Homebuyers Expect High-Performance Communications Wiring

January 13, 2005


FCC Minimum Could Disappoint Buyers of New Homes

ORLANDO, FL— Telephone and cable companies are bringing ever-higher bandwidths to the home and, at the same time, homebuyers are increasingly savvy about communications wiring inside the home. High-performance communication looms large in most visions of a dream home. Yet some new homes are still being built with inadequate communications wiring.

The Federal Communications Commission set a minimum standard that took effect in 2000, yet many builders remain uninformed about the FCC ruling and have little knowledge of communications wiring. A few still build homes that don't measure up to the minimal standard. Some others barely meet the standard, burdening homeowners to rewire at a cost substantially higher than the cost of installing adequate wiring in the first place.

Conceived by the FCC in the 1990s, the minimal standard governing inside broadband wiring is not very high tech, since it is based on ten-year-old technology. At little or no additional cost to builders, modern copper communications wiring known as Category 5e can and should be installed in new homes.

Inside Wiring Report Card

As a guide, the Copper Development Association prepared an outline of various grades of communications wiring in the home. Think of it as a report card for builders.

A = Excellent

This builder exceeds expectations. Category 5e structured wiring for telephone and data, combined with RG-6 coaxial cable for two-way video signals, is available at two locations in virtually every room in the home. A central distribution device (CDD) provides connectivity with the outside world and between rooms and simplifies network management. Wiring uses a star configuration, meaning that each outlet is wired directly back to the CDD. This home might also have a sophisticated home entertainment center. It may also be wired for whole-house audio with speaker wires to key listening areas in the home.

B = Good

Category 5e and RG-6 star wiring with at least one communications outlet in key rooms, including bedrooms. Additional wiring has been installed behind walls for future use, although outlets must be installed as needed by the homeowner.

C = Average

Category 5e and RG-6 wiring and communications outlets are provided in two or three key rooms, also using a star configuration. This wiring is fairly typical of what is promoted as "structured wiring" in new homes today. The homeowner may find it limited in terms of entertainment features or for sending broadband to children's bedrooms and adding home automation and security cameras.

D = Minimal standard

Barely meets FCC requirements for wiring, mainly for telephone lines in the house. You may want to look elsewhere for your dream house.

F = Failure

Does not meet minimum FCC standard. Even if the builder uses the right wires, check out the configuration. Daisy chaining, or wiring sequentially from outlet to outlet, does not get a passing grade. This home is a technological lemon! Don't buy it.

What Can Be Done?

Builders must make decisions based on customers' future needs. Buyers must insist on a full description of the communications wiring systems in a new home. Many industry groups are actively pushing for improvements in home wiring.

Many builders now recognize that a new home without a high-performance communications wiring system is unsatisfactory. Buyers of new homes are finding it easy to say "No" to homes with inadequate communications wiring.

One of the main reasons for buying a brand new home is to benefit from the latest in home technology. New-home buyers will not tolerate evasive answers from builders. They should expect direct answers to their questions. There is no reason to accept a new home that does not merit a grade of B or better in communications wiring.

For more information about the FCC ruling and high-performance communications wiring, see our Telecommunications section.