Interview Date: September 23, 2022
Interview Location: Denver, Colorado
Interviewer: Stewart Schley
Collection: Hauser Oral History Project
STEWART SCHLEY: Greetings. Welcome to the Cable Center’s Hauser Oral History Series. I’m Stewart Schley. I’m in Denver, Colorado on the second day of autumn in 2022. And I’m glad you’re here because we’re going to spend the next hour talking about a subject of vital importance to the cable television and cable communications industry, which is the physical apparatus of cable, the stuff, the plant, the infrastructure, that makes it all work. We have an expert with us who has spent more than 40 years in this very trade. Andrew Gough, welcome.
ANDREW GOUGH: Thank you for having me.
SCHLEY: Thank you for being with us. I’m excited to talk about everything from what it feels like to climb a utility pole to how we upgraded this infrastructure to accommodate two-way communications. There’s a lot of stuff to talk about, but I kind of want to start toward the start. You began your career in 1980 with a cable system in the northeast near the Hudson Valley, is that right?
GOUGH: Yeah, pretty much.
SCHLEY: I don’t know my New York geography as well. But take us through that progression. How did you find the cable industry?
GOUGH: I was born in New York and then I moved to New Hampshire for three years for the last two years of high school and then a year after and I missed the New York area. So I moved back down to the New York area and moved in with a brother who was working in the cable industry. He started in West Nyack, New York with a company called Goodview and then went over to Westchester County. So Rockland County is on the west side of the river and Westchester County is on the east side of the river, just north of New York City. And it was a company called UA Columbia and I moved into an apartment with him in November of 1979 and worked at Pizza Hut for two months and decided I didn’t really want to do that for very long so I left there shortly before Christmas. And my brother came home one night and said, “Hey, our one installer quit so we’re looking for an installer. Stop by the office tomorrow if you want a job.” So I went and talked to a guy by the name of Richard Lauracella and he said, “We want to hire you tomorrow, but the HR people don’t want to give you a W2 for 1979 for two days so come back January third.” And I was the only in-house installer for that system for a while which meant that really all I did was non-pay disconnects. There was not a whole lot of installation that I was doing.
SCHLEY: I was going to ask you. What made you qualified in the first place? What did an installer do?
GOUGH: Honestly, for the job that I got, I had a pulse. It really was they were looking for someone who could drive a truck, had a decent license, and could knock on doors and say, “Hey, you owe us money.” And I hated it and I got out of that as quickly as I could and then became a technician and then started doing service calls.
SCHLEY: You’re literally learning the business from the ground up.
GOUGH: Yeah, back then, which is interesting, I mean it’ll come out in the future, right now I’m involved in learning and development side of the business, but back then it wasn’t – there wasn’t really training. You would ride with somebody and that was about it. I remember getting – I was handed a set of gaffs, you know, climbers, and said, “There’s a pole out back, we’ll see you in a half an hour.” And frankly I put them on with the spurs facing out and somebody came out and said, “What are you going to do, climb out of a barrel?” And I was cocky at the time and said, “If someone had offered me some assistance with this, I would be doing a little better.”
SCHLEY: But when you say installer, I initially envision you going into homes and connecting F connectors to converter boxes.
GOUGH: At the time all the installations were done by contractors for that particular company. It was UACC, United Artists Cablevision of Westchester.
SCHLEY: I can’t resist a couple of pole moments or pole stories because you would have to – you’re shimmying up a pole. What are you going to do when you get to the destination up there? What’s your job?
GOUGH: It depends. As an installer they would attach a cable, either a cable or a rope, to their belt and then they’d climb the pole and then attach that to the strand using a clamp onto the strand and then they would attach the actual cable onto a tap. And then on the side of the house they would use a ladder. I’m one of those people that really thought at the time that climbing a pole was much faster than using a ladder, especially in an urban area like lower Westchester County because you can’t park near that pole so you either had to drag the ladder to the pole around the corner or you just brought a pair of gaffs. It was a lot easier with the gaffs.
SCHLEY: Andrew, imagine the scope. What you’re doing is being replicated all across the country as I don’t know how many utility poles there are in the US, but there are a lot.
GOUGH: Probably trillions.
SCHLEY: Did you have any accidents or incidents or was it scary at first?
GOUGH: So all – you know, in a 42-year career I certainly stopped climbing poles long ago, but I climbed poles for, you know, quite often. That didn’t happen until actually I had become a super – I changed, moved up to Connecticut, became a supervisor, became a manager, and at one point I was technician in there because I had left and come back a couple times. And did fall off a pole. I was about halfway up so maybe 12, 13, 14 feet and what you’re supposed to do is push off and I didn’t push off far enough. So I did – I ripped my shirt. I did have a splinter that came into my chest. And an interesting thing is I landed on my back and I had thought that I had hurt myself badly and of course the gentleman that I was with – there’s an interesting story about him also. He was – we were peers at the time and then I became his manager and then later when I left Charter for six years, came back, then he was my manager.
SCHLEY: You flip-flopped.
GOUGH: Right. So his name is Dave DeFriesse. I landed on my back and I had thought I had hurt it and it was a piece of equipment in my belt that was digging me in the back. So as soon as I turned over, I was like oh, my back doesn’t hurt anymore. So I really was okay. I did have to go to the hospital and there were no stiches or anything, but they cleared out the –
SCHLEY: It’s terrifying to me.
GOUGH: Well, it wasn’t terrifying because it – you know it’s going to happen at some point, but that was the only time that I really had any issues.
SCHLEY: I mean you were working for a pay check, I get that, but people like you are kind of the unsung heroes of this buildout that became vast. I think it’s an important point. Safety became a much bigger part of your career and we’ll get to that in your current role, but what were we doing at UA Columbia Cable? This purely a television distribution mechanism at the time?
GOUGH: So when I started again in 1980 with that company in New York we were a 36-channel system so it was a 300-megahertz system, you know, channels two through W was really what it amounted to and it was strictly television. HBO had already started, I think, you know, Turner Broadcasting had already started so we did have some of those things. MTV started, I don’t know, very early ’80s so when I started with them, they didn’t have it and then we ended up getting that. So it was strictly television. It was nothing about telephone, nothing about any of that aspect of it.
SCHLEY: One way television signals going to the home.
GOUGH: Actually, so that system was one-way except it – we said that we had a two-way system, but it was an A and a B. So we actually had amplifiers that went from the headend out. Or actually it was a hub at that time. And then we had another set – another cable system basically that was going the other way.
SCHLEY: When you say A and B, literally two cable lines.
GOUGH: Two separate amplifiers, two separate cables. They were on the same strand and at that time our head end basically was in Alpine, New Jersey and then it came across via microwave to various locations in southern Westchester.
SCHLEY: I love what you’re – because I wanted to help our audience understand how a cable system actually works and you mentioned the amount of spectrum, 300 megahertz?
GOUGH: Three hundred megahertz at the time.
