.    Ilsintech Pro, Swift® (50, 62.5, SM)
12.    LeGrand/Ortronics Infinium® (50, 62.5, SM)
13.    Greenlee (50, 62.5, SM)
14.    Hubbell Pro  (50, SM)
15.    Easysplicer (SM)

Note: There are additional manufacturers from the Peoples Republic of China, which advertise on Amazon and eBay.

Worth Reading

Each month we read hundreds of newsletters and online articles. These are the ones we think you will find "worth reading."

Worth Reading: 10/20

Verizon forced to pull ad that claimed firefighters need Verizon 5G Ars Technica  

5G May Lead To Less Accurate Weather Forecasts - Rutgers U @ Futurity

Switch to 5G Could Shut Down Millions of Connected Cars
(LA Times)

Starlink Sattellites Severely Limited - 12,000 satellites for less than 1/2 million users. (Light Reading)

Progress on 25G PONs (Passive Optical Netowrks) (Lightwave)

Read a comprehensive explanation of dB here in the FOA Guide.

Rattled Louisiana Gulf Coast slammed by Hurricane Delta - See how well aerial cables survive hurricanes - watch the video aorund the halfway point.

Local Broadband in America from Next Century Cities

Single Pair Ethernet - explained by suppliers in Cabling Installation & Maintnenace. 

Installing Prefab Cables for FTTH - Corning FlexNAP™ System Installation in Pizzoferrato, Italy

Good Video On Coiling Cable For Storage Loops In Handholes or Manholes - AFL. (More topics on page too) 

Why Wilson, N.C., Became Its Own Internet Provider - NPR

How much fiber optic cable is manufactured each year? CRU Reports - unsurprisingly China is by far the largest market today


If you are interested in restoration - aren't we all? - you should also read this article in dpPro magazine by FOA President Jim Hayes: Damage Protection Requies Looking Overheas As Well As Underground - dpPRO Magazine - about the problems with aerial cables. His previous article for the magazine was New Techniques for Fiber Optic Installation.

Damage Protection Requies Looking Overheas As Well As Underground - dpPRO Magazine - FOA President Jim Hayes writes about the problems with aerial cables.

APOLAN claims passive optical LAN trims costs 56% over traditional enterprise networks - CI&M

Fiber Cleaning & Inspection--Best Practices by Optotest

Break Through Network Capacity Limits - Expand WDM or Faster Speeds? - Lightwave

5 rules for placing fiber-optic cable in underground plant - A new OFS technical guide covers comprehensive steps for installation of fiber-optic cable in underground plant. CI&M

New Study Shows State Barriers to Community Networks Decrease Broadband Availability - Community Networks

Connecting Residents in Boston, MA Next Century Cities

Rural Telecom Funding Model Must Change ISE Magazine

Three Applications Guides from Siemon: DAS, WiFi and AV

Lightmatter - First Optical Processor Chip? - Lightwave


“An adequate connection is no longer a matter of convenience; it is a necessity for anyone wishing to participate in civil society,” wrote the New York Times Editorial Board in an opinion article published on Sunday, July 18.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance weekly newsletter has lots of interesting articles and links.
"July has seen the release of complementary reports which shed light on two of the topics we care about a great deal around these parts: availability and affordability of Internet access, and municipally-enabled networks. The Open Technology Institute at New America just published “The Cost of Connectivity 2020,” while US Ignite and Altman Solon issued “Broadband Models for Unserved and Underserved Communities

Universal access to broadband is a cornerstone to a strong economy, Achieving universal access will require community partnerships. by
Alfreda B. Norman, Sr. VP,  Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

FIBER TO THE FARM: The co-ops that electrified Depression-era farms are now building rural internet. Be sure to check out the high-tech equine installation equipment.

CENIC upgrades California education network to 400G between LA and Sunnyvale. The new 460-mile route is part of an overall strategy to upgrade CalREN to 400G. From Lightwave.

Next Century Cities Newsletter - News from cities around the US including Detroit and New York plus small towns too.

The NYTimes On Tech newsletter for August 10 has a great animated graphic of the Internet connections around the world.

Worth Reading - News Summary - Past Links Worth Repeating

Cooperatives Essential to Bringing High-Quality Fiber Internet Access to Rural America Read the ILSR report on coops here: Cooperatives Fiberize Rural America: A Trusted Model For The Internet Era. Look at the ILSR Newsletter too - it covers rural broadband projects well.

Next Generation PoE (Nexans) The New Power over Ethernet Standards Deliver More Power, Speed, and Efficiency

Infrastructure Get Some Respect, NY TImes "On Tech"   "The magic of the internet requires a lot of very boring stuff behind the scenes. "

Demystifying 5G (Corning):  Do you know 5G’s 3 major benefits, 8 technical goals that deliver those benefits, and 4 technology building blocks that meet the technical goals?

Pentagon official: FCC decision on 5G threatens GPS, national security

Internet Statistics and Facts, 2020: Interesting, easy to get lost here!

