If you’ve passed a NITCO truck recently and seen a team hard at work installing and maintaining the aerial fiber lines that connect everyone to high-speed broadband networks, chances are you’ve seen Joey King and his Aerial Crew. The Aerial Crew, a small team of four, works to maintain hundreds of miles of fiber and cables to ensure that the Region and its surrounding communities have access to a strong network connection.
“It’s hands-on work that takes a lot of manpower,” said King, who has been with NITCO for 16 years and in the industry since 1980. “Every day is different, every job is different. One day we can be working with a relatively small run, say 1,000 feet, we are able get the strand and the cable up in the same day. Other days, it may be a longer run and we are out there for a few days until we get that job done.”
“That’s something that is rewarding about this work, though,” King said. “It keeps all of us on our toes.”
The Aerial Crew, one of two teams including NITCO’s underground team, work year-round to install and maintain NITCO’s fiber optic networks. These networks support everything from our community’s small businesses and schools, to government buildings and local tourism hotspots. According to NITCO, every home has 15 to 20 devices that require a strong broadband network, making the work the Aerial Crew does all the more important as more people are home and in need of a strong network connection.
“Fiber is the cream of the crop,” King said. “Copper cables can do a lot, too, but the fiber provides that highspeed wireless connection that a lot of today’s technology and consumers need.”
As Aerial Crew members, King’s team has to perform their work up in the air around the poles that people pass by every day. The height may change from day to day, but his crew could be dozens of feet in the air installing or repairing fibers or cables. When installing new fibers or cables, they start with the strand. The team drills holes into the poles, mounts the hardware, and puts the strand up, which will then support the fiber or cable.
“We each have our designated duties on a job,” King said. “After the strand is up, one person is driving the truck that has the cable on, while another guy is in one of our bucket trucks lashing it up onto the poles.”
“It’s a pretty self-explanatory process, but there are days when things like weather can complicate the work,” he said. “Let’s say a storm comes through and knocks down a few trees, which then take out the poles and bring the strand down with them, we have to be out there as soon as possible to ensure we are getting the network up and running in a timely manner.”
King remembers just last year in Rensselaer, when a city truck driving down the road took down all the strand, fiber, and cable, which is an accident that happens more often than one might think. King and his crew—Charlie, Greg, and Angel—got to work right away, reinstalling the strand and fiber to get the connection back up and running.
“We work together well, and we work efficiently. My guys will always work hard to get more and more spans done every day; they strive for that,” King said. “That connection to broadband is so important in people’s everyday lives now that, that when it goes down suddenly, we work hard to fix it.”
But while he appreciates the hard work he and his team do every day, King values safety above anything else, a value he shares with NITCO.
“Nothing is more valuable than the safety of my guys and the people we serve,” King said. “While the work we do is much safer now, when I first started, it could be a dangerous field to be in. So, safety is something I’ve learned to value more and more the longer I’ve been in the business.”
For more information about NITCO, visit their website at https://www.nitco.com/index.php.