SCHLEY: What does that even mean? How much space does an individual channel or did an individual channel need at the time?
GOUGH: So an analog channel still needs six megahertz and even the digital channels now, I mean they’re called six megahertz, but many more channels are within that six megahertz. And it, you know, so again, the 36 channels. So we had all the New York locals which were, let’s see if I can still do this, two, four, seven, nine, 11, and 13 were the off-air channels in New York and really no matter where you lived you – and this is back in analog days – you shouldn’t have any channels that are next to each other. Like you wouldn’t have a channel two and a three.
SCHLEY: You’d leave space.
GOUGH: You’d leave space. So then the people that are paying attention, “Well, wait a minute, he said channel four and five, they’re together.” Spectrum-wise they’re not. There’s a little gap in there which is why New York City could have a channel four and a channel five.
SCHLEY: And the reason I ask is because these, as you said, were kind of the go-go years, Turner Broadcasting and CNN and MTV and ESPN and all these networks are starting to – but in order to get to the home they depended on companies like yours to be willing to either have enough space or to make enough space on the system.
GOUGH: Yeah. So actually, so we had a 300-megahertz system and at one point they said, “Okay, we can add more channels and we can make the amplifiers that we have, which are specced to 300 megahertz, we can stretch it to 330 megahertz.”
SCHLEY: Adding three, four, five more channels?
GOUGH: Yeah. And at the time three or four more channels, I mean there was money there. And thank you for inviting someone who’s really just a cable guy, but the people that –
SCHLEY: You are the cable guy.
GOUGH: Well, not THE, no. But the people that have sat in this chair before me are the ones that have done all those deals and owned all those companies and whatnot, but it was a big deal to add those channels. And we would go through and – at that time I believe I did have a bucket truck and what was then called an A tech as opposed to a C tech or a B tech. And we just had to maybe change the pads and equalizers a little bit just to sweep that out to that 330 megahertz.
SCHLEY: I guess that was my question is the amplifier really was, I think, the defining factor in how much spectrum you could use. The physical cable was the same.
GOUGH: Correct. In this particular system, just going from – just adding that 30 megahertz, it was just the amplifiers. We didn’t have to change the spacing between the amplifiers.
SCHLEY: Help us understand this notion of a cascade of amplifiers. What are we talking about when we talk about a cascade?
GOUGH: Again, in the UA system that I worked in in Westchester the head end was in Alpine, New Jersey. It was on Alpine Tower which was actually built – it’s actually where FM started. Interesting story about Colonel Armstrong who was kind of the inventor of FM and he got into an argument so to speak with – I forget his first name, but Sarnoff who was with either RCA or NBC.
SCHLEY: RCA, yeah.
GOUGH: Interesting reading and history about that. But UA Columbia owned Alpine Tower at the time and so that’s where all their signals originated from and then it came over by microwave. So in my case I was in charge of Eastchester, Bronxville, and Tuckahoe, which we called EBTS. So I cannot believe I remember the address, but Nine New Street is an apartment building, or was an apartment building, in Eastchester and there was a microwave dish on the roof and then there was from Hughes – the Hughes Company. It was an AMLIFU which is amplitude modulation link and then an interface unit. So that took the microwaves and changed that to RF and then it would go out to an amplifier down basically in the parking lot and then I think it’s route 22, whatever the road is that goes up through Eastchester. Then the system would go out from there. When I moved up to Connecticut and started working for New Milford Cable, Housatonic Cable, and Mid Connecticut Cable, which was later purchased by Charter, the head end was in New Milford, Connecticut and one of the systems we had went from New Milford to Kent and that was 63 amplifiers long which is a lot of amplifiers.
SCHLEY: That sounds like a lot of amplifiers.
GOUGH: Right, so – and then the issues that cable companies had at the time was if there was a pole hit or a truck hit a pole and the pole came down in New Milford the people in Kent had no service. And they’re like, “We don’t care about New Milford.” So years later that’s how fiber came into play whereas they would send a fiber out halfway and then they would send another fiber out a quarter of the way so then they would make it smaller. Nowadays we just build from fiber to begin with.
SCHLEY: Right, but you’d compartmentalize those cascades. So if you were the house at the end of amplifier 63 that wasn’t necessarily a good place to be?
GOUGH: In this particular case there was a development called Brookwoods Two, which I think is still there, right across the street from Kent Falls State Park on route seven. They don’t – they’re too far away from Albany, too far away from Hartford, too far away from New York City, to really get anything so they were happy with really almost anything.
SCHLEY: Even if it’s at the end of the –
GOUGH: Even if it’s the end. And obviously it took us a few years to shore that up and run fiber out that way.
SCHLEY: Sure. I mean I get that we’re going sort of back in history here, but I think in terms of the early architecture of cable we have this beast called a trunk line.
GOUGH: Tree and branch.
SCHLEY: Okay, what was a trunk line?
GOUGH: The trunk was the main amplifiers that were running like down the main arteries or the main roads and then kind of subsections would run off of that.
SCHLEY: And I had feeder cables coming off of the line?
GOUGH: Feeder cables typically came off the amplifiers and then they would feed line extenders. So basically, an amplifier – in the cable world – an amplifier has more than one output whereas a line extender only has one in and one out.
SCHLEY: Oh, I’ve been covering this industry a long time and I did not know that. And so you were busy though. Like the industry was growing.
GOUGH: Oh, yeah.
SCHLEY: Your days were pretty filled in terms of this early technician work?
GOUGH: Yeah. So when I was in UA Columbia in Westchester, I was a technician and then in 1984 I left to move up to – actually in ’83 I moved up to Connecticut and moved in with some friends of mine and then he – and I met him at UA Columbia. He actually trained me how to be a maintenance technician. And then actually interesting story about him. His name was Ron Armiento and for a long time – actually it’s on the notes you have. He’s the owner of Cats Design. So I lived with him and his wife for a long time and we both worked at UA Columbia and then he moved to Connecticut and started working for that system in Connecticut, the New Milford Cable Housatonic. And kind of the same thing happened with him that happened with my brother. Ron came home one night and said, “Hey, we have this job, you should come interview for it.” So actually, I interviewed for that job in that system in Connecticut on June 22nd of 1984 and then I started with company later that fall.
SCHLEY: Your facility for dates and addresses is scary, but I appreciate it in terms of the context of an interview talking about the days.
GOUGH: I tried to do a little homework.
SCHLEY: Okay. Did you like what you were doing when you started?
GOUGH: So for the longest time, probably for the first half of my career – well, for the first five years I was serious about it and then the first half I still said it and now I just joke about it. You know, I’m waiting for my next restaurant job to come up if this cable gig doesn’t work out.
SCHLEY: Sure. Might be a passing fad, we don’t know.
GOUGH: Exactly. But you know. And there’s another fire part that comes into it as well. I was a 26-year volunteer fireman.
SCHLEY: Saw that.
