NCTI Upgrades Program for New Technologies


The National Cable Television Institute is frantically
retooling its technical-training classes and manuals to keep up with the furious pace of
advancing technologies.

The NCTI is taking this step while simultaneously remaining
true to its core constituency -- small to midsized cable operators with traditional cable

The institute's goals are to update its training
curriculum to include digital video, basic telephony installation and cable modems, with
its digital-video lessons expected to be out late in the first quarter.

"We're on course with digital, from customers all
the way to the headend," said Wayne Lasley, director of curriculum development for
the NCTI. "Our concern, however, is what the installers have to do with digital to
activate two-way plant. They need to be really confident in their drops."

With a serious shortage in the labor pool, training is a
critical path to an established, qualified stable of engineers and technicians -- a
concern that has not gone unnoticed by the NCTI.

"Operators are putting more emphasis on repeatable,
quantifiable training courses. Our career-path program emphasizes putting the building
blocks in place at cable systems," Lasley said.

The NCTI, he added, will elevate its courses and lessons to
include training in telephone over cable, return path, equipment-performance testing,
data, return sweeping of cable systems and DOCSIS-standardized (Data Over Cable System
Interface Specification) cable modems. In 1998, 80 of the NCTI's total of 150 lesson
plans were updated, Lasley said.

"Operators now offer services like phone and data, so
the way that training is implemented in the field will be a big shift for operators,"
he said.

Still, while the institute pushes ahead with plans to
develop and implement curriculums for high-end technologies, its challenge will be to keep
an eye on traditional cable.

"With all of the latest, greatest technology out
there, there's an incredible amount of 10-year-old equipment. Our biggest sellers are
lower-level courses, so we must keep those [lessons and courses] current, and not so
upper-level," Lasley said.

But upper-level courses are a fact of training life for the
future, and a goal of the NCTI's in 1999 will be to develop lessons for the headend.
This will be an attention-getter for cable operators as they migrate to
telephone-over-cable systems -- a move that requires sophisticated computer networks to
drive data transmission and Internet services.

"Headend sophistication is astronomical, and it will
put a demand on headend technology. We'll focus on lessons in that area in
1999," Lasley said.