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June 2020

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FOA Newsletter - Features

In This Issue - (INDEX)


Training Is Back - Made Safer
Remote Labs - DIY
Online Learning Update
Changing Times (Technology)
Role of Coops In Connecting Rural America
Aerial Cable Installation Done Right
The Right Hardware Makes It Better
FOA Loss Budget Calculator
The Cable Plant Project Deliverables
dB Is Still Confusing
FOA Helps Teachers Worldwide
Problems With Fiber Curl

Recognizing The FOA Founders

Newsletter Sections 

Worth Reading   
Resoures Safety  

FOA Certifications: 

CFOT Total

Certification Renewals
Renew your FOA certification online - plus get a discount on the new FOA books and an extra month free. Details here.

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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Trademarks: The FOA CFOT® (Certified Fiber Optic Technician) and Fiber U® (the FOA online self-study program) are registered trademarks of the FOA.
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:

TIA Online
FTTH Council

The FOA Newsletter is edited by Jim Hayes - send your stories, leads, ideas, comments to <jim @>
Jim Hayes

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Current Issue of FOA Newsletter

Time To Renew Your FOA Certifications?

To keep your FOA certifications active, you need to renew them when they expire. Now we have a new more convenient way to renew - an online store at Paypal - where you can quickly and conveniently use your PayPal account or your credit card to renew your certifications.

You can now renew with PayPal or a credit card
PayPal is available worldwide

Join FOA On  Social Media

FOA on LinkedIn

FOA has four LinkedIn Groups

FOA - official 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)

FOA Guide "Basics Of Fiber Optics" Now Available in Portuguese

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.

Training Is Back - Made Safer

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

Over the last few months, FOA has been very actively working on ways to deliver fiber optic training and perhaps even certification online. Along the way, we have evaluated new tools and components from non-traditional sources and made some interesting discoveries.

Online activities are nothing new to FOA, we've been online and a totally virtual organization since we were founded in 1995. (Watch for the 25th Anniversary coverage next month.)

Fiber U has been offering free online training based on the FOA knowledge base since 2008 and online Certificates of Completion tests for the courses since 2014. The challenge has been the hands-on labs. FOA certifications are based on our KSAs - the knowledge, skills and abilities defined as requirements for FOA certifications.

Online courses generally focus on knowledge; learning skills requires hands-on labs and that has been difficult to do online. But the FOA has some very creative instructors who have been actively working on this challenge and experimenting with some possible solutions. We've been evaluating these options ourselves and are ready to offer an option for our schools and Fiber U direct students.

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
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. 


As with all the inexpensive cleavers offered online, it's a copy of a well-known brand. What's really surprising is how well they work. Here are two cleaves made with this cleaver viewed in a fusion splicer. Note the angles shown in the display.

splicer cleave angle

We're not the first ones to discover these cleavers. Most manufacturers offering prepolished/splice connectors with mechanical splices have already replaced the "stapler" or "beaver cleaver" in their tool kits with these better versions.

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 these 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.

splice and connector for training

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.

Another Thing We Learned From This Program - It's ALL Singlemode.
Every component and tool we tested was using singlemode fiber because that's what all these components are designed for. Singlemode fiber is used for virtually all networks today - OSP, FTTH, DAS, PON, data centers, etc. - while multimode is limited to a few premises applications. Singlemode fiber is cheaper and has been for a long time because of the higher volume of its use and simpler core/cladding structure making manufacture cheaper. Multimode fiber continues to be used in short premises links because 850nm VCSEL sources are cheap.

Aerial Cable Installation Done Right 6/2020

Back in the March FOA Newsletter we showed you photos of a really messy span of aerial cable in Santa Monica, CA. Recently we discovered another installation going on that same span of cables, this time by AT&T technicians installing new cable for small cells. What a difference! The AT&T techs were working on their own messenger just above the really messy ones in the telecom space. They had two bucket trucks working together to install a cable and splice it - this time in the air from the bucket. When they finished, the work was indeed neat and workmanlike. Very professional - thanks AT&T for showing us that aerial can be done right.

