FCC Protects Consumers with a New Standard for Telephone Wiring

Here's really good news for everyone who has Internet service at home, more than one home computer, one or more home telephone lines and a fax machine - and for anyone who expects to hook up any combination of these devices someday soon: The Federal Communications Commission recently issued a new rule requiring that all telephone wiring installed inside homes and other buildings must meet new standards. The rule, which applies to new and retrofit telephone-wire installations made after July 8, 2000, is aimed at assuring that all inside wiring can meet the demands of voice, video and data transmissions now and for the foreseeable future.

"Installers, builders, home remodelers and consumers should note that Category 3 wiring or better," says William T. Black, vice-president for wire and cable with the Copper Development Association Inc. "The emphasis should be on better," Black insists, recommending more powerful copper wiring instead of the minimum.

"Today Category 5 and Category 5E copper communications wiring are the recognized standard for broadband services," explains Black, "with several times greater capacity and speed than needed for today's high-speed Internet services, such as DSL and cable modems. Category 5 and 5E have six times the information-carrying capacity of Category 3, providing a comfortable cushion for the future at little additional cost."

Category-type telephone cable consists of four twisted pairs of insulated copper wire and offers service benefits over old-style telephone cable, typically made up of two untwisted pairs, designed for analog voice service. The additional pairs of wires in category-type cable make it easier to hook up multiple phone lines and network home computers, and the precise twisting of the wires speeds communication while reducing static, signal degradation and cross-talk between separate lines bundled together.

Impetus for the new telephone wiring standard came when a not-for-profit professional association of designers and installers of telecommunications systems called BICSI petitioned the FCC in 1995 after receiving many consumer complaints about inferior phone wiring. Ronald Provost, BICSI's governmental relations representative and chairman of the FCC Ad Hoc Administrative Committee that wrote the new standard, recalls receiving reports of lamp cord and bell wire being used for home telephone hookups.

"Now that we've succeeded in setting the new minimum requirement," says Provost, "we've got to get the word out."

"This new standard will benefit consumers as carriers deploy broadband services that are more demanding than traditional voice communications," comments CDA's Black. "People shouldn't hesitate to install phone jacks now wherever they think they might need them in the future - wherever they or the next family that owns their home might want to plug in a laptop or other communication device." Advanced telephone cable is available at electrical-supply outlets and electronics stores. The cable sheathing should be clearly marked with the category designation. Unlike old-style telephone wiring, with which individual jacks were typically wired in series, category-type cable requires a "home run" configuration - each outlet is wired separately to a central distribution device or hub.

For more information on telecommunications wiring, visit our Applications section.

Additional Information