Career / Career Progression

Extreme Cabling

by Raju Woodward
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Published on May 11, 2017

Ah, cabling. Someone's got to do it. And if you're an IT pro, you've likely found yourself squeezing through air vents, climbing tall ladders, or crawling through cobwebs in basements to run cables.

To celebrate the art form of cabling and the recent release of Jeremy Cioara's IT Expertise: Installing Network Cabling and Devices course, we asked CBT Nuggets Learner Community members to share their favorite cabling stories.

A Squirrely Situation

"I couldn't reimage a machine, and went back and forth between the port and the switch it was connected to and still couldn't find the problem. I had the cabling vendor come out and they found a squirrel's nest in the plenum. There were chewed network cables throughout."

Emmanuel A.

Who Needs Thrills When You Can Cable?

"I worked for a WISP (wireless internet service provider) and had to climb up a four-legged water tower with a harness and a backpack. I would have to cut off electrical tape, mask it, and then spray alcohol into the tip and light it. You'd see a single drop of water form a sheet, like a bubble, and take the network down. My personal favorite was being on top of that 210-foot water tower in 40-degree weather with 20 m.p.h wind!

Pro tip: Always take rope with you, or you will have to climb back down!"

Benji L.

Confessions of a Cable Guy

"If you think of the worst situations you would ever want to work in, then think of the poor guys who run cables through, under, over, or around somewhat unnoticed spaces of dirt, dust, grime, asbestos, and worst of all: SPIDERS.

The worst places have to be basements or crawl ducts! I remember once crawling from Liverpool Hospital under the road on my hands and knees to find at the end a small hatch that opened up into the scariest place I had ever seen: An old unused church/chapel from the early 1900s, maybe earlier.

If you can imagine what a derelict church looked like with no lighting and a small staircase that led to what we thought were offices but turned out to be hospital mortuary rooms which led to another corridor and there was an incinerator of some sort with just a single chair in front of it like someone was there. SCARY.

More recently, we found ourselves working in a crematorium reinstalling a telephone line and some CAT5e cabling to the actual incinerators themselves, talk about IoT (Internet of Things). It's not a nice place to be if I'm honest, especially when they open the burners and sweep out the remains.

If you add crawl spaces with water, then that's just horrible and dangerous. But sometimes it is the only route you have for your cabling to run and someone needs to do it.

Pretty crazy stuff, right? But, wait, there's more! Our very own Shawn Powers has quite a story to share too!

What a Jolt!

"Back when I was working at a rural school district as the technology director, we didn't have many choices for broadband internet. Thankfully, we were able to utilize some licensed wireless spectrum that was leased from the FCC originally for distance learning (analog a/v for remote classrooms).

It meant really complicated waveguide cables and a laser-pointed dish on top of a huge tower. Because the tower was enormous and not directly adjacent to any of the school buildings, we had to bring the signal underground to the MDF in the school. And because there was no power at the base of the tower, we ran the RJ-6 shielded COAX cable in a conduit underground. It led to a custom modem in the school, which converted the signal so it could be routed on our network.

One day, we had a particularly strong thunderstorm. Even though everything was grounded well, and every connection along the way had lightning arrestors, a bolt of lightning managed to get down the entire length of RJ-6 COAX cable and into the school building. The damage was truly astounding. That single strike managed to:

  • Vaporize the braided copper ground strap at the tower

  • Blow up the lightning arrestor installed inline near the base of the tower

  • Blow up the lightning arrestor on the back of the proprietary (and absurdly expensive) modem in the MDF

  • Melt the RJ-45 network connector on the modem that led to the firewall

  • Blow out BOTH the WAN and LAN ports on the firewall device

  • Fry the surge protector and battery backup powering the modem and firewall

  • Destroy the switch in the small IDF (where the COAX actually entered the building)

  • Burn out the uplink port on the MDF switch 100 feet down the hall

  • Burn out (but not blow up) the lightning arrestor installed inline before the MDF uplink switch port

  • Melt and/or vaporize most of the CAT5 wiring along the path

Honestly, we were shocked the building didn't burn down. We also were shocked that the laser-pointed dish, which must have attracted the lightning, only had minor carbon buildup and continued to work perfectly fine after we replaced the wiring and hardware that was destroyed. The moral of the story is, when you are connecting an outdoor antenna to your network, don't expect lightning arrestors and surge protectors to fully protect your hardware!

It took a few weeks to get replacement parts, and while we were waiting for delivery we installed electricity at the tower so we could power the modem outside at the base. Then we used a media converter pair and used fiber to connect the tower to the MDF! I worked at the school for another 10 years or so, and we never had another thunderstorm. Because, of course, we didn't."

We bet these stories leave you wanting to cable it up this very second. In all seriousness, we appreciate those who cable networks. It's a thankless job. (For those who haven't yet cabled a network, you've been warned). The good news is that most of the time cabling is just another part of an IT pro's routine, but that's not to say that it can't be exciting at times!

New to cabling, or just want a more mellow experience? Watch Jeremy Cioara's new course that walks you step by step through setting up a network in a building.


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