In the photos below you can see the messes they had to work around!

AT&T Aerial installation

AT&T Aerial installation

AT&T Aerial installation

The Right Hardware Makes It Easier 6/2020


To reduce the messiness of aerial cabling, you need some proper hardware. Clearfield has just introduced the StreetSmart Aerial FDH (fiber distribution hub) for the feeder network through the optical passive splitter to the distribution network.  The StreetSmart Aerial FDH is the complete solution for managing up to 288 port distribution fibers for an outside plant FTTx PON application.


Factory pre-terminated (1- 288 or 2– 144) fiber cables, eliminates splicing at the terminal and allows the service provider the ability to define and assign the feeder and distribution ports, allowing them to customize each individual deployment. The Aerial FDH has room to hold up to 9 individual compact ruggedized splitter modules, allowing the service provider to add splitters as needed.

For more information, see Clearfield.  Clearfield is an FOA approved training organization.

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. We'll explain why soon, but for now FOA is testing an option for renewals where you take a short Fiber U online self-study course with certificate of completion exam and pay for renewal when taking the exam. 

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:

Looking For A Job?

Did you know that FOA has a lot of information on the website about where the jobs are in fiber optics and how to get one of them? One of the topics is how to use job search sites to find fiber optic jobs. We just added a new site to the link, ZIPRECRUITER.COM, that you should check out. They even have some good information on what fiber optic jobs pay, based on their listings.


FOA Helps Teachers Create Courses - Worldwide 6/2020

FOA offers all teachers at all grade levels resources to create fiber optic courses for their students. We usually start with sending them some samples of plastic optical fiber (POF) and some connectors they can use with a laser pointer to show how fiber works, following the instructions on the FOA website. We recently sent a teacher's package to Alejandro Galan from Guatemala, who teaches at Universidad Galileo.


Professor Galan and his POF kit for teachers from FOA

For those outside the US, we now have material in Spanish, French and Portuguese to help them teach courses in their native languages. Professor Galan took the FOA materials and other materials and created a YouTube Lecture on Fiber Optics in Spanish. 

Watch Professor Galan's lecture on YouTube.

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.

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.

The Times They Are A Changin' (fiber optics, that is) 6/2020

(With kudos to Bob Dylan who is releasing a new album this month at the young age of 79!)

What we mean by that title is that in technology things change. In recent times we've seen a lot of change in fiber optics and recent standards meetings and discussions with some of the FOA technical advisors have amplified some of these changes, as we report here, such as the issue of mulimode vs singlemode fiber above and the topics below.

Connectors: Nobody ever wanted to polish fiber optic connectors in the field - ever - and that only worked with multimode fiber anyway - singlemode polishing was too critical to be done in the field. Long ago, factory made terminations with a mechanical splice in the back of the ferrule became available. We called them prepolished/splice connectors. But they were tricky. The secret to a good termination was a good cleave and good cleavers were expensive.

Over time, better termination kits made the connectors lower loss and easier to install. Now the inexpensive cleavers reviewed above make these connectors work better, but the combination of a connector and a mechanical splice mean they are still expensive. And mechanical splices generally work better with multimode fiber than singlemode fiber.

More recently, fusion splice-on connectors (SOCs) have become available. Instead of a connector plus mechanical splice, you have a connector with a pigtail that you fusion splice on to a fiber to terminate it. Eliminating the mechanical splice reduces the cost considerably. The fusion splicer has also become much less expensive also, making this a very popular choice for singlemode fiber where you must have a fusion splicer anyway. They are available for multimode and singlemode, but the big price advantage is with singlemode.

Testing Multimode Fiber and Bend-Insensitive Fiber: A decade ago when bend-insensitive multimode fiber (BI MMF) first became available, it was not well understood. Since this was the era of the adoption of "encircled flux" as a new method of specifying mode control for MM testing, the unknown effects of BI fiber on modes was not well understood.  As a result, BI MMF was prohibited for use in reference test cables when testing, even if testing BI MMF in most standards for testing. That prohibition made little sense since no fibers were marked as BI or non-BI and since most MM fiber was BI, finding non-BI fiber for test cables was problematic. And nobody really knew about this issue anyway.