GOUGH: Still a member. Had – and I didn’t join that until I was 32. So had I gotten involved in the fire service maybe two or three years earlier I would have been a career fireman.
SCHLEY: No kidding?
GOUGH: Because that – I mean that’s just the best job ever. But I was already a manager, I already had a company car, I already had a team that I loved that worked for me. The dispatchers, the digitizing drafter design people reported to me. I really loved that job so I didn’t want to leave that. So to answer your question, yes. I have loved this career and then in 2004 when I switched over to training, fell in love with it again and I continue to do that to this day.
SCHLEY: You mentioned the design element. Did you work on properties that were absolute new build situations?
GOUGH: So, yes, but probably not what you think. So on a parttime basis for a number of years my wife and I actually were contractors using – it was a 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit, you know, GTI, that had a DMI in it which is a digital measuring instrument. So I would drive and I have a set of binoculars and I had a sun roof and my wife had basically a big clipboard and a map and we would go out and do base maps – we would contract to do that. So we would drive down a street in a town that maybe didn’t have cable. So we get the distances between the poles and we would get if the pole had power on it or if it had a transformer on it –
SCHLEY: This is very granular work.
GOUGH: Oh, yeah. But it’s needed because the people that design the cable plant need to know. Like for instance, they need to know if there’s a transformer or if there are secondaries on that pole if they want to put a power supply on that pole.
SCHLEY: Why? Why do I care if there’s a transformer on it?
GOUGH: So the cable industry is – well, historically it was run by either 30-volt power supplies or 60-volt power supplies and then 90-volt power supplies came into play. But you need – and then we added battery backup to that as time went on. But you need to get power from the power company so the power has to be available on that pole.
SCHLEY: You talked about this base mapping gig. And who was the customer for the work you guys were doing then? Who did you sell your maps to?
GOUGH: Sometimes I didn’t even know.
GOUGH: It was – we worked – we subcontracted with a contractor. It was called CATB Associates. It was a small company owned by Rick Carr in Milford, Connecticut.
SCHLEY: You say that, I think I can remember a sort of business card advertisements that would appear in the trade publications. I’m not sure. I could be –
GOUGH: It very well could have been, but I know we did work for mainly cable operators and I think we did work – I know we did work for SNET which was Southern New England Telephone.
GOUGH: So we did work for – with us it was just you get paid by the mile and accuracy counted as well. I mean they would more or less have to be accurate.
SCHLEY: I think what I’m left with or impressed by, again, and you weren’t the only person doing this, but it’s the exactitude of having to map out these cities and towns and neighborhoods, you know?
GOUGH: Here’s another piece of that. jump ahead a few years when a lot of the MSOs are buying various systems. They would do, what was it, due diligence. So they would contract with a contractor to go out and actually build the print of what they are proposing to buy. So then we would go and we would put down it’s a 23 four-way for a tap or there’s an amplifier on this pole or this pole like fell over a long time ago. So the buyer of that system or the proposed buyer of that system would contract with somebody to go out and get those maps that they could then verify with the maps that they got from the company.
SCHLEY: You want to know what you’re buying.
SCHLEY: At a detailed level. As your career blossomed and continued over time the cable industry started to be a different sort of a beast in terms of what it could accomplish. And what it could accomplish, once again, depended heavily on work that people like you did. And I want to talk particularly about this. We talked about upgrading the capacity of a system to deliver more channels. I wanted to talk about the point at which we started to enable two-way signaling. First of all, why was a cable system one-way only to begin with?
GOUGH: So it was one-way to begin with because that was –
SCHLEY: That’s what the amplifiers could push?
GOUGH: Right. So if we go back to 1948 and, depending upon who you ask, either Arkansas, Pennsylvania, or Oregon –
SCHLEY: Invented the first cable system.
GOUGH: Right. I mean it was basically an antenna on the top of a hill with a wire and some amplifiers because somebody wanted to sell televisions is basically how it started. And it’s just an antenna so it’s just a one-way system. Then along came the HBOs and the channels that are going to cost a little bit more than just all of those channels. In a one-way system you basically have to use a trap. You either have to send it in the clear, but then put a trap on everybody’s –
SCHLEY: To prevent –
GOUGH: Prevent those people from getting that or you put an interfering carrier next to that channel so that if you see it in the clear you’re not going to be able to see it and then you have a very narrow trap that you put on that person that is actually paying for it. And then as time went on a little bit farther there were companies that would have cable boxes that they did not require communication at all. The ones that come to mind are Zenith and Oak and –
SCHLEY: They’re just tuning in like channels?
GOUGH: They’re just tuning in the channels, but they have the capability to make it so that you can watch those channels that may be scrambled in some way.
SCHLEY: It’s a one-way medium and we made it into a two-way medium.
GOUGH: So before that though, like the Oak boxes, and I forget what the color wire is, but if you open up the Oak boxes you cut this green wire or purple wire or whatever it was and you can get all the channels. That’s obviously no good for the cable operator so then it became wait a minute – and also Pay Per View came in as well.
SCHLEY: Good point.
GOUGH: You know, we need to be able to interact with that box –
SCHLEY: That individual household.
GOUGH: Right, so the first thing they did is they had basically you would call a number and they had ANI, automatic number identifier, so it would know that you – even way back before cell phones it would know the number that it was called from and that number was associated with that account and because you called this specific phone number you wanted this fight which was on Tuesday night or whatever. Still a one-way system. But then as time went on two-way really – I mean the two-way would really be beneficial for the industry. So in my case we didn’t really – so I left the UA Columbia and went to Connecticut in ’84. It wasn’t until the late ’80s where we added two-way capability and, in our case, we had Magnavox amplifiers and it was just a drop-in module.
SCHLEY: To create the two-way –
GOUGH: To create two-way functionality coming back –
SCHLEY: Again, you’re climbing poles and you’re messing with an amplifier.
GOUGH: By this time, it was – well, by this time I was a manager.
SCHLEY: Yeah, no, I didn’t –
GOUGH: No, and we had bucket trucks. So the guys that were doing this were in bucket trucks. And it was basically video coming back from Southbury High School back to the headend in New Milford and then it would go back out to Southbury, Woodbury, and Bethlehem because that was that part of the system.
SCHLEY: That’s what I was going to ask. So the initial impetus was not – I think sometimes it’s assumed that well, the cable industry wanted to do internet, high speed internet –
GOUGH: Yeah, that didn’t come till later.
SCHLEY: – but at the time this was not the motivation.
SCHLEY: The good news is I think, I don’t know what percentage, but some percentage of the industry, for reasons you just articulated, did make their systems two-way even preceding the high-speed internet.
GOUGH: Like the Qube system in –
GOUGH: Columbus, I think. I mean that was –
GOUGH: So we would read – right, we would read that in the trade magazines and like oh, wow, we need to get this. And then it’s like nah, I work for a really tiny little system in Connecticut owned by Paul Hancock and we’re not going to do that.
