Last month, I was invited to attend the first-ever Connected Technology Industry Legislative Summit in Indiana to discuss topics our industry doesn’t talk much about – but could drastically change the way we work.

You may not realize that this year’s legislative sessions brought on an unprecedented number of bills related to licensing, Power over Ethernet (PoE), low-voltage lighting and connected devices. Reading through these bills, it became obvious that they would impact who can install and integrate this technology.

NSCA (a trade association for commercial integrators) and CEDIA (a trade association for residential integrators) have been working closely with members to mitigate this type of state legislation, but knew it was time to get more people involved.

They hosted the Connected Technology Industry Legislative Summit to bring together industry professionals from associations like:

  • Building Industry Consulting Service International (BICSI)
  • Communications Cable & Connectivity Association (CCCA)
  • Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA)
  • Electronic Security Association (ESA)
  • Security Industry Association (SIA)
  • Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA)

Sixteen companies in total – including a few manufacturers – discussed the state legislation that limits the use of integrators and low-voltage installers when deploying structured cabling that delivers PoE.

We also discussed:

  • How to better understand the codes and compliance issues that govern cabling work
  • Common legislative interests
  • Confusion about industry classifications
  • What to call low-voltage installers for U.S. Department of Labor and insurance purposes
  • Workforce development that unites around common goals

Requiring Electrical Licenses?

In 2019, NSCA says it has monitored more than 130 bills across 35+ states that could completely alter cable installation. Here are just a few examples from earlier this year:

  • Arizona HB 2181: Registrar of contractors; licensing; exemption.
  • Hawaii SB 423: Clarifies that a specialty contractor, acting as subcontractor, isn’t prohibited from taking and executing a construction contract involving two or more crafts or trades if the performance of the work is incidental and supplemental.
  • Idaho SB 1009: Electrical contractors and journeymen – amends existing law to provide for licensure of electrical installers.
  • Maryland HB 164: Altering the purpose, composition, powers, and duties of the State Board of Master Electricians; authorizing the Board to issue apprentice licenses and journeyperson licenses under certain circumstances.
  • North Dakota SB 2359: North Dakota Century Code, relating to the regulation of electricians and power limited technicians.
  • New York A3748: Establishes voluntary licensure of master electricians by Department of State.
  •  Texas HB 1141: Relating to an exemption from licensing requirements for certain electrical work.

In simple terms, much of this proposed legislation would require an electrical license to plug in PoE ports or pull and install PoE cable. An extreme case in Pennsylvania had proposed legislation on the table that would’ve required a licensed electrician to install any cabling carrying more than 10 volts.

Imagine the impacts this would have on low-voltage installers. It would make it nearly impossible for you to install or integrate any technology that requires pulling to install PoE cable – unless you first become licensed electricians in each state you do work.

Why is this happening? One big reason has to do with safety: some people incorrectly believe that PoE is dangerous. (As this Commercial Integrator article points out, however, people come into contact with PoE cables every day – they’re very safe. “Remember the time you moved your desk and had to unplug your phone and plug it back in? That [would] violate the laws being put in motion.”) Other reasons have to do with the fact that it’s new technology.

We’ve had a few late nights with some very frustrated lawmakers this year,” says Chuck Wilson, NSCA executive director. “So far, we’ve been able to keep our members’ businesses safe in each instance. The proposed language is often so confusing that no legislator could have any idea how to read it. Many times, they need help understanding it and time to do additional research to discover what truly makes sense.”

Reclassifying Installers

During the Connected Technology Industry Legislative Summit, we also discussed the industry’s need for a new O*NET occupational code assignment for low-voltage installers (the actual term is yet to be agreed on). This would unify data-cabling installers in all industry segments under one name with like training and job responsibilities. (This information is managed by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget for use in collecting statistical information on occupations.)

In the past, low-voltage installers have been listed as part of a soon-to-be obsolete Electronic Equipment Technicians classification (to illustrate its obsoleteness, duties included the repair of camcorders).

To make this new classification a reality, the industry needs to help support and define the job title and its use in the commercial space.

Belden fully supports the work of NSCA, CEDIA and others that attended the Connected Technology Industry Legislative Summit as they mitigate legislation that would negatively impact integrators and low-voltage installers.

What Should I Do?

To get involved, you can join an association so your voice is heard. This will allow you to keep track of the latest developments, obtain training and certification, and give you a voice to address your concerns

For Example:

  • Data-Cabling Installers and Integrators: Join industry associations like CEDIA, NSCA or BICSI. Take advantage of the training and lobbying they provide.
  • Contractors and Integrators: When the O*NET occupational code is regenerated, include this classification in your specifications. Join organizations like NSCA, CABA, AVIXA and BICSI to keep up to date on the latest developments.
  • Manufacturers: Actively participate in organizations like TIA and CCCA to ensure that we all make interoperable products held to the highest standards. Encourage and support training programs that provide knowledge for end-users so the right decisions can be made.

Joining these associations – if you haven’t done so already – is crucial at this time. Not only does it unify the industry’s voice, but it also provides funding for these organizations to properly represent you and your way of doing business.

Want to learn more about what we discussed – or how you can get involved? Drop a comment below or send me a note.

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