FOA has been asking questions about this issue regularly in standards committees. At a TIA meeting held online recently, Fluke presented data that showed only minor differences between tests made with reference test cables with regular (non-BI) and BI MMF.  This realization is making its way through standards committees now, so this issue is going away.

OLTS vs OTDR Testing: This is a bit of a bigger issue than the one above and the subject of many discussions and articles over the years. In recent discussions with Eric Pearson and some other FOA advisors covering the OLTS/OTDR issue as well as the issue of loss budgets, the consensus was this should not be a issue, either OLTS or OTDR data should be acceptable if the testing is done properly.

"Done properly" means OTDR testing uses both a launch and a receive reference cable, meaning it is not a single-ended test.

Understanding the combined measurement uncertainty has made this a non-issue. For multimode fiber, the total loss of a typical link is only 2-3dB since premises cabling networks are short and multimode fiber loss is lower than in the past - nearer 2dB/km than 3dB/km on modern fibers. The uncertainty of such low loss measurement with either instrument is small enough that either measurement will give a good indication of the quality of the fiber. The same is true for premises SM fiber in a data center or passive optical LAN.

The same is true for OSP singlemode fiber where the OTDR loss measurement is going to be made anyway to verify splices on concatenated cables. Longer cables are probably be tested for fiber characterization also, so lots of data will be available for judging the condition of individual fibers.

Eric Pearson makes another good point. His experience is that fibers are either good or bad, usually really bad, not just slightly so. If the tech doing the testing has good cleaning discipline, the connectors are cleaned and inspected, so a failure might be a poorly installed prepolished/splice connector, and that's likely to be quite bad. If the connectors are field-polished on multimode fiber, careful inspection is extremely important to insure connectors were installed properly.

We'll finish with Eric's conclusion: And if reasonable care is taken, both LSPM/OLTS and OTDR tests will give “useful" results. The purpose of measurements is to accept or reject the installed products. With that understanding, the explanations of the subtleties are not critical to the installers, for whom I write. That being said, the key qualifier is 'if reasonable care'

Conclusion: Technology changes but one thing does not. With all the topics above, the results are all dependent on the knowledge and skill of the technician. Experienced technicians need to stay up to date and novices need to be trained correctly. That's the focus of the FOA. When founded almost 25 years ago - next month is our anniversary - the charter was to "Promote professionalism in fiber optics through education, certification and standards." Still is.

But then, another mystery shows up:
Eric Pearson brought up a new issue with standards. This concerns the use of a singlemode mode filter; a small loop to remove higher order modes from singlemode fiber for testing. When a laser source launches into a singlemode fiber, the fiber may carry more than one mode for a short distance, say up to 100m. To prevent this affecting measurements, standards have generally specified a mode filter in the launch cable created with a small loop in the fiber, around 30mm.

Back in the 90s, the standards had a 2” loop and referenced FOTP-77. FOTP-77 was allowed to expire in 2003 and sometime later the loop became 30mm/1.3”. Now it seems to have disappeared from some international standards (Eric says IEC 61280-4-2 has no requirement for the loop) but remains in some US standards like FOTP-171, sec 3.3. Phil Irwin of Panduit, head of the TIA TR42.11 standards committee, noted that FOTP-34, the standard for measuring components loss, e.g. connectors, and FOTP-171B (patchcords) include this mode filter before and after the component under test.

Another topic for another time. We will continue investigating this.

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

dB Is Still Confusing 4/2020


The second most missed question on FOA/Fiber U online tests concerns dB, that strange logarithmic method we use to measure power in fiber optics (and radio and electronics and acoustics and more...). We've covered the topic several times in our Newsletter but there still seems to be confusion. So we're going to give you a clue to the answers and hopefully help you understand dB better.

These are all correct statements with the percentage of test takers who know the answer is correct.

The most answered correctly: dBm is absolute power relative to 1mw of power (78.8% correct. Does "absolute" confuse people? It's just "power" but absolute in contrast to "relative power" which is loss or gain measured in dB.)