SCHLEY: But again, I’m sort of taken by the amplifier-by-amplifier arduousness of what had to happen.
GOUGH: You had to go to each one.
SCHLEY: You have to go to each one, right.
GOUGH: Because there was – the amplifiers themselves – I mean the cable industry is interesting because the amplifier is really just a little chip that amplifies RF, but then the thing that it’s in is called an amplifier.
SCHLEY: The casing?
GOUGH: Right. The metal thing. The same thing with nodes. Node is a geographic area, but it’s also nowadays a thing that takes fiber optic or light on one side and then the other side is RF.
SCHLEY: So I guess the good news is there was in many cases room in those amplifier casings to add the two-way module?
GOUGH: Yeah. So in that space where it was there might have been some other device and whether it be that the manufacturers, be it C-COR or Magnavox, Scientific Atlanta obviously at the time, maybe they knew what was coming five years from now, 10 years from now. I’m sure they did. from a technician or someone who manages technicians I never heard any of that stuff.
SCHLEY: Dreamed it up, but forward thinking is important in innovation and technology.
SCHLEY: Where were you when fiber optic technology came into your world?
GOUGH: I was still in that system in Connecticut. Honestly, by that time I don’t know if we had already been purchased by Charter. Actually, I know we hadn’t been because of the VP at the time. So we were still New Milford Housatonic mid Connecticut and what we were doing – I mentioned that 63-amp cascade from New Milford to Kent. We were doing things like dropping in a node like halfway through. So we were doing that.
SCHLEY: Hurrah, yeah.
GOUGH: And all of the bigger companies were basically using all of the contractors that were available in the US so we actually had a contractor from Ireland. I forget their name. At the time Europe was ahead of us a little bit. As far as I understand, Europe was ahead of us a little bit in the fiber optic side, but a group of guys came out and they said, “Yeah, yeah, we can do this.” And they ran fiber for us. They overlashed it. So they just ran it on the same strand we had. I forget the brand of nodes that we used because it’s just so long ago.
SCHLEY: This was around when?
GOUGH: This was, it must have been late ’90s. I’m sorry, late ’80s?
SCHLEY: I think that sounds – I know that’s when we started to write about fiber optics.
GOUGH: Yeah, yeah, late ’80s, very early ’90s.
SCHLEY: And again, what was the motivation, what was the impetus? Because it costs money to put in fiber obviously. What were we trying to accomplish?
GOUGH: I think part of it was reliability. Because again, if you have that pole hit on the second amplifier all the other amplifiers don’t have service anymore.
SCHLEY: I totally get it, right.
GOUGH: That was part of that I think part of it was also adding channels because, you know. When Weather Channel first came out, I remember saying to whoever wanted to listen, “Who’s going to want to watch weather 24 hours a day?” That’s not what they’re looking for. They’re looking for six minutes. And that’s all they’re looking for. Or who’s going to watch golf for 24 hours? That’s not the point, but there are people that will watch Golf Channel quite often.
SCHLEY: Sure, right.
GOUGH: So instead of having just HBO which would show all sorts of different moves, then it became whichever one is going to show westerns and whichever one is going to show rom-coms and whichever one is going to show action movies.
SCHLEY: Sure, narrowing the genres. And as this programming progression happened, to your point, we wanted to make – we wanted to introduce greater reliability, truncate those cascades so the signal quality was improved. What I think is interesting, I’d be interested to hear commentary about it, is some of these enabling technologies that ended up being really important for high-speed internet, broadband, weren’t necessarily put in initially to support that. We had other rationale, right?
GOUGH: Right. To begin with and then it’s like –
SCHLEY: To begin with.
GOUGH: Right, and then –
SCHLEY: It’s a happy coincidence in a way.
GOUGH: Exactly. And then – and I would totally mess up when – the years of the Telecom Act and all that when – part of that though was I remember being a very young tech, like 1982, meeting a guy from New York Bell and he was like, “Oh, you work for UA Columbia? We’re going to own you in five years.”
GOUGH: And it’s like okay, I don’t really know what you’re talking about, but, you know, because they were getting into video, they were doing testing on it.
SCHLEY: And they were the phone company.
GOUGH: Right. Pretty sure anybody that’s watching this will know that coax is a better medium for that than twisted pair is. And the phone companies weren’t really as competitive as they wanted to be until they got into fiber because twisted pair has its limitations. But when cable companies started adding – from my perspective, when they started adding fiber for reliability and just increased bandwidth and all that, then telephone started, internet started, and it’s like oh, okay, this is easy. Because really all it is is equipment in the headend.
SCHLEY: Well, I would –
GOUGH: And the home. I mean the pipe is the same basically.
SCHLEY: I understand. But can you talk about the craftsmanship required to, for instance, splice a fiber line? How does that even work?
GOUGH: I mean it’s funny, initially it was very labor intensive. I remember, again living in Connecticut, I had to go to Philadelphia for a week to learn how to do the mechanical splices which was basically taking the end of the fiber, putting it in a ferrule and then using different sandpaper to polish that edge.
SCHLEY: This very small thing.
GOUGH: Right, and then put it in a mechanical splice. And it’s oh, my god, I hated doing that. And then just a few years later fusion splicers came out, but they were huge, massive pieces of equipment. Now they’re not much bigger than this cup now.
SCHLEY: Were people – were technicians out in the field with these fusion splicers?
GOUGH: They were.
SCHLEY: Could you do it in a van or like –
GOUGH: Typically, it was a trailer at the time. I left Charter in 1997 and one of the last – almost the last thing that I did was take delivery of a fiber trailer. And it kind of looks like a horse trailer, but it’s got windows and there’s no horses in it. But you know, it’s got an air conditioner, it’s got a generator, and there’s doors or flaps where you can bring in the enclosure that has the two or three or four or five fiber cables in there because you have to strip it all back and you end up with just a human hair thing. And it’s delicate and you have to put that into the fusion splicer. And you don’t want dust or smoke or anything so you really want to do that in as much of an enclosed environment as you can.
SCHLEY: Once again, Andrew, it sounds hard. I mean it sounds – I keep using this word – arduous and you just had to grind through, I guess, to –
GOUGH: It’s somewhat easier, I think – and this is my opinion – with fiber than it is with coax because if you’re driving down the road and you see up on strand – they look like tennis rackets. There’s basically loops of fiber optic cable that are just kind of sitting there as a spare and if someone hits a pole or there’s a damage on a pole the technician goes back to where that spare cable is and loosens it and then they can bring that down and put it in a truck or in a trailer. So the work – the fiber splicing that you do is typically in a chair and in a closed environment with lots of light.
SCHLEY: Not necessarily on a pole –
GOUGH: Yeah, they’re not on a pole with a drill or trying to go through coax or anything like that.
SCHLEY: And much of our construction was also underground.