Understanding The True State Of Connectivity In America - 65% of US counties receive broadband speeds below industry reports.

Why Businesses Need Fiber Connectivity, from Spectrum CATV. Yes, it's a sales pitch, but they make good points and it indicates they are serious.

DIRT Report On Damage To Utilities Common Ground Alliance (CGA) annual DIRT report provides a summary and analysis of the events submitted into CGA’s Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) for the year 2018. The complete report is available for download here. In addition, there is an interactive dashboard that allows users to filter the data more  by factors contributing to damages.

Structured Cabling News - a website and weekly newsletter about cabling.

The Internet Master Plan for New York City. The New York City Internet Master Plan is a comprehensive framework for the infrastructure and services that provide connectivity to New York City residents and businesses. This Master Plan will guide City actions and public-private partnerships to transform New Yorkers’ access to this essential infrastructure for generations to come.

Fiber Trivia From Corning.

Why understanding PoE now is crucial for electricians - To ring in the new decade, IDEAL Networks is urging today's electricians to master new skills and equipment to cope with the growing use of PoE in intelligent lighting applications.

Smart City Projects: Smart city initiatives are underway across the country. But they face funding and technology challenges. Many cities want to upgrade infrastructure to improve resident experience, safety and to generate revenue.

The Future Of Work Is Skills - So Stop Worrying About Degrees - The reality is the future of work is about skills, not just degrees. (FOA Newsletter Feb 2020)

Want a White-Collar Career Without College Debt? Become an Apprentice (NYTimes)
Apprenticeships probably began with the first jobs, where young people work under experienced craftspeople to learn a trade. In the last century, they became more organized under labor unions like the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, one of the FOA's oldest and biggest approved school systems. Today, apprenticeships are expanding as young people look at viable alternatives to loading themselves with debt while attending college.

The job market is hot. So why are half of U.S. grads missing out?  

VIAVI Books On Fiber Optic Testing (2 volumes) - They're back!

books  book 2

Besides the FOA reference materials, two JDSU/VIAVI textbooks, Reference Guide to Fiber Optic Testing, Volumes 1 and 2,  were used as references for some of the FOA courses and are recommended for instructors and students. The books are available from VIAVI as eBooks and the everyone should download them and recommend them to others.Download yours now. Volume 1. Volume 2. Viavi Books

50th Anniversary of The Development of Low Loss Fibers
A history of the development of low loss fiber, a fascinating story by Jeff Hecht on the OSA (Optical Society of America) website.

How OFS Makes Fiber

Interesting YouTube video on how fiber is made. Perhaps a little too much "show biz" but fascinating. If you have ever seen fiber manufacture, look at this video. You will be amazed at how big preforms have become!

How Nexans Makes Copper Cables - compare the process to fiber - don't most of the machines look similar?

The True Cost of Telco Damages (what backhoe fade or target practice can cost)

Rural Electric Cooperatives: Pole Attachment Policies and Issues, June 2019.

Clearfield-FOA Certification Training Clearfield is now offering their customers an FOA CERTIFICATION course. This course provides a basic understanding of fiber optic technology, as well as Clearfield product knowledge and how Clearfield’s integrated product systems work together in a fiber network.

Substandard Contractors - Fiber Optic Knowledge Doesn't Always Trickle Down  (EC Mag)

Another Source Of Articles On Fiber

FOA President and editor of this newsletter Jim Hayes has also been writing a column in Electrical Contractor Magazine for almost 20 years now. Electrical contractors do lots of fiber work and this column has covered some topics they are interested in including installation processes, network design, fiber applications and a lengthy series on dark fiber - what it is, how's its used and how it benefits the growth of communication. A recent web site redesign makes it easier to browse all these articles - just go to and you can see all of them.


Tech Questions/Comments From FOA Newsletter Readers Worth Repeating

The FOA Fiber FAQs Page (FAQs = frequently asked questions) gathers up questions readers have asked us (which first ran in this newsletter) and adds tech topics of general interest.

Good Question!

The FOA Fiber FAQs Page (FAQ s = frequently asked questions) gathers up questions readers have asked us and adds tech topics of general interest.

Questions From FOA Newsletter Readers

October 2020
Last month's article about the installation of a 6912 fiber cable in small conduit prompted a number of this month's questions on social media. And there were more too.

Installation of a 6912 fiber cable

For this post, "Tight Fit: 6912 Fiber Cable Pulled in 1.25 inch Conduit”, he asks if they can see one end completely terminated?
A: It takes about 2 full racks of patch panels or one rack of splice trays. Sumitomo shows the splicing rack here Most systems using these cables will buy fully populated patch panel racks with a splice rack for the cable to splice to 6912 fibers terminated in the rack.

Q: And a second question:: How long does it take to terminate? And over how many panels?
A: A very experienced tech can splice one of these cables in ~75-100 hours using ribbon splicing.

Q: I assume that's smaller fiber like 80 micron cladding
A: All the fibers in the high fiber count cables are made with regular singlemode fiber - 9/125micron. TO make the cables smaller, the buffer coating diameter is reduced to ~200microns to make the fibers smaller.

