How ATX is Helping Build a Broadband Cathedral

By Joe McGarvey, Senior Director, Marketing |

You don’t need to be an art historian to know that Europe is dotted with dozens of soaring stone cathedrals that date back to the 12th century. From an architecture-appreciation standpoint, it’s nearly impossible to stand before one of these majestic structures and not be awed by the achievements of craftspeople and laborers who lived roughly 800 years ago.

Some might think it sacrilegious, but I’m equally awed when I consider the broadband network that’s being architected and constructed by cable industry professionals today. It is a fiber-and-coax wonder of the world that spans millions of miles and connects billions of devices. And while the HFC network may not be Notre Dame, the argument can be made that the two — one gothic and the other gigabit in nature — share several similarities.

For starters, neither was built overnight. Even a modest and well-funded cathedral required a minimum of about 50 years of construction, with some of the more ambitious projects dragging on for a couple centuries. The cable industry, by most estimates, broke ground on the HFC network in 1992, with the installation of the first optical nodes. That means the HFC network, at 30 years old, is about 50% finished, at least based on findings from ATX’s most recent HFC evolution survey. A significant percentage of survey takers predict that the HFC network will still be supporting subscribers all the way out to 2050.

Labor of Love

A 60-year lifespan is a singular achievement, especially in an era defined by rapid technology innovation and turnover. But what really makes the HFC network remarkable is the work that goes into it, the collective brain and brawn of thousands of men and women who have contributed daily to its design and construction. From those who wrangle over standards, to the men and woman who install amps and pull and splice all that coax, the cable access network is an ongoing, multigenerational labor of love.

And that brings us to the second similarity between the construction of medieval cathedrals and the world’s most prominent broadband network. Just like the master stonemasons and laborers of the 1100s who dedicated a lifetime of energy to a project they would not see completed, few if any of the professionals who had a hand in the launch of the HFC network will be in the workforce when it is finished. In fact, many of the cable industry designers and technicians who started their careers a couple of decades ago are now retiring.

ATX is proud to be contributing to the training of the next generation of cable industry technicians, the literal heartbeat of the broadband industry.

The result of this generational refreshing of the workforce, which is occurring as cable operators commence a new and massive expansion of their networks to meet growing customer demand and fend off increased competition, is an intensifying labor shortage that many cable operators consider the largest obstacle in the path of upgrading their networks at the needed pace. In other words, the noble endeavor of providing the world with high-performance and affordable broadband could come to a crawl unless enough technicians are available to take over the toils of their predecessors.

Recognizing this critical customer need, ATX recently launched a cable technician training program aimed at replenishing, evolving and growing the cable industry technical workforce. The mission of ATX’s Field Personnel Replenishment Program (FPRP), spearheaded by the company’s expanded professional services organization, is to work with community colleges and other vocational training centers to supply the cable industry with a steady flow of qualified field technicians to assist MSOs in the completion of their ambitious HFC evolution projects.

Cable Technician Pipeline

This press release provides additional details about this unique program, which is already starting to churn out graduates with ready-to-hire skills, including a commercial driver’s license, the ability to operate a bucket truck, proficiency in coax and fiber splicing, meter reading and other expertise needed to upgrade and maintain cable plants.

And that brings us to the third and final comparison between the modern HFC network and these pre-renaissance structures that still occupy a prominent place in the cultures and histories of some of the world’s oldest communities. In the end, as impressive as the physical achievements of a place of worship that withstood the ages or a communications network that reaches billions, these monolithic and enduring structures command our respect because thousands of humans gave so much of their time and themselves to make them possible and of service to future generations.

ATX is proud to be contributing to the training of the next generation of cable industry technicians, the literal heartbeat of the broadband industry.