SCHLEY: I guess it’s the same process, it’s just you’re doing it under a street or whatever. You mentioned going to Philadelphia. Was that – you’ve been involved with the SCTE for a long time. Maybe just a quick explanation of what SCTE does and what value it brings to someone like you.
GOUGH: So SCTE started out in ’66? The late ’60s as the Society of Cable Television Engineers. And then a number of decades later they changed it to the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers. It started out as a kind of a trade organization for the cable industry. Obviously if it started in ’48, so then through the ’50s and then most of the ’60s it was still a relatively young industry. They’re involved in standards. They’re involved in certifications for that – all those things that the cable industry uses. Within the last couple of years, they’ve become a subsidiary of the CableLabs which also does kind of the same thing. There’s a learning and development piece to it which the company that I work for, we use them for our progression programs. So they have classes. They also do boot camps. A company can hire them to train all of their technicians live.
SCHLEY: Such as fiber splicing, such as?
SCHLEY: I keep calling it the craft.
SCHLEY: Aspects of the industry.
GOUGH: Through their certification program, through their training program, a lot of the small to midsize companies use them extensively. Some of the Comcasts and Charters and Coxes of the world typically have an in-house training team, but pretty much all of the larger MSOs use them to some extent. In my case, or our case, with Charter, we use them for our progression programs.
SCHLEY: I did want to talk, as manager of curriculum for Charter today you’ve seen training really evolve in the industry. It sounded like from the early days it was fairly happenstance.
GOUGH: Oh, you just rode with somebody.
SCHLEY: You got hired by a guy and he said go over and –
GOUGH: Yeah, you’d just ride with somebody else.
SCHLEY: But what are we doing today? What tool have been brought to bear with training?
GOUGH: Actually, even pre-Covid a lot of it was – so the company that I work for, we’ve got a blended approach. So we have e-learns so they could be video based, they could be – there’s content that you read paragraphs, you watch a short video.
SCHLEY: Delivered online?
GOUGH: Delivered over a computer. And again, in my company’s case there’s a classroom and they’ve got computers in the classroom. So for instance, with our onboarding program for field technicians they’ll take a few of these online classes and one of the reasons we do that is because everybody gets the same message. But you cannot train someone how to climb a ladder or how to put a connector on through a video.
SCHLEY: Without physically doing it.
GOUGH: Right. Which I’m sure everybody that is listening to this or watching this has used a YouTube video on how to fix something in their home. But again, from a corporate standpoint we want to go the step beyond that. So then we would have ILT or instructor led training to reinforce what was viewed on the e-learns and then also just to do that skills check to make sure that they can actually do that. That’s how most of the larger companies do that now. I’m sure the midsized and smaller ones do it the same way.
SCHLEY: What are we looking for in an applicant for a technician job? Like what skill sets are important these days? And have they changed from what they used to be?
GOUGH: So the work force that is being – that I was involved in hiring back in the ’80s and ’90s, you were just looking for somebody who could basically use hand tools and who was not afraid about working outside in the wintertime and in the summertime. Obviously clean driving record. Someone that you thought that you could get along with. Now it’s – and the people that we get, it’s – like I got my first computer in 1983 so I was 23 years old. And it was a Tandy TX1000 or something. Whereas people today, I mean like they’re almost born with computers. They have cell phones when they’re young and all that kind of stuff. So they have knowledge of how to do these things and that helps us because think of the things in your own home that use Wi-Fi.
SCHLEY: A lot of them.
GOUGH: Right, depending upon – could be your water meter, could be –
SCHLEY: My Sonos speaker system.
GOUGH: Exactly. Everything in the house. So the MSOs or the other companies are looking for people that are adept in that kind of knowledge.
SCHLEY: That’s interesting. And I always thought that also if you kind of think about it sometimes the technician is the face of the cable company.
GOUGH: Oh, yeah, definitely.
SCHLEY: So you have to have some interpersonal skills too, I think, right?
GOUGH: Yeah, definitely.
SCHLEY: That’s important.
GOUGH: So in our onboarding programs we have things like how to take notes, how to do well interacting with customers. There was a time when technicians actually sold for Charter. They would try to upsell the people –
SCHLEY: While they’re there with the customer.
GOUGH: Right, and all the companies are the same way and now Charter has a different model for that. They’re definitely the face of the company because think about whatever cable company you have or whatever internet provider you have, you really only see the person that comes to install it, and to come service it if there’s an issue. Then again, when you call or when you chat, because all the companies now have a chat feature –
SCHLEY: Love them.
GOUGH: Oh, I do as well. You’re going to have an interaction with them that you want to be successful as well, but it’s still not that face of the company.
SCHLEY: Okay, I mean that’s a fair point. It’s funny you mentioned the Tandy TX whatever, ’83. When did it dawn on you that the cable industry, maybe even from a personal level, was going to become this robust mechanism for delivering high speed internet? Do you remember when they connected you, for instance, for the first time to a high-speed broadband connection and relieved us from the terror of dialup internet back in the day? That was a big transition.
GOUGH: You are totally correct, but I actually – I’m trying to think, I actually don’t remember.
SCHLEY: You saw it from both sides.
GOUGH: Right. I remember at work there was one computer that the admin to the VP had, I remember when it had, what was it, 10 megabytes of storage. That was just huge.
SCHLEY: How are we ever going to fill that?
GOUGH: I remember getting my first desktop and then using that and how I thought that was cool, you know, Word and Excel and all that kind of stuff. And it made my job a lot easier because I could keep track of like vehicle maintenance. Before that it was all on paper. I had stacks and stacks of loose leaf binders on this vehicle or that vehicle.
SCHLEY: Children, remember this. This is how things used to be.
GOUGH: So we had high speed internet at that office. At that time, I was working in Newtown, Connecticut. But I don’t remember when it –
SCHLEY: I don’t either, to be honest.
GOUGH: Right. But when I got my first laptop that I could use at home, but it must have been in the ’90s at some point.
SCHLEY: One aspect of the cable industry’s transformation to a two-way network that it would be interesting to hear you explain is this concept of kind of a noisy upstream path and signal leakage that used to occur. What was that all about?
GOUGH: So I was lucky in that UA Columbia had a very robust leakage program. And then when I moved to Connecticut at the time with that small independent, prior to Charter purchasing them, yeah, leakage, yeah, yeah, we need to worry about it. But think of a garden hose. You’ve got water that goes into the garden hose at the side of the house and then you want to water your garden. If there is a hole in that, if your dog chews through it or something, water’s going to leak out. But if that hose is – then it sits in mud there’s a chance that some of that mud is going to get into that hole and then come out the –
SCHLEY: From the outside in.