Q: How was it prepared with the splice tray and ODF? It might require a dedicated panel and splice tray.
A: It takes about 2 full racks of patch panels or one rack of splice trays. Most systems using these cables will buy fully populated patch panel racks with a splice rack for the cable to splice to 6912 fibers terminated in the rack.

Q: Is this an actual photo or was the cable installed in a different type conduit.
A: We were told that is the actual size of the cable and conduit although not of the actual installation discussed.

Q: What is the minimum bend radius of that cable? What procedures did they use to maintain that bend radius through those 90 degree curves?
A: The minimum bend radius is 15X the cable diameter for that cable (diameter 1.14” or 29mm), about  17” or 435mm. The conduit bends had to be controlled to be larger than that radius.

Jobs In The Movie Industry
Does anyone know if there are job positions in the film industry that involve fiber optics? I started out working in film with audio work with some camera as well. I eventually transitioned into fiber optics installation and testing. I've been trying to find out if there's a way to find work that combines the two.
A: There are certainly jobs for fiber techs at the film studios. We worked with a group 20 years ago to find dark fiber in LA to connect studios to sound stages and other facilities. Every studio now has fiber connections everywhere, like this one at Paramount (below). I don’t know where to look for jobs, but I’d guess it would be through the unions - who represents the techs for the cameras, monitors, etc.?

Movie studio fiber

Preparing Cable For Splicing
Is there any standard on the preparation length of strip jacket upto the splice tray. Ideally its better to have a loop of buffer before getting into the tray if ever the closure has enough space for slack.. its also nice to put some hose to the buffer to add on protection. So far, i don't see any standard and can't support the remarks on what to follow. The practice was to take note on macrobend and have enough length of fiber to reach the machine.
A: There is a lot of variation in the size, shape and design of splice closures, so the length varies according to the closure and trays. For loose tube cable, the length of buffer tube from the entrance to the splice tray and the length of fiber needed in the tray are given in the directions for that splice tray. Similarly for ribbon cable, but the variations in ribbon cable designs often requires special handling and sleeving for the ribbons. Most manufacturers have specs available online.

Fusion Splice-On Connectors (SOCs) (From an FOA Instructor)
A question came up from one of our students regarding splice on connectors.  Is there a TIA or other standards body that addresses this issue? We are used to the 0.75 dB loss for a mated pair, however, when this mated pair has two fusion splices that terminate the connector, is there a recommendation? 
One could make the argument that it does not make any difference as the other alternative is splicing a pigtail for termination of a cable.  This pigtail splice is normally included in the link loss budget calculation.   So similarly, with a splice on connector it is the same as splicing on a pigtail.
A: There are no specific TIA or IEC specs that address these splice-on connectors or pigtails. If you used TIA numbers and included the splice and connector it would be 1.05dB - 0.75dB for the connection and 0.3dB for the splice, that’s mated to a factory adhesive/polish connector.   Or if it were two similar connectors, 1.35dB. 
Everybody, including the people in TIA standards groups, know those numbers are too high for most single ferrule connectors. They keep them at 0.75dB for prepolished/splice connectors (w/ mechanical splices) and array connectors (MPOs) which have somewhat unpredictable performance. Internationally, IEC has created grades of connectors from ~0.3 to over 1dB. The newer mechanical splice connector kits now use the Chinese copied cleavers which are super - at least the few we have tested - and the connectors are now much lower loss and consistent.
SOCs (fusion splice-on connectors) are spec’ed as the total termination and are generally just as good as the typical adhesive polish connector - 0.5dB is plenty of margin for a those mated to a factory adhesive/polish connector.
Spliced on pigtails are generally considered a termination and the splice is not broken out - like a long SOC. But I cannot guarantee everybody thinks that way. But a fusion splice is typically <0.1dB anyway.

September 2020

Fiber Optic Regulations for Cable Markers
I wanted to inquire on any federal regulations there may be on Cable Markers to alert citizens of fiber optic conduit underneath the ground. We have had conflicts with installers placing vertical white and orange markers in right-of-way in residential areas
(Fron Scott Landes, Rhino Markers and dp-PRO magazine) There are no regulations on communications markers. Gas/Oil pipelines must be marked and there are specifications for those markers. Curb markers can be effective in residential areas. However they often do not have a warning message telling people to call 811. They are not as effective as marker posts, but if they are used along with soil markers, which can be mowed over, you can create an effective system.

Replace Coax With FIber
I read some of your interesting articles on network upgrades and I was wondering if you can spare some suggestions.
I might be able to purchase an old non-pressurized underground coaxial network, basically an old coaxial cable inside a conduit. Is there any ‘cheap’ way to replace the old coaxial cable with a new optic fiber cable, perhaps simultaneously pulling out the old coaxial cable and pulling a new fiber tube inside the old conduit?
A: If you own the conduit, it should be relatively easy to remove the coax and replace it with fiber optics. Our advice would be to pull the coax, pulling in a pull tape as it is pulled out, clear the conduit and pull in the largest microduct assembly you can - 6-7 12mm ducts is usually only 40-50mm in diameter. Then you can blow in a number of microcables. A 288 fiber cable in each duct adds up to a lot of fiber or a lot of leasing to service providers.
We also ran an article in a FOA Newsletter "New Way To Install Fiber In Old Coax” that describes how to replace the center conductor and dielectric of the coax with fiber.

