Philly eyes installer licensing

Thursday, March 1, 2007

PHILADELPHIA--The City Council here is considering an ordinance that requires licensing of "persons performing work on electrical and telecommunications systems." In the most recent draft of the ordinance, which will receive its first public hearing Feb. 27 at 10 a.m. in Council chambers, "telecommunications systems" are defined as "all low-voltage conductors/cables, raceways ... and all other associated components used to transmit data, information, or intelligence in telecommunications systems, data systems, television or closed circuit television systems and broadband systems."
Violators would be fined between $100 and $300 and a cease-operations order will be issued for jobs being worked on by unlicensed workers.
The licensing will follow an apprenticeship model, though technicians who can show 10,000 hours of documented practical experience will be grandfathered in, and there will be reciprocity with other states and municipalities.
Keith Ladd, chief executive officer of the Protection Bureau, a regional integrator based in Exton, Pa., said Philadelphia represents a "major piece of business" for his company. "We have four or five techs in Philly every day." He said he would attempt to get his technicians grandfathered in immediately should the ordinance pass, but that he was against the ordinance.
"Electricians are saying, 'This is our business, and if you want to do it, you have to be technically qualified,'" Ladd said, "but you don't have the danger of running 120 volts when you're doing low-voltage work."
David Johnson, director of government and industry affairs for the National Systems Contractor Association, said his organization would also oppose the ordinance. "It doesn't make sure," he said, "that any license that encompasses the industry has to accurately reflect what our membership does ... [The City Council] may be rushing to try to put in a piece of legislation without realizing what other industries this might affect." Johnson said as many as 100 members of the NSCA would be affected by the ordinance.
Both Ladd and Johnson said this attempt at licensing is part of a growing trend across the country, but "we've mostly been battling this at the state level," said Johnson. "The real scary thing here is that it can happen as the local level as well. And if Philly goes down this route, it sets up a precedent for something statewide."