GOUGH: Right, come out the other end. RF is a little bit different and RF can go multiple ways. You’re not really going to get mud back in the house unless you shut that water off and it just sits in there and somehow migrates up, but on the RF side if there is some sort of issue with the shield of the actual coaxial cable or the amplifier housing, the tap housing, whatever it is, our signal will leak out. But the interesting thing about the cable industry back in the day was that we used the same frequencies that were used off air. So the off-air channels that at the time would come from the Empire State Building and then the World Trade Center in New York City would interfere with the channels that we were trying to put on our system. And the TV would get both of them and it wouldn’t know what to do so it would just combine them. So that’s how you get the ghosting and all that other stuff. There’s all sorts of stories about how Air Force One was flying over someplace in Illinois somewhere and Laverne and Shirley was coming through so that cable company got fined or whatever.
SCHLEY: That’s a bad one.
GOUGH: Yeah. So again, yes, we’re concerned about our signals leaking out, but we’re more concerned about the other signals leaking in.
SCHLEY: That’s what I thought, right.
GOUGH: I mentioned I was with the fire department and we had two-way radios and we had pagers that we would wear. Those frequencies, if they were strong enough, could get into – but the other thing is that then our frequencies could come out of our system and interfere with fire, police, ambulance. We don’t want that either.
SCHLEY: That would be a concern, right.
GOUGH: So for a long time, every cable technician out in the field in his truck had a device that would pick up signals that were sent out from the head end and when you drove by something and your leakage detector went off it’s like okay, I need to fix this.
SCHLEY: And was it always a physical malady? It was a loose connection or, like you said –
GOUGH: At that time, yes.
SCHLEY: Compromise to the amplifier connection?
GOUGH: At that time, it was there was something wrong with that outside shield, either a squirrel chew or mechanical damage or –
SCHLEY: And again, there was no button to press to fix this. This was out in the field, tightening –
GOUGH: Tightening things, you know, workmanship issues, just redoing it.
SCHLEY: Did we succeed? I mean has the industry sort of gotten its act together in terms of signal leakage?
GOUGH: I think so. Then again, I’m a middle manager, I’m totally happy there –
SCHLEY: I understand.
GOUGH: So globally I have no idea, but from my experience with the system that I’ve been involved in, oh yeah. I mean now in the digital age it’s not as big of – here’s where I get in trouble. In the digital age it’s not as big of an issue as it could be picture-wise, but we still need to make sure that it’s a problem. We don’t really have issues like composite second order or triple beat or anything like that that we can see. That shows up now as issues that it’s MER and BER which are the issues that affect the digital transmissions that we have. And we – I’m sure we still have a couple of analog systems out there and I’m sure there are some analog systems still out there.
SCHLEY: But digital is our friend.
GOUGH: Oh, yeah. Oh, definitely.
SCHLEY: It’s so interesting what you said about this new generation of kids or techs having software awareness, I think is what you’re saying, as well as hardware awareness. I wonder what does the future hold? What’s around the corner in terms of what’s this industry going to do and how are technicians going to support it? More devices in the home, for instance?
GOUGH: Pretty much. So an interesting perspective that I have is the maintenance technician’s job, trunk technician, whatever you want to call him, in my mind – here’s where I get into trouble again – hasn’t really changed a lot because it – the coax is the same as it’s always been, the fiber cable is the – fiber optic cable is the same as it’s always been since we got it, and the amplifiers are basically the same. And the maintenance technician’s job is to make sure the carriers that come in do what they need to do in that device and then leave that device as they’re supposed to.
SCHLEY: I’m not sure that’s a negative thing though.
GOUGH: Oh, no, no, it’s not at all. On the other side of the coin though, the field technician or the service technician or whatever individual companies call them, their job has changed dramatically. Because again, back in the day it was just hook up the converter box, hook it to the TV, okay, you’re done. Now we’ve got Wi-Fi, we’ve got all sorts of different – telephone. All sorts of different things. And their job has – the complexity of it has increased quite a lot.
SCHLEY: Plus, the demand for sophistication level among the people you’re hiring and training, I think.
SCHLEY: What’s been fun about what you’ve done in this business?
GOUGH: I stopped worrying about where my next restaurant job is going to come from. It’s just interesting. I joke about this with the woman that I work for, a wonderful woman, Abbie O’Dell. Charter convinced me to move from Connecticut to here and like a lot of companies, there is a relocation package and there’s a time that’s associated with that where like if you leave before this you owe us money. When that came up, I let her know that hey, this has come up and she’s like, “Oh, are you going to stay?” And I was like, “Well, yeah.” And pretty much every July 17th for the last three or four years I’ve gone to her and said, “I’m still curious, I still want to see what’s going to happen next.” I love coming to work. I want to know what the next step is in this industry. And in my case in the learning and development world.
SCHLEY: The script for this industry has changed and it continues to change. And I think we’ve covered some of the big innovations where we went to expanded channel capacity, we went to two-way signaling, we introduced fiber optics. We didn’t talk about there was a day when no one would have ever believed the cable industry would be doing telephones, would be doing voice service, you know. And so all of these are supported by people out in the field who are doing what I would think is the hard work of maintaining these systems. You’ve mentioned a few people I wrote down. You just mentioned Abbie. Who’s been for you a meaningful person in the path that you’ve taken in this industry? Or maybe a couple of people. And why? Your brother.
GOUGH: Well, yeah, so my brother, Cameron Gough, he worked for the system that I started with, Goodview, went to UA Columbia and then UA Columbia was bought by someone and then eventually it became TCI and then AT&T or AT&T and then TCI, I’m not really sure. And then he worked for Comcast for years. The gentleman that I met who trained me to be a maintenance technician is Ronald Armiento or Ron Armiento.
SCHLEY: I wrote down his name, yeah.
GOUGH: I’ve known him since my early 20s. He worked for the same company that I worked for in Connecticut and then when Charter came along – actually his wife worked for Ciba-Geigy and she transferred to Philadelphia so then he moved to Pennsylvania and we didn’t have any systems there so then he ended up starting his own company which was Cats Design and it was a design company, cable design – actually my wife was his first employee which was kind of interesting. So there’s a six-year period where I left Charter from ’97 to 2003 where I worked for two years for that gentleman I mentioned, Richard Carr, or Rick Carr, who had CATV Associates and I did work with, again, what I always say is I managed the digitizing drafting design house that he had for the time that I was there and I helped with safety with the installers that he had. But then Ron called one day and said, “Hey, we have enough work” so it’s not just his wife and he, but he can hire more people. So for four years I built headends and hub sites wearing jeans and a polo and –
SCHLEY: And there was demand for that?
GOUGH: At the time, yeah. We did a lot of work for Comcast, a lot of work for WOW, a lot of work for Starpower in Washington, DC. Just the four of us would start out with just a concrete floor and a bunch of boxes of equipment. So it was kind of cool. After being a manager, after being someone who managed the plant of a Charter system in Connecticut, to build racks, build head end racks, and put the fiber trough in and put the ladders in for the coax cable and then we would test it. We would just have a signal generator and test it all and then the companies themselves would come in and actually activate it. Did that for a while, lived out of a motor home. We brought our dogs. We had a St. Bernard, they had a beagle. It was great. And then this was late 2002, the work dried up.