Testing Bare Fiber
Q: I was wondering if there’s an equipment for a visual fault locator but on a bare fiber cable. I know there’s a bunch of VFL that needs an ST connector or LC connector to use. I’m just wondering if there’s one for bare.
A: You can get a gadget called a “bare fiber adapter” that allows you to strip the fiber, cleave it and clamp it in a connector - then attach to a VFL or other source. If you only have short lengths of fiber, you can probably get by without cleaving the fiber as enough light will be captured with a broken fiber.


Dig Once

The word on the "Dig Once" program is getting out - FOA is getting calls from cities asking us for information and advice. Here are some links:

The DoT page on the administration’s Executive Order:
From the Council of State governments:
From the city of San Francisco:
An article about Dakota County, MN:

And the one to download and hand out:
A “How To” Guide from The Global Connect Initiative:

Fiber Optic Cable Plant - The Finished Product 4/2020
In April, FOA received inquiries from several sources that all deal with the same subject - what is involved in the specification and acceptance of a cable plant at the end of a installation project. And what are reasonable specifications for a cable plant.

FOA has a lot of documentation on a project involving  designing and installing a cable plant in the FOA Online Guide and our Textbooks, but the acceptance process has usually been relegated to a few paragraphs. We decided to add a page on project "Deliverables" in the FOA Guide that covers this topic in more depth. This page looks at a project, goes into some depth on loss budgets and includes links to FOA tech documents to help you investigate further.

Correction: In the article, the original list of fiber specs for G.652 was wrong. It should be 0.4dB/km @ 1310nm.

Deliverables in the FOA Guide

Is There A Standard For Fiber Optic Installation?

Another question we get often is "Is there a standard for fiber optic installation." The answer is yes, but not from the usual standards groups you might expect. Over 20 years ago, the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) asked FOA to help create a standard for installation. That standard, ANSI/NECA/FOA-301 has been updated three times already and is about ready for another update.

Unlike most of those groups who charge you a fortune for standards, FOA covers the cost so
ANSI/NECA/FOA-301 is available free from FOA.

NECA/FOA 301 Fiber Optic Installation Standard

Download your free copy of
ANSI/NECA/FOA-301 here (PDF)

Older questions are now available here.

/ FiberU

News and resources to help you learn more and stay updated.

Find a listing of all the FOA-Approved schools here.

Free online self-study programs on many fiber optics and cabling topics are available at Fiber U, FOA's online web-based training website.
Free online training at Fiber U

The FOA has >100 videos on videos

New Approach To Fiber Optic Labs - Sharing Test Equipment

Tom Collins, Techtricians, FOA Director

, a FOA approved school, has taken a new approach in how we provide lab training. Fifteen years ago, we developed a hybrid training model had the participants complete online (remote) lessons with face to face labs. Over the past 12 years trade organizations, colleges, vocational, vendor training, and trade apprenticeships have adopted this model. At the beginning of the pandemic we spent a lot of time, energy, and money developing remote labs. We have incorporated lessons learned from that process to restart safe face to face labs.

First, we provide disposable materials and PPE’s for all learning. Every student has their own work space with 8-9 feet of separation and their own set of hand tools only used by the student. All of the classroom information is accessed online or with USB drives. Our biggest challenge was how to safely share testing equipment so every student could have the practical hands on experience.

We believe we have found that solution with the help of “ezremote”.  The ezremote allows a multitude of students to have practical exposure and experience with using a video microscope, OLTS and OTDR testers. Every student can access the remote via their own iPad or their smart phone, see below picture and movie.

Remote OTDR
The VeEX OTDR set up for remote access in class

Recently, we contacted PCS, Inc. which is a premiere manufacturer’s representative firm serving the Southeastern US since 1974.  Headquartered in Roswell, GA, Marc Wright  a sales representative spent a lot of time and energy helping Techtricians to purchase the VeEX  FX150+ device.  It is a full featured Mini OTDR with high resolution sampling and intelligent link mapping for Metro, Access and FTTx networks remote application. The compact, lightweight platform incorporates built in WiFi, power meter, light source, fiber inspection probe and VFL test options which add exceptional versatility to the unit.

OTDR display on iPad OTDR remote
The remote OTDR displayed on an iPad (L) and on 4 smartphones and 2 laptops

In September we completed our first trial in a face to face lab session in Lake Mary, Florida. The OTDR unit uses a WIFI connection. The students went to the VeEX website with their iPad or their smart phone and connected the to the base unit. The lab module used one OTDR setup for the entire class for testing the cable plant.