This one is answered correctly less than half the time: dBm is absolute power like the output of a transmitter. (41.5% correct, see comment above.)

This one does often get answered correctly: The difference between 2 measurements in dBm is expressed in dB. (23.8% correct)

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

Problems With Fiber Curl 6/2020

fiber curl

From Eric Pearson, a fiber pigtail that had so much curl it was difficult to fit in the box.

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: The Role Of Cooperatives In Connecting Rural America 6/2020

“For nearly 100 years, cooperatives have been the most successful model for connecting rural Americans to the utilities they need to keep their homes, businesses, farms and schools running,” said Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR).

From 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

A few important takeaways:

  • More than 210 cooperatives across the country offer gigabit Internet access to residents and businesses.
  • 82% of North Dakota and 53% of South Dakota landmass is served by fiber from cooperatives, and residents enjoy some of the fastest Internet access speeds in the nation.
  • Since 2017, some states have eased restrictions on cooperative broadband networks, while others have gone even further by enacting legislation to facilitate the deployment of cooperative broadband networks. 
  • A series of local stories highlights how broadband has changed lives by improving access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. 
  • Cooperatives have proven that this is a model that works. With increased support from federal and state governments, they will continue to connect Americans in rural areas to economic and educational opportunities otherwise denied to them.

Read the full report here.

Look at the ILSR Newsletter too - it covers rural broadband projects well.

Worth Reading - News Summary

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

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

Smithville Communications and SCI REMC have begun building a fiber-optic project that will deliver high-speed broadband Internet to residents and businesses in Monroe, and Owen Counties, Ind. The first phase of the project will be completed in 2023 and will serve 3,400 residents and businesses in the region. “This joint project will help both companies move forward in closing the digital divide in rural areas by providing high-speed, highly reliable fiber-based Internet connectivity,” said Darby McCarty, Chairman and CEO of Smithville.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has awarded $5.1 million to improve high-speed Internet access in 15 areas throughout the state. The grant money comes from the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund, which was created to help broadband providers extend service into unserved areas of the state.

3 Good Articles This Month in CI&M - Cabling for Wireless and POE

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.

Corning Has Removed The "Dust" from "Dust Caps."
Corning "CleanAdvantage(tm) Edge cables have factory cleaned connectors and caps to keep them clean.

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.

Ckearfield-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

June 2020

Multiplexing Signals
If a network has 4 10gig could they or can these be "bundled" into 40 gig??
A: You multiplex the signals - send one source of data as a packet in a time slot, then the next 3 in order. At the other end, you separate them into the original packets and send diverse ways. Of course, multiplexing the 10G signals into 40G requires speeding up the clock 4 times.

Installation Costs
Do you have any information regarding the cost of installing the fiber underground?
A: There is no one answer to your question. The cost of underground construction is a complex function of:
Geography: costs are like salaries, they vary depending on the locale, NY is much higher than Cordelle, GA for example), it’s cheaper where the ground is soft dirt vs rocky, not near wetlands, etc. Urban, suburban and rural areas are vastly different.
In addition, the cost of all the permits, getting “call before you dig” assistance and even police details during construction will be determined by the locale and can vary widely.
Installation type: trenching and burying conduit or ducts, trenching and direct burial, microtrenching with microducts and blowing in cable, directional boring or just pulling cable into existing ducts.
If the property owner or permit issuer requires “dig once” where the contractor installs a number of ducts (a very smart idea), the first installation costs more but later installs cost much less.
Then there is the cost of the cable, a function of cable construction, fiber type and number of fibers, number of splices or drops, etc.
The SOW (scope of work) should call for documentation and testing. If the SOW requires GIS data and comprehensive testing - and it should - the cost will reflect that.
So underground installation can cost perhaps as little as $15-20/ft to as much as $100-200/ft or more. Or as Google Fiber found in Nashville, underground is not possible when a town sits on bedrock.