SCHLEY: And why?
GOUGH: I just –
SCHLEY: Maybe everybody built everything, I don’t know.
GOUGH: I don’t know what the deal – at the time we were working for Comcast as contractors and just the contracts weren’t there. And I needed a job so I went back to Charter, a system that I was – I wasn’t plant – I didn’t run the – I was not general manager or anything like that at all, but I was in charge of the plant and I went back as a third shift sweep tech. So I had been a manager and done all that, managing people, all that kind of thing, and now I was a tech in a bucket truck –
SCHLEY: But it was good. You were ok with it.
GOUGH: I loved it. It was fantastic. And then wintertime came and at the time I was sweeping so literally – and it was third shift so there’s no cars, there’s no traffic. So the drive time between –
SCHLEY: The lonely cable guy.
GOUGH: Well, yeah, but the drive time between amplifiers is like two minutes and then you’re up in the air again for like 20 minutes and I froze to death. I was like okay, listen, I’m in my 40s, it’s cold, I don’t want to do this anymore.
SCHLEY: A younger person’s job.
GOUGH: And that sort of came out and then the guy who was running the training department was promoted and he said, “Hey, are you interested in being a trainer?” And I was like, “Do I have to work nights?” He’s like, “Well, sometimes.” I was like okay. So I applied for that and took the trainer job. So I was a trainer and I said, “Hey, I think in six months I’m going to be a really good trainer.” And he said, “No, it’ll be before that.”
GOUGH: Actually, it was after that. I remember it was about seven and a half months in, I was in my classroom and a couple of techs came in and said, “We’ve got some questions for you.” And I remember sitting on the table, my legs were dangling, and they asked me questions for about 25 minutes and I was able to answer them correctly, succinctly, I helped them out, and I went back to that guy, Dan Deutmeyer, and he’s actually retiring this year, and said, “Okay, I’m a good trainer now.” So I did that for two years and then became a training supervisor and then a training manager.
SCHLEY: I had two more subjects I did want to talk to you about. You just alluded to one is what are your secret sauces maybe you could share with our audience for managing people? What would you like to pass on to somebody who’s watching this?
GOUGH: I love giving feedback. So one of my favorite aspects of my job in the past has been managing trainers and then sitting in on their class and at the end of the class saying, “Hey, how do you think you did? Can I give you some feedback?” And then saying hey – and I wouldn’t say, “You need to do this.”
SCHLEY: I was just going to ask.
GOUGH: Like, “You need to drink out of a blue cup, not a white one.” It’s, “Hey, consider doing this. Have you thought about doing this?” I always asked first. You know, “may I give you some feedback?” and only one person has ever said no and I said okay and I started to walk away and he chased me and said, “Wait.” “Well, you said no, you didn’t want it.” And he said, “No, I do, I do.” And it was actually positive feedback. So when delivering feedback to your direct reports it can’t always be negative.
SCHLEY: Set that in stone.
GOUGH: We’re not looking for 70-30 or 50-50. It’s just give feedback where it’s appropriate, make it timely though. Don’t wait – if somebody does something wrong on a Thursday don’t wait till two weeks later.
SCHLEY: Two bits of really good advice there. Do you golf?
GOUGH: I do not. Although, interestingly enough, when I went to – so when I left Charter – and I left Charter for personal reasons in ’97. When I left Charter, I went to work for that company in Milford that was CATV Associates and it was a stressful time in my life. It was like what have I done, I never should have left Charter, I should have stayed, all these things, but there was a driving range near there and I would go get a basket of 100 golf balls –
SCHLEY: Smack ’em.
GOUGH: And I would smack them. And I would only hit maybe six of them straight and far.
SCHLEY: Welcome to golf.
GOUGH: Right, and I was like I get it, only 6%, but I get it why people golf.
SCHLEY: I was going to say when you asked – you always invite people, you said, can I give you some feedback, which I think is great. On the golf course if someone ever asks that question the answer is always no, do not want to hear what you have to say. One of the final areas is safety. We sort of jokingly talked about falling off a pole and it’s a serious thing, but how has the industry evolved with regards to just sensitivity to and kind of consistent enforcement of safety practices?
GOUGH: Again, when I started it was nobody was there saying you need to wear safety glasses. You know, you need to do these things. Our industry, as I see it, hearing is not a huge thing, but something that happened to me, I left the cable industry in 1985 and I took kind of the summer off and I went sailing in the north Atlantic and I drove my car to California and I was going to move to California, but I came back. One of the things I did is I rode my motorcycle from Connecticut to Florida and I did it in a day so it was 19 hours and it was 1,111 miles.
SCHLEY: You did 19 hours nonstop?
GOUGH: I did. And actually, the gas tank was – it was only a 120-mile gas tank. The issue though is that I wore a loose-fitting helmet and I didn’t know it. So now I’ve screwed up this ear for the rest of my life. I mean I hear I-95, Interstate 95, in this ear even now. It’s always there.
SCHLEY: Oh, my God.
GOUGH: So that was like okay, you need to tell anybody that’ll listen, you need to protect your ears. And then there was an incident with a co-worker that he was pulling a ceiling tile and a piece of Romex came out and scratched his eye. He almost lost his eye. So those kind of things, it’s like, you know, this is really kind of important.
GOUGH: And then in ’92 I got involved with the volunteer fire department, Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company, in Brookfield, Connecticut. And with the fire service – the fire service is more life and death than the cable industry is. Although the cable industry, you can get electrocuted –
SCHLEY: I was going to say.
GOUGH: – and you can fall. And the deaths that we’ve had in the cable industry have either been motor vehicle accidents or falls from height. So it’s just interested me that it’s so easy to make it safer, why don’t we just do it?
SCHLEY: Great quote.
GOUGH: So wear the safety glasses, wear all the things you need to do. So again, there was a trainer that reported to me and he would always say, “Okay, safety, we’ve got to put the safety glasses on.” He would make such a big deal about it and again I said, “Hey, can I give you some feedback?” He’s like, “Sure.” I was like, “Just put them on. Don’t say anything about it. Just whenever you have a tool in your hand, whenever you have the potential to hurt your eyes, just put them and your class will see that because you’re with them for four weeks. They’re going to see it.” And a month later he came back to me and said, “You know what? That works.”
SCHLEY: You and I have known each other for all of maybe 90 minutes, but I don’t think it’s coincidental that you’re a volunteer firefighter and that you’ve climbed up poles and lived life in bucket trucks. Do you see a symmetry there at all?
GOUGH: Kind of. That fire company in Connecticut, we’ve got two aerial lifts and one of them is 100 feet tall. When we first got it – also just kind of a quick story about that is there were a lot of people that were like, “Why do you need 100-foot-tall ladder in a bedroom community? We don’t have seven – we don’t have apartment buildings, we don’t have anything that high.”