The instructor's laptop is connected to the OTDR and projecting the display for everyone to see

The students when logged-in had control over the OTDR. Each student saw the same screen which made the various events much easier to explain. The module is very safe as the OTDR is not touched by any student. The feedback we received from the students was very positive. They provided suggestions for future training modules. Even after the pandemic is over, we will continue to use this new training method. Our best teachers are our students and our hats are off to all of our students.

For more information, contact Tom or Donna Collins at Techtricians.

New Fiber U MiniCourses (September 2020)

Got An Hour? Learn Something New About Fiber Optics.

Online learning has been growing even more popular during the pandemic, and FOA's Fiber U free online courses have certainly been popular. We've just introduced a new type of short course, one you can finish in an hour or less, that covers a specific topic. The topics were easy to pick; they are ones we're asked about often.

The courses have two components, video lectures and readings, that are complementary. As usual there is a self-test to allow you to check your comprehension. As with other Fiber U courses if you desire, you can take a short test for a Fiber U Certificate of Completion that costs
only $10.

The three new courses now available are "Fiber Optic Restoration,' Connector Identification" and "The Mysterious dB of Fiber Optics."

Fiber Optic Restoration

Fiber Optic Network Restoration MiniCourse 
Every fiber optic network is susceptible to outages, either by damage to the cable plant or problems with the communications equipment. This Fiber U MiniCourse covers what kinds of damage occurs to a fiber optic communications network, how to plan for outages and restoration and how to troubleshoot and repair problems. This course is aimed at managers and network owners as well as contractors and installers.

If you are interested in restoration - aren't we all? - you should also read this article in dpPro magazine by FOA President Jim Hayes:
Damage Protection Requies Looking Overheas As Well As Underground - dpPRO Magazine - about the problems with aerial cables.

Fiber Optic Connector Identification

Fiber Optic Connector Identification MiniCourse
Over the history of fiber optics, there have been more than 100 unique designs for fiber optic connectors. Fortunately only a few have become widely used, but field techs often encounter connectors they are not familiar with and call FOA for help. This Fiber U MiniCourse covers the most popular connectors today and some that have been widely used in the past that techs often contact FOA asking for help in identifying them.


The Mysterious dB of Fiber Optics MiniCourse
Fiber optic measurements of power and loss are made in dB, a mysterious unit of measurement that confuses many people. This MiniCourse helps you understand what dB and dBm are, how they are defined and measured. The course also explains how small change in an international standard created confusion and misunderstanding of dB. Even if you aren't a math whiz, this FOA MiniCourse can help you understand dB.

All these free courses and many more are available at Fiber U.

FOA Schools

Welcome To A New International School


University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, FOA Approved School #772

Baseband U, Corona, CA - FOA Approved School #384

Jim McConnell, FOA Certified Instructor, at the new school Baseband U.

FOA School BDI Datalynk is offering classroom training with Covidd precasutions and also remote classes over most of the US.

FOA Master Instructor Eric Pearson of Pearson Technologiesis now offering classroom training with Covid precautions - 9/2020

Contact Eric for details on his classes.

Classroom Training Is Adapting To The Pandemic 8/2020

FOA Director and instructor Tom Collins sent photos of his recent IMSA/FOA CFOT class held in Florida. It shows how Tom dresses for the job and how his students are social distancing. More FOA classes are being held now using techniques like these.

TC class

Instructor Tom Collins perpared to teach in the classroom.

TC Class

Students with appropriate distancing.

Training Is Back - Made Safer (6/2020)

FOA schools are starting to offer classes at their facilities again to provide the personal interaction with an instructor and hands-on labs, but some things have changed to provide social distancing. Serge Rodrigue at Fibre Zone in Quebec, Canada sent photos of his new lab setup that includes individual lab stations with plexiglass barriers.

safe lab at Fibre Zone

Students are following safe working protocols - masks and gloves - to make classes safe and meet local government requirements for social distancing.


Fibre Zone in Quebec, Canada for more information on their classes.

FiberNext in New Hampshire has also rearranged classrooms for safer classes and has begun training in their facilities in Concord, NH.


Contact FiberNext in Concord, NH, USA
or more information on their classes. Also ask about joining their CFOT Club for savings on products and training.


Fiber Optic Training Online - Simulations and Do-It-Yourself Hands-On Training (6/20)

Simulating Optical Loss Testing
FOA has been experimenting with simulations, especially for testing since test equipment is generally not inexpensive and requires a selection of cables for reference test cables and cables to test. We have had an OTDR Simulator based on the software for an OTDR and a selection of traces for analysis. Now we've created an optical loss simulator that uses some web programming to allow stepping through the process of setting up and testing a cable with a light source and power meter.

meter zero

The simulation provides virtual meter and source, inspection microscope, cleaners and a selection of cables needed for testing. In the animation above you can see one of the user interactions - the student must use the proper button to set the "0dB" reference.

