The Fiber Optic Association (FOA)
THE FIBER OPTIC Association (FOA) is the international professional society of fiber optics, chartered to promote professionalism in fiber optics through education, certification and standards. FOA is focused on enhancing the competence of the technicians who build the fiber optic networks that connect the world: the Internet, telecommunications systems (wired, wireless and fiber to the home), data centers, utility grids, corporate LANs and just about every communications system.
The FOA traces its roots to a meeting of a dozen fiber optic trainers at the 1995 “Fiber U Fiber Optic Training Conference.” Fiber U was an annual week-long fiber optic training event created by FOTEC Inc., a fiber optic company in Boston, MA. Fiber U consisted of mornings devoted to classroom courses and afternoons where attendees got hands-on training by numerous vendors of fiber optic equipment.
The fiber optic industry was only about a decade old in 1995 and many people were interested in getting trained in this new technology. During that meeting of Fiber U instructors, the discussion focused on the need for a professional society that would set standards for fiber optic training and offer certification for fiber optic technicians. From that discussion, the FOA was founded.
Over the last 25 years, the FOA has grown to be a worldwide organization with over 200 affiliated training organizations in more than 40 countries, and has certified more than 80,000 fiber optic technicians. Born at the beginning of the Internet, the FOA is a virtual organization. There is no “brick and mortar” FOA headquarters, instead there are workers and volunteers around the world who communicate and collaborate over the communications networks they help build.
The FOA has created the world’s largest knowledge base on fiber optics which is made available to everyone free of charge. The collective knowledge of FOA advisors has created six textbooks on fiber optics and cabling. There are almost 1,000 pages of technical information on the FOA website that are downloaded four million times a year. FOA’s 100-plus YouTube videos have been viewed three million times. Most of the basic material is available in Spanish and French as well as English, and translations into more languages are in progress.
The FOA even has a website that offers free online self-study courses in 15 topics on fiber optics, from construction of cable plants to testing for terabit networks.
The FOA focus is on training fiber optic techs to ensure a competent workforce that knows how to install, test and operate fiber optic networks. FOA certified techs must meet the requirements of the FOA KSAs – the knowledge, skills and abilities – needed to install fiber optics properly and safely.
Safety in fiber optics involves personal safety when pulling, splicing or terminating fiber, of course, but safety in construction is just as, if not more, important.
Fiber optic techs working on OSP (outside plant) aerial and underground installations must know how to work safely. Aerial installers deal with the dangers of working on poles or in bucket trucks, often near high voltage electrical conductors. Underground construction deals with techniques like trenching, microtrenching and directional boring that are often done near other buried utilities that must be located and avoided.
FOA has been persistent at ensuring fiber techs understand the safety issues of construction, especially underground construction where installation is often in areas with many other buried utilities. In addition, all techs must know about the “Call Before You Dig” program and publications like dp-PRO where assistance is readily available.