Scanning the cable company - 1995

OK, so you're watching COPS and fizzzzzt! the picture goes to 'snow' and you're wondering how long it takes to get back to 10-8 status, or even worse-you lose all power and with nothing to do but light some candles and try monitoring PG&E for the same information-was its car/pole accident, wires down from a storm, or even a meltdown. Adding the local cable company to your bank of 'Utility Service' frequencies can add to keeping you informed on the situation, or casual listening can entertain you and let you get an idea of what goes on in the cable biz.

Most of the usual traffic heard in the day will be check-ins of completed work, dispatches of repair calls, truck-to-truck contacts while troubleshooting, and of course-the 'Human Element' or lighter side of the job-comments about the days workload, where to have lunch, how much effort was involved in pleasing the last customer, etc.

The real action is when the above mentioned outage occurs, for the repair calls flood the phone lines, and the call takers start quickly logging where the calls are coming from, and then start to determine the extent of the outage and which technicians to send. The techs then launch a troubleshooting effort, often exchanging information with each other to pinpoint the cause of the outage, and remedy it. Knowing this, you can determine the time it will take to fix, and be allot more informed than trying to call the busy repair lines.


1", 3/4", 2": Conduit used for underground. Inside diameter in inches.

500, 750, 860, etc: Feeder and trunk cables. Number is size of cable by diameter in inches, 500 = .500" diameter cable.

Addressability: Data sent over the cable system to allow set-top boxes to descramble.

AML: Amplitude Modulated Link. System to send signals via microwave.

Amplifier: Keeps the signal level high enough to overcome losses by cable and passive devices. Power for amplifiers comes from 60vac sent over the same cable that carries the RF.

Audit: Check address for paying subscriber

Backhoe fade: Signal loss caused by construction equipment, like backhoes, posthole diggers, shovels.

Back Lot: Systems that are run in back yard easements. Either overhead or underground. Systems that are run in back yard easements. Either overhead or underground.

Blow a Rope: Using a air compressor, string is shot through an underground conduit, later used to pull in drop cable, or pull in 1/4' rope to pull trunk or feeder cable.

Box: 1. A set-top converter box, 2. A vault, 3. A locked cabinet that houses the connection point in apartment buildings.

Bucket, Bucket truck: An aerial lift truck, no need to climb with hooks. Useless in back lots.

Disco: <n> A work order to disconnect, <v>Status of a disconnected account-"in disco"

Doghouse: A pedestal.

Drop: The wire from the tap to the house. Either fed from a pole or underground. Drop wire is commonly called 'Messenger' for overhead use, or 'Flooded' for underground .

Elephant Snot: Water based lube for underground cable pulling.

Feeder: Cable tapped off of the trunk for distribution to homes. Taps are on feeder.

Flooded, Flooded Cable: Coaxial cable with a flooding compound, used in underground drops.

Guard Arm: 4x4 wooden arm on poles, run parallel to and directly above cable system, keeps power workers from contacting cable system (ground potential).

Generator: Portable gasoline powered generators utilized when commercial power is out, plugged in at power supply sites, keeps the amplifiers working.

HE, Head End: Point of origination of TV signals. Off-air, satellite, fiber optic and/or microwave links combine and are sent out from here. May also retransmit microwave links to hub sites.

Hit: Send refresh signal to addressable decoder.

House Amp: Amplifier powered by 110vac on customers' property. Mostly used in hotels, larger apartment complexes, or big mansions with a lot of TVs. Most often fail when someone unplugs the power cord.

Hub, Hub site: A mini Head End. Receives entire lineup via microwave and sends out RF level signals

Lasher: Tool for installing lashing wire. Clamps around cable and strand, while a person on the ground pulls it with a rope.

Lashing Wire: Thin wire that holds the trunk and feeder cables to the strand.

LE: Line Extender: Amplifier for feeder cables.

Main Station, Mainer: Amplifier for trunk cable .

Messenger: Coaxial cable with a separate steel support wire.

Mid-Span: The middle of a span. Cable strung from a point in between poles. Often used to keep cable drops going to one property out of another's property. Must be accessed either with a bucket or by using an extension ladder.

NPD, Non-pay: Status of an account that is behind in payment, or a work order to disconnect because of same.

Ped, Pedestal: Above ground enclosure for equipment in underground systems. May be referred by size, "24 ped" or it's contents "LE ped"

Power Inserter: Combines the ac from power supply and RF signal on one cable.

Power Supply: Takes 110vac commercial power and steps down to 90vac to power amplifiers. Many also have inverters and standby batteries to supply 90vac for up to 4 hours.

Pressure Tap: Very old device once used to tap signal off the feeder. Was bolted onto the feeder cable and pins contacted the conductors.

Reco: Reconnect.

Riser: Pipes run up the side of poles used to connect overhead cables to underground cables.

Service Pole: Smaller poles, used either to maintain clearance over streets or for longer drop runs.

Snake: Fish tape used for pulling in underground drops.

Span Clamp: Eyebolt-like hardware, placed on the strand to tie drops to.

Span Ladder: 30 to 36 foot fiberglass extension ladders with hooks on top and self leveling legs on bottom. Used to attach drops mid-span, or get to equipment that is too far from the pole.

Span: A length of cable between two points, including poles, vaults, pedestals, trees,

Spikes, Hooks: Pole climbers. Better be sharp and OSHA approved.

Steel Lid, Traffic Lid: Steel Cover for vaults that are subject to vehicle traffic.

Strand: Braided steel wire, attached to poles. Holds up overhead cables. And ladders.

Tag: Identification device placed on drops. Some may indicate the service levels at the address. Also a note left on a customer's door when they were not home.

Tap: A passive device placed on feeders to allow service to homes. Referred in numbered values, XXdb, db value is the signal level attenuated from the signal on the feeder. X-way is the number of ports available on the tap.

Term Station: Last trunk amplifier in a cascade. No amplification on trunk line output, only to the feeders.

Term Tap: Last tap on a feeder line, or a self terminating tap.

Trap: Devices that either allow or block reception of channels.

Trunk: Backbone of the distribution system. First place to check for signal or AC power in outages

Vault: Below ground enclosure for equipment in underground systems. Referred by size, B9 to B40