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Is Regulation In Our Future?

In late March, Fairfax, VA-based professional AV industry association InfoComm International attended a New Hampshire Senate hearing to testify against legislation that would have established a state-regulated certification program for low-voltage systems installers. No one invited InfoComm ? or anyone else directly related to the low-voltage contracting industry.

In late March, Fairfax, VA-based professional AV industry association InfoComm International attended a New Hampshire Senate hearing to testify against legislation that would have established a state-regulated certification program for low-voltage systems installers. No one invited InfoComm — or anyone else directly related to the low-voltage contracting industry. And none of the trade associations were asked for input on the legislation. (Had it passed, the legislation would have exempted licensed electricians from being subject to this certification.)

The good news is that the bill was defeated. The bad news is that the legislation was being considered.

The 2003 nightclub fire in Rhode Island, the truss collapse later that year in Atlantic City, and the electrocution of Reverend Kyle Lake in Texas last fall were all tragedies that received publicity in the general media. It's only a matter of time before politicians start to build soapboxes and campaigns around such issues. Eventually, they'll get around to the idea of licensure, just as they did with electricians.

History suggests that the best way to avoid government regulation is for an industry to regulate itself. Both InfoComm and Cedar Rapids, IA-based commercial electronics systems industry organization National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA) offer excellent certification programs. While both programs are commendable, I wonder if having two excellent options will be a problem for us in the future. Although there are some material differences, both certification programs cover a lot of the same skills and knowledge base. So when state and federal governments begin looking into how we're regulating ourselves, there may be some confusion. Which certification program truly represents the industry? Which one will be recognized by government officials, and create the foundation for licensure? I can almost hear Uncle Sam now, “If you kids can't settle this yourselves, I will!”

Government regulation is expensive and intrusive, and would likely change the nature of our entire industry. But if we want to avoid it, we need to take action. Internally, we need to agree upon and define what this industry is, and determine where the boundaries are between pro AV and other trades. Externally, we must create a unified certification program that covers it all, and get certified.

Both NSCA and InfoComm have focused attention and resources on monitoring legislative activity. NSCA even has a “Grassroots Action Center” on its website that allows you to contact your local and national lawmakers to express your opinion on these issues. The proposed New Hampshire legislation was defeated in no small part due to the strong opposition from NH-based AV, structured cabling, and alarm companies. We need to take control of our future, or someone else will.

Mark Mayfield
Editor



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