The loss simulator also requires the student use the FOA Loss Budget Calculator to calculate the expected loss of a cable under test, compare it to the measured loss and make a Go/NoGo decision.

We even provide two versions of the simulator - singlemode and multimode. The singlemode version tests an OSP cable and then has the student compare OTDR traces to troubleshoot problems. The multimode version shows the effects of modal conditioning on multimode measurements.

At the end, we've even added a wrap-up of the techniques of loss testing and a quiz.

We added the loss simulator in the new Fiber U DIY Basic Skills Lab for a virtual hands-on testing lab.

Check out the FOA Insertion Loss Simulator here.

DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Labs (6/20)

Knowledge is easy to get online, but learning skills requires "hands-on" practice and that requires tools and components to practice with. Here at FOA, we've been working on an online course that could help many techs learn new skills or improve others using an online self-study course and their own equipment. Recently, we have updated the materials in the Fiber U Fiber Optics Basic Skills Labs which includes cable preparation, splicing, termination and testing. And we have created a Basic Skills Labs - Copper Premises Cabling to cover UTP (Cat 5) and coax copper cable processes. As with all Fiber U courses, these are free.
Several times in the FOA Newsletter we've discussed the Fiber U Basic Skills Lab. This online DIY lab course assumes you have your own equipment to use for the labs, but most novices, unless they work for a larger company already in fiber optics, will not have equipment. FOA instructors have found a solution: purchase inexpensive equipment online. What they have found are many low cost tools and components that are perfectly suited to training.

If you do not have tools or equipment and want to purchase them, there is a new Fiber U DIY Basic Skills Lab lesson with directions on how to purchase inexpensive tools online and use them to learn basic fiber optic skills. Those tools and components are what we describe here.

For example, you need a fiber cleaver for splices and prepolished/splice connectors. A good cleave is essential for a good splice or termination with a splice-type connection. Good cleavers are now available online at prices in the US starting at $20US. 


Besides the cleaver, another really good tool for learning or teaching is a visual fault locator. These devices used to be very expensive, but now are available online for $10-20.

Many online sellers offer sets of fiber optic tools in a kit for very low cost.

With plenty of tools available online, the next things you need are components to practice on. No problem here either. You need a patchcord, some mechanical splices and some prepolished/splice connectors. The connectors and splices are available from online sellers for ~$1 each, easy to afford plenty to practice on.

FOA has used all these available parts together into a do-it-yourself hands-on lab as part of the Fiber U Basic Skills Lab. You can do this yourself at a very low cost. We even provide directions on how to search for suppliers of these tools and components.

FOA has not exhaustively tested these tools or components enough to recommend them for field use. The work we did with them to create teaching labs shows they are certainly good enough to use for teaching the installation processes in a training lab. We suggest read the buyers reviews and do some of your own testing before using them for anything other than training and practice.

FOA Guide "Basics Of Fiber Optics" Now Available in Portuguese (6/2020)

FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optics book

FOA has now translated the Basics of Fiber Optics textbook in our Online Guide into Portuguese, joining Spanish and French translations. For those speaking Portuguese, we have the technical information and for schools we also have curriculum available.

Here is the FOA Guide in Portuguese, Spanish and French translations.

Time To Learn - Online - (Update 4/5/6/8 2020)

Schools have generally been closed during the pandemic lock-downs, so FOA has been working with some of them to create new online learning experiences that can in some cases lead to certification online. FOA certifications are still based on the KSAs - knowledge from the classroom, skills from the labs and abilities judged by instructors or proven by actual experience.

Much of what we're doing benefits from the capabilities of "Zoom." Others have created videoconferencing apps, but none work so well, especially with limited bandwidth. We've seen remote labs that have an instructor showing students how to use the tools they were sent then watching them duplicate their actions. We have worked out methods to use Zoom to proctor FOA's online certification exams.

Blended Learning
While most FOA schools have suspended in-person training during this period, some are offering a "blended learning" option. That means that students sign up for a FOA certification course, take the classroom sessions on Fiber U with the assistance of a FOA certified instructor. Now online instruction can include reviewing the labs using the
Fiber U Basic Skills Labs, then when it's possible to attend classes at the school, complete the hands-on labs and take the FOA certification exam.

Online Remote Labs
Alternatively, some schools are experimenting with "remote labs," where the students get sent tool kits and components and labs are conducted by videoconferencing. Before the labs, the students may watch demos by their instructor on videoconferencing and/or review the relevant "virtual hands-on" lessons in the Fiber U
Fiber Optics Basic Skills Labs  so they will already know the steps in the exercises.
And Fiber U has the new Fiber U DIY Basic Skills Lab lesson with directions on how to purchase inexpensive tools online and use them to learn basic fiber optic skills. Videoconferencing allows the instructor to remotely monitor their work and provide help as needed. Contact the FOA for more information.

