Title: VP technology, Cable Leakage Technologies
Broadband Background: Eckenroth is VP of technology for Cable Leakage Technologies. He is one of the founders of CLT, along with Mike Ostteen and Perry Havens. He lives in Rowlett, TX, with his lovely wife, Irene, and has two children and two grand children. He has been in the cable industry for 27 years.
Measuring leakage is one of those “evergreen” topics that comes around every three months. From your perspective, how are operators doing on the cumulative leakage index (CLI) front?
I think operators are doing great. The fact that ingress (leakage) adversely affects their Internet services and VoIP as well as picture quality has motivated them to attack leakage aggressively. And, of course, there is the safety issue of keeping the RF airwaves clean for aviation communication and navigation. Being a pilot, that means a lot to me. The FCC rules exist primarily for that purpose. So yes, the cable operators are taking care of business. Very seldom will you see an operator that does not take it seriously.
Have the FCC rules changed at all recently?
The FCC laws for leakage have pretty much stayed the same since the first rules for ride-outs came out in 1985. Then there was a big push for education on the subject with seminars around the country. The biggest and most comprehensive one was in Memphis in 1989. When the rules came out for CLI filing in 1990, it initially was required that a hard copy be mailed to the FCC. A couple years ago, that has changed to an electronic format. There is a specific flat file format that can be uploaded with all of your leaks for your CLI. If your data is not in that format, you have to manually enter your leaks one at a time. Visit the Web site and then click on the form 320 button.
In your current article in Communications Technology, you talk about the rifle and shotgun approaches. Could you elaborate?
The rifle approach is a methodical street-by-street ride-out of the system. This method utilizes a dedicated technician whose only task that day is to perform ride-out. This style ensures complete coverage of the system in the shortest amount of time. The shotgun approach utilizes a leakage meter in each service vehicle. The task of looking for leaks is performed in conjunction with techs’ other daily service calls or repair tasks. The FCC recommends that the tech vary his route a little from day to day. This method does not incorporate a dedicated ride-out technician.
How has CLI measuring techniques changed in the past several years?
CLI measuring techniques have not changed. They are done 10 feet from the leak with a half-wave dipole and are generally performed when the leak is repaired. Methods for detecting the leaks during a ride-out are where techniques have changed dramatically. There are technologies available now that incorporate GPS, Doppler direction finding, channel tagging, digital mapping with inherent algorithms for peaking the leak, and methods of differentiating and recording TVI (power).
Is adoption of GPS technologies a real game changer?
GPS is a real game changer in time savings and safety. The man hours that are lost when a technician reacts to his meter every time it goes off are excessive without GPS. The leak could be coming from the next street over. He may get out of his vehicle and walk back into an easement only to find the leak is across the adjacent street. GPS takes care of that because you record everything and sort it out in the mapping software. Also, safety is paramount. It is very dangerous to pull your vehicle forward and back on a street to peak out a leak. With GPS and the correct leak analysis peaking software, that task has already been done.
What can you tell us about your collaboration with Trilithic or other manufacturers?
We worked with Wavetek (currently JDSU) back in the early ’90s. They had a meter called the CLM 1000 that the Wavetracker was compatible with. From the mid-’90s to the present time, we work closely with Trilithic. The Wavetracker has a built in Searcher Plus and works with the Channel Tagging system. We are currently enhancing our APLAS 3i Internet-based mapping software with satellite views powered by Google to incorporate the data from Trilithic’s new leakage meter; The Seeker GPS. All companies with GPS-based leakage equipment are licensed through Cable Leakage Technologies by our patents and patents pending.
Do you see operators changing their way of detecting leakage and/or doing preventive maintenance?
I am a huge advocate of preventive maintenance. Problems are found and fixed before you ever get an irate customer. That, plain and simple, is the way to do business. There are very few operators that do not use some form of GPS tracking with their leakage programs. The benefits of time and cost savings are too obvious.
What’s your preference, rifle or shotgun?
In leakage, I prefer the rifle method, of which the Wavetracker is an example. In shooting sports, I prefer a shotgun. I just recently acquired a Browning 12 gauge Citori Lightning Feather that I am very happy with.
Do you use a GPS device in the car?
I have a Sat/Nav GPS system in my wife’s car that comes in very handy when we travel. I have a portable Garmin GPS on my Harley-Davidson motorcycle that allows me to go down any road without a chance of getting lost.