May 2020
Lashing Aerial Cable With Cable Ties?
I am considering an electrical job installing fiber optic aerially on a messenger cable.
I have seen the cable tie method of lashing the fiber to the messenger. Would you recommend this method considering the cost of a lashing machine for a single project and if so what would be a good distance between ties for the proper support of the fiber to the cable.
A: The normal way to attach an aerial cable to a messenger is lashing the cable with stainless steel wire. If you use cable ties, you would need ensure the cable doesn’t droop and the cable ties are designed for outdoor use in the sun over a long time (stainless steel ones are available). How long is the span? If it’s more than 100 feet, I think I would go with lashing. If you don’t have a lasher, you can rent one. You will need a bucket truck anyway.

Power Budget For PON
Do you have any information on guidelines for avoiding over saturation in a PON network? Our ONTs have a power window of between -8dBm and -27dBm.  OLT transceivers transmit at around 4dBm.  So our designers budget for no more than 28dB of loss. However, some ignore the -8dBm maximum power spec.  With a short run from OLT to ONT and a small splitter, installers are sometimes seeing light levels at the ONT at around -6 to -7dBm. What would you recommend as a minimum loss budget in this case?  Do we need margin?
A: The GPON spec does have a max power at the ONT generally expressed as a minimum loss in the cable plant - 13dB for GPON. There is a graph about halfway down this page ( that shows a graph of BER vs Receiver power. To have a link work properly, it must have sufficient power to be above the minimum S/N - signal to noise - ratio for the link but not so much power that it saturates the receiver.
This is a very common situation in telco networks where links are designed for relatively long distances but may be used on short ones - e.g. a 40km link being used over 10km in a city. Their solution is simple - add an attenuator ( Lots of these links use attenuators.
In a PON, there are several ways to go. 1) Brute force - test each ONT and add attenuators as needed. Techs could carry a selection of 5dB or 10dB attenuators to get at least to the 13dB minimum needed. 2) Rather than require testing at each ONT, have the designer do a loss budget based on the link length and specify a minimum splitter in the link (8:1 would probably work well) which would probably be cheaper than testing and adding lots of attenuators.
Midspan Drop Cables
I am working on a project that has 5 sections, consisting of 5 miles each section, CCTV, detectors, DMS connected by 192 count fiber.  We were directed to use the consultants plans from the first section as a guide for uniformity for the remaining contracts.  The attached fiber detail shows a 4 fiber drop cable going to the ITS device.  I was thinking to take all 12 fibers to the device and back for redundancy?  Also, if we did use the 4 fiber drop cable, I didn’t understand why they would splice the other 10 thru cables and instead leave them intact? Is there a preferred method for a drop cable to a device or just preferences?
A: We are not sure why they do it the way they do. Perhaps the designer was not familiar with midspan access which would preclude having to make the other splices. Using a 12 fiber drop cable would be more expensive and perhaps unnecessary unless the device being connected is in a location where a small cell site might be located. They may also have uses for those other fibers that require a connection through the drop point.  We”d suggest to the designer that midspan access might allow saving the 10 splices at each drop.


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 training at Fiber U

The FOA has >100 videos on videos

Time To Learn - Online - (Update 4/5/6 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 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.

2020 Conference On Damage Prevention Cancelled But Goes Online
You can watch FOA's presentation "New Construction Techniques In Fiber Optics" on YouTube.
Next Conference On Damage Prevention Scheduled for 2021

CGS 2021 Tampa

Global Excavation Safety Conference & Expo, the premiere international event in the damage prevention industry, was supposed to be March 24-26 but was cancelled due to the pandemic. 2021's program will be in Tampa.


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

Contact Us: or email <>

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 will be 25 years old in July - watch for more articles on FOA history

Learn More About FOA's History.

Recognize Anybody Here? This is the FOA Board of Advisors 20 years ago, meeting to work on FOA certifications.

FOA Directors 1999

Tom Collins

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 (FOA Newsletter March 2020) created the FOA Train-The-Trainer program and FOA's unique in the industry instructor certification program. He's 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.

Learn More About FOA's History.

FOA will be 25 years old in July - watch for more articles on FOA history.


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.