FOA Zoom Exam Proctoring

Online Certification Testing
FOA has all its certification tests available online, both for use by our schools and by our direct "Work to Cert" applicants. All FOA certification tests require a proctor to oversee the applicant taking the exam. In this time of social distancing, getting a proctor can be difficult, so FOA now has procedures for online proctors administering the exam.
Contact the FOA for more information.
OJT - On-The-Job-Training
Many novices get a job and learn on the job. They usually have an experienced tech who helps them gain the knowledge and  learn the skills they need to perform their job. Thinking about this in relation to the 
FOA KSAs, the knowledge, skills and abilities needed by a fiber optic tech,  the tech will learn skills but not the basic knowledge that helps them understand the processes involved. FOA can offer help here, using our Fiber U online self-study programs. While the tech learns on the job, they become a Fiber U trainee, getting the knowledge they need, while working under their "mentor" at work. This is particularly good for contracting companies who need techs but do not have the usual training courses available. Interested in OJT programs? Contact FOA for more information.

Can You Learn Hands-On Skills Online?

basic skills lab

Knowledge is easy to learn online, but learning skills requires "hands-on" practice and that requires tools and components to practice with. Here at FOA, we've been working on an online course that could help many techs learn new skills or improve others using an online self-study course and their own equipment.
Recently, we have updated the materials in the Fiber U Fiber Optics Basic Skills Labs which includes cable preparation, splicing, termination and testing. And we have created a Basic Skills Labs - Copper Premises Cabling to cover UTP (Cat 5) and coax copper cable processes. As with all Fiber U courses, these are free.

FOA offers free online self-study programs at Fiber U. Many users are preparing for FOA certification programs - taking courses at our schools or using the "Work-to-Cert" program. Some of our schools are requiring Fiber U programs as prerequisites for their classroom courses so they can spend more time on hands-on activities.

New FOA Approved School: Central Electrical Training Center, FOA School #656.

Find a listing of all the FOA-Approved schools here.

FOA School Offers Toolkit With Online Training

Slayton tool kit

Slayton Solutions (FOA Approved School #156) is offering a simple fiber optic tool kit that includes a 29-piece set of fiber optic tools and a power meter along with training videos and online instruction for only $499. 29 Piece Kit includes all tools and devices a technician needs to install fiber optic connectors and test optical power.  Information on the kit is available on YouTube. You can contact them for more information at or

/ Resources

FOA Guide

FOA Loss Budget Calculator On A Web Page 5/2020

FOA has written many articles about loss budgets, something everyone involved in fiber optics needs to know and needs to know how to calculate. We recently discovered how to get a spreadsheet ported to a Web page, so we created this web page that calculates loss budgets. We have an iOS loss budget app, but with this web page, you can calculate loss budgets from any device, smart phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer that has web browsing capability.

FOA Loss Budget Calculator 

Bookmark this page (especially on your smartphone): FOA Loss Budget Calculator Online

FOA Guide

We are continually updating the Online Reference Guide to keep up with changes in the industry and adding lots of new pages of technical information. When you go to the FOA Guide Table of Contents to see the latest updates - look for New.

Recent updates:

10GPON on PON Protocols in the FOA Guide.

Coherent Communications Systems in the FOA Guide.

Updated (and more illustrations): Basic Fiber Optic Jargon, OSP Fiber Optic Jargon and Fiber Optic Jargon for managers.

Fiber Optic Network Restoration
Fiber Characterization goes in to more depth, why fiber characterization is important and how to interpret results.

Fiber Optic Network Management for managers

FOA has created a section on OSP Construction and a Fiber U course based on it.

FOA Guide section on inspecting and cleaning connectors.

Go to  The FOA Online Fiber Optic Reference Guide.

FOA Reference Books

Available Printed or Kindle Books
The fiber book is available in Spanish and French (printed) and Portuguese (online). The design book is available in Spanish (online)

FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optics book FOA Reference Guide to Premises Cablng book FOA Reference Guide to OSP Fiber Optics book FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optics book
FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optic Network Design book FOA Book on Fiber Optic Testing FOA Outside Plant Fiber Optics Construction Guide  Lennie Lightwave

FOA has reprinted "Lennie Lightwave's Guide" on its 25th anniversary in a special print edition.
Lennie and Uncle Ted's Guides are online or as free iBooks on iTunes.
Lennie Lightwave's Guide To Fiber Optics   Uncle Ted's Guide to Premises Cablling
Click on any of the books to learn more.

Fiber Optic Safety Poster to download and print

Resources For Teachers In K-12 And Technical Schools
Teachers in all grades can introduce their students to fiber optic technology with some simple demonstrations. FOA has created a page for STEM or STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) teachers with materials appropriate to their classes. Fiber Optic Resources For Teachers.



On Safety

FOA considers safety an integral part of all our programs, curriculum materials and technical materials. We start all our textbooks and their online versions with a section on safety in the first chapter, like this: Before we get started - Safety First!
There are pages on the FOA Guide on Safety procedures Including Eye Safety  and.
Digging Safely 

And a YouTube lecture: FOA Lecture 2: Safety When Working With Fiber Optics
In our OSP Construction Section, these pages cover many safety issues including those related to the construction of the cable plant: Project Preparation And Guidelines, Underground Cable Construction, Underground Cable Installation and Aerial Cable Installation.
There is even a safety poster for the fiber activities: PDF Safety Rules For Fiber Optics
The FOA is concerned about safety!