SCHLEY: Fair question.
GOUGH: Except we’ve got Costcos and we have grocery stores and you need that height to get over that structure because the fire is in the middle of the roof in an air conditioning unit or something. It does help with some of the apartment buildings that we have.
SCHLEY: Sure, I get it.
GOUGH: I was one of the early people that was like, “I’ll go way to the top. I’ll go straight up.” But there’s a difference between 100 feet and then a 28-foot bucket truck or a 32-foot bucket truck. There is a difference because I mean the things move once they go up there. But it also – for a number of years I was able to sort of marry the two together and I was the safety officer for our fire department. And then for a long time I had safety in my title. I was either a technical and safety trainer or I was a supervisor, comma, technical and safety training.
SCHLEY: There you go, there’s parallels, right?
GOUGH: Yeah, so Charter is one of the companies that marries the safety group with the training group. So that helps us quite a lot.
SCHLEY: I have to – last question. You said if you could, being a firefighter would be the ideal job. Did I hear that correctly?
GOUGH: Oh, yeah.
SCHLEY: Why so?
GOUGH: (laughter) It’s – currently I’m too old and too fat so it’s not like I can do it now, but in my early 30s? So my mother was a nurse. She was an ambulance – she was a nurse that was a nurse in hospitals, but she also volunteered with Nyack Ambulance Corps, which is in Nyack, New York which is still a volunteer organization, at least I think it is. So I saw that when I was a youngster, less than 10, and then a young teenager, although I think by the time I was a teenager she had gotten out of it. She kind of instilled that in me a little bit. I mentioned that when I moved to New Hampshire – so I went to two years of high school in Nyack, New York and then I moved to New Hampshire. My first job in New Hampshire after growing up 20 minutes from New York City was on a dairy farm and the farmer was Bob Houston and he was the fire chief. And it struck me that the fire department in a small town like Contoocook, New Hampshire which is part of Hopkinton, kind of – they helped the people in need. It didn’t have to be for a fire or automobile accident or whatever. If somebody – if some kid got cancer or whatever, they would have a bake sale. Those kind of things. So I didn’t join when I was in New Hampshire and then when I moved to Connecticut I lived in a town that was primarily career, which was Danbury, Connecticut, and then when I moved to Brookfield – I lived in Sandy Hook for a while – or I lived in Sandy Hook, which is THE Sandy Hook, in Connecticut and I didn’t join when I was there, but then when I moved to Brookfield a guy knocked on the door and said, “Hey, we’re doing our annual fund drive, can you donate some money?” And I said, “Yeah, sure.”
SCHLEY: Not only that –
GOUGH: I’m thinking about this and he was like, “Oh, cool.” And then actually at the time – I had mentioned Bob – or Paul Hancock was the owner of that small system in Connecticut. I don’t know how he found out, but he found out that I was interested in the fire department so he asked my boss to ask me to go to that fire department and talk to them about getting cable. Because they said, “Hey, we built a new building on 92 Pocono Road, we want to get cable, how do we go about doing that?” So I went and toured the facility and said, “All we need to do is bring the cable from the street and put it in.”
SCHLEY: You knew.
GOUGH: And then I joined that fire department.
SCHLEY: I always thought one of the strengths of the cable industry, it’s a competitive world out there, was kind of that localism, right? You have people in the community working for the cable company.
SCHLEY: Andrew, I think I may know the answer to this, but I’m going to ask it anyway. But when you look back on your career what would you say you’re most proud of in terms of your contributions or accomplishments?
GOUGH: Oof. So actually, it’s two things. One is that there are a number of employees that reported to me that I may have hired or I may have helped to mentor. In fact, I called one today because I knew we were going to be talking about the two-way system and I needed to clarify what my memory was. And a lot of these people are still in the industry. A number of them have been promoted from say a trainer to a director or a manager. A number of people I still have contact with 20, 30, 40, 50 years later – well, 40 years later. I think it was you that interviewed Lou Borelli. I started in the same cable system that he started in. He was on the local origination side and [Cable-Tec] Expo was just this past week and I talked to him a couple of times there. And I did camera work. As a technician I did camera work in my bucket truck for him because he wanted an intern to borrow a bucket truck and the operations people said, “No, you can’t do that, but there’s this kid over here that he may be interested in doing camera work with that.” So it’s those people that I have helped influence that are still in the industry, but then also I believe I mentioned earlier about being in the learning and development side and got into that in 2004. So now instead of having a department of 16 people or 12 people or whatever, work that I do and my peers do and that the people that I work for do influences every new person that comes in the company. In addition to increasing the skill set of our existing employees when new technology comes out. So learning and development is the vehicle to basically maintain the skill set that people have and then increase the skills that are needed for the future.
SCHLEY: You talk about new technology coming out, what’s around the corner? I mean do you have any sort of visions of fantastical new applications or services that we might run through this pipe that you’ve helped to build?
GOUGH: I don’t really other than speeds are going to get faster, reliability is going to be improved. There will be less buffering. If you live in a household with two adults and six kids, everyone could be on an iPad, a computer, and a cell phone at the same time.
GOUGH: Maybe there’s – not to go down this road, but I have a dog now who has cancer and he’s got tumors that are inoperable and all that kind of thing –
SCHLEY: I’m sorry.
GOUGH: Maybe there’s a collar that can be worn that will monitor that stuff. I know they have them for humans now. Also, not that I want to go there, I have a CPAP machine. It’s got a chip in it. It connects with somebody. It’s not Wi-Fi –
SCHLEY: Somebody can control your sleep now, presumably.
GOUGH: Well, I’m not sure if it’s two-way, but I know that every morning it sends a signal back to somebody. Those types of medical devices, those types of water meter, power meter, all of those things, whether your air conditioner can run during a heat wave or not, we have this technology today, but I think it’s all going to be integrated a little bit more and speeds will be faster.
SCHLEY: It’s interesting because we preceded this conversation talking about dialup internet. We both remember like you’ve got mail and –
GOUGH: You’ve got mail, yeah.
SCHLEY: And 6K modems were considered to be a thing. So what you just described is – hasn’t taken that long for this world to start to improve.
GOUGH: When I was a child you know the Dick Tracy thing? Oh, that’ll never happen. And I don’t wear a watch, but Apple watches? My dad is 99, he lives in New York City, still by himself, we’re trying to get him a watch that will know if he falls or know if – and he’s hesitant because he’s old school, but that technology in my lifetime has come to that.
SCHLEY: This has been awesome, Andrew.
GOUGH: Oh, thank you very much.
SCHLEY: Thank you so much. We took a journey from 1980 through the entire modern era of cable television and cable communications and learned a ton – I’ll use the word one more time – about the craft of building and maintaining the cable apparatus, if you will. So thank you for tuning in for the Cable Center and the Hauser Oral History Series. I’m Stewart Schley, we’ll meet again soon. Thank you.
END OF INTERVIEW