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Cable Television Technicians

The Job

Cable television technicians perform a wide range of duties in a variety of settings. Television cables usually follow the routes of telephone cables, running along poles in rural and suburban areas and through tunnels in cities. Working in tunnels and underground cable passageways, cable television technicians inspect cables for evidence of damage and corrosion. Using diagrams and blueprints, they trace cables to locate sites of signal breakdown. Technicians may also work at pole-mounted amplifiers, where they analyze the strength of incoming television signals, using field-strength meters and miniature television receivers to evaluate reception. At customers' homes, technicians service the terminal boxes, explain the workings of the cable system, answer questions, and respond to complaints that may indicate cable or equipment problems. When major problems arise, they repair or replace damaged or faulty cable systems.

Cable television technicians use various electrical measuring instruments (voltmeters, field-strength meters) to diagnose causes of transmission problems. They also use electricians' hand tools (including screwdrivers, pliers, etc.) to dismantle, repair, or replace faulty sections of cable or disabled equipment, such as amplifying equipment used to boost the signal at intervals along the cable system.

Some cable television technicians may perform a specific type of work, rather than a full range of tasks. Following are some of the specialized positions held by cable television technicians.

Trunk technicians, or line technicians, perform routine maintenance and fix electronic problems on the trunk line, which connects the feeder lines in the street to the headend, which is the control center of the cable television system. They also fix electronic failures in the feeder amplifiers. Amplifiers increase the strength of the electronic signal for clear reception and are spaced throughout the cable system. Some trunk technicians install both underground and aboveground cables. They use a sweep analyzer to check signals in all parts of the cable television system, ensuring that all parts are operating correctly.

Headend technicians and microwave technicians check that the equipment providing input to the cable television system is working properly. The headend is where incoming signals are amplified, converted, processed, and combined into a common cable. Headend technicians check antennas, preamplifiers, frequency converters, processors, demodulators, modulators, and other related equipment using power meters, frequency counters, and waveform monitors. In some companies, the headend technician works with satellite receiving stations and related equipment. This person may be the chief technician in some companies. Many electronics technicians work as headend technicians and microwave technicians.

Service technicians respond to problems with subscribers' cable reception. They work on amplifiers, poles, and lines, in addition to making calls to subscribers' homes. They check the lines and connections that go into a home and those inside it, troubleshoot problems, and repair faulty equipment.

Bench technicians work in a cable television system's repair facility. They examine malfunctioning equipment that is brought into the shop, diagnose the problem, and repair it. They may also repair and calibrate test equipment. Some bench technicians are electronics technicians.

Technical supervisors oversee the technicians who work in the field and provide on-the-job training to technicians. Duties vary but can include dealing with contractors and coordinating with outside agencies such as utilities companies, municipalities, and large customers.

Chief technicians and lead technicians are among the most highly skilled of the technical staff. Many chief technicians do not work in the field except in emergency situations or complex situations requiring their special expertise. Chief technicians provide technical information to technicians in the field and may supervise the technical staff. They may work with satellite receiving equipment. These positions are usually held by senior staff personnel and require a strong background in electronics.

An important aspect of the work of cable television technicians involves implementing regular programs of preventive maintenance on the cable system. Technicians inspect connections, insulation, and the performance of amplifying equipment, using measuring instruments and viewing the transmitted signals on television monitors.