There is a toll-free "call before you dig" number in the USA: Dial 811

See for more information

The Common Ground Alliance has an excellent "Best Practices Guide" online

The US Department of Transportation has a website called "National Pipeline Mapping System" that allows one to search for buried pipelines.   

Why We Warn You To Be Careful About Fiber Shards
fiber in finger
Photo courtesy  Brian Brandstetter,  Mississauga Training Consultantcy

Safety Leader Magazine

Safety Leader Magazine

Safety Leader, a new quarterly magazine, informs and educates electrical contractors on safety from various angles—electrical, workplace, PPE, regulations, leadership, line work, NFPA 70E, and more. Safety Leader is bundled with ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR in February, May, August and November. To receive Safety Leader subscribe to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR magazine here or subscribe to the ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR newsletter here.

2021 Conference On Damage Prevention Goes Virtual

2021 Global Excavation Safety Conference VIRTUAL, taking place April 6-8, 2021
More information in an article in the dp-PRO announcing the Global Locate Masters:


The magazine, dp-Pro, sponsor of the conference, has also published it's latest issue with an article by FOA on "New Construction Techniques in Fiber Optics" and a overview of the FOA. You can read the magazine here.

Best Practices Guide For Underground Construction
Best Practices - CGA

We assume you are familiar with the "One Call" and "Call Before You Dig" (811) program, but are you also familiar "Click Before You" and with the people behind it - the Common Ground Alliance and their Best Practices website?

Officially formed in 2000, the CGA represents a continuation of the damage prevention efforts embodied by the Common Ground Study. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation and completed in 1999, this Study represents the collaborative work of 160 industry professionals who identified best practices relating to damage prevention. Any best practice or program endorsed by the CGA comes with consensus support from experts representing the following stakeholder groups: Excavators, Locators, Road Builders, Electric, Telecommunications, Oil, Gas Distribution, Gas Transmission, Railroad, One Call, Public Works, Equipment Manufacturing, State Regulators, Insurance, Emergency Services and Engineering/Design.

Read the CGA Best Practices Guide here.

Here are all the CGA resources for damage prevention.

The US Department of Transportation has a website called "National Pipeline Mapping System" that allows one to search for buried pipelines.   


About The FOA

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FOA on LinkedIn

FOA has a company page and four LinkedIn Groups

FOA - official company page on LinkedIn
FOA - covers FOA, technology and jobs in the fiber optic marketplace

FOA Fiber Optic Training - open to all, covers fiber optic technology and training topics

Grupo de La Asociación de Fibra Óptica FOA (Español)  

What is The FOA? 

The FOA is a, international non-profit educational association chartered to promote professionalism in fiber optics through education, certification and standards. 

Founded in 1995 by a dozen prominent fiber optics trainers and  leaders from education, 
industry and government as a professional society 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.

FOA is 25 years old this July - read about FOA's history in this newsletter above.

Learn More About FOA's History.

Contact Us
The Fiber Optic Association Inc. or email <>

The FOA Home Page

FOA Guide
Want to know more about fiber optics? Study for FOA certifications? Free Self-Study Programs are on "Fiber U®." Looking for specific information? Here's the largest technical reference on the web: The FOA Online Fiber Optic Reference Guide.

Free online self-study programs on many fiber optics and cabling topics are available at Fiber U, FOA's online web-based training website.


Contact Us
The Fiber Optic Association Inc. or email <>

The FOA Home Page
(C)1999-2020, The Fiber Optic Association, Inc.

 FOA Logo Merchandise

New FOA Swag! Shirts, Caps, Stickers, Cups, etc.
FOA T Shirt
The FOA has created a store on offering lots of new logo merchandise. It has lots of versions of shirts and other merchandise with "FOA," "Fiber U," "Lennie Lightwave" designs and more so you should find something just for you! See FOA on Zazzle.

Your Name, CFOT® - It pays to advertise!

The FOA encourages CFOTs to use the logo on their business cards, letterhead, truck or van, etc. and provides logo files for that purpose. But we are also asked about how to use the CFOT or CFOS certifications. Easy, you can refer to yourself as "Your Name, CFOT" or "Your Name, CFOS/T" for example.

Feel free to use the logo and designations to promote your achievements and professionalism!

Contact FOA at to get logos in file format for your use.

Privacy Policy (for the EU GDPR): The FOA does not use cookies or any other web tricks to gather information on visitors to our website, nor do we allow commercial advertising. Our website hosts may gather traffic statistics for the visitors to our website and our online testing service, ClassMarker, maintains statistics of test results. We do not release or misuse any information on any of our members except we will confirm FOA certifications and Fiber U certificates of completion when requested by appropriate persons such as employers or personnel services.
Read the complete FOA Privacy Policy here.