Answer to an old question: "ALPHA" Box on a utility pole

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I couldn't locate the thread, but last fall, I described a 3' by 2' by 2' metal box, with "ALPHA" marked on it, on my utility pole, and even posted a picture in an effort to try to figure out what it was. I also mentioned it had a circuit breaker in a box underneath it (and I wanted to know what the darn thing was for). I now understand these boxes exist across the nation and I now have the answer in case you may have one in your locality:
The boxes are 120v to 90v transformers owned my Comcast. Each one can support approximately 10 customers (that each have an approximately 12"x5"x2" silver metal box attached to the Comcast line). A Comcast technician explained to me that purpose is that the Comcast technicians do not need to be licensed to work with 90v as they would if they worked with 120v equipment. The circuit breaker is for the transformer box, of course, and the extra meter is so that Comcast can be billed for the electricity that their transformer uses.
And that's the rest of that story...good day!
Bill
BTW, Comcast's strategy (of going to 90v) appears to me to be an interesting example of what I call "angle shooting". I don't know enough to say whether it is in the spirit of the law or not. Isn't 90v equipment just about as potentially harmful to life and property as 120v equipment?
BTW2, I asked a Comcast technician (I had 3 out last week) why they just threw my cable-splitter on the ground under my house when they installed my service. He said that's just the way they install them. I said, "What about *craftsmanship*, I said if I installed it I would have mounted it somwhere...". That word is very powerful. Before I contract people to work on my home I may talk to them about craftsmanship--that way I may be able to get things finished to my level of expectation rather than, in some cases, the minimum level that gets the contractor out the door. I only mention this to help empower anyone else who may prefer more control over the way his or her work is performed by a contractor. It seems that if the contractor agrees to perform at a certain level of craftsmanship then the customer is empowered compared to if the contractor merely agrees to get the job "done". I haven't actually tried this technique yet, but it occurred to me after my conversation with the technician about the cable-splitter.
Bill
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Good luck with contractors. This is why so mnay of us do it ourselves.
Most of the contractors here will come out, discuss the plan for an hour, measure up, promise to get back to you in a few days with a quote and never contact you again.
I discussed this with a local building supply store manager and he told me this. Three local electricians at the counter talking. "I have to run over to the Miller's house to quote wiring it" "I have already given them a quote from my company" "I did too!", pipes in the third. "Oh well, I'm not likely to be the cheapest so I guess I'll skip that one"
The other thing that happens is before a job starts, or in themiddle of the job, a larger home builder calls and they magically disapear. The larger builder has lots more jobs coming (hope, hope) and guess who gets dumped in the heap.
Quality? There is no guarantee except to never pay more than 50% before th job is complete. Hold it back!!! Anytime I have paid 90% or 100% the contractor suddenly starts whining about how big the job was or that he has other things to do and the quality goes down the toilet, 5 min after the cheque is handed to them...no cashed. This has happened with some large chain store installations here and I am currently involved in a legal action with one right now. (yup 90% paid)
On another note: Hydro One (formerly Ontario Hydro) has a protective metering standard voltage of 70 volts. It is felt that 70 volts would not likely be as likely to kill, or even harm badly, a person in a contact type accident. The metering standard is all 120v equipment but they go to great lengths to break this standard with many protection and metering pieces of equipment. Another advantage is that the phase to phase voltage (shifted 30 degress) is 120v and that can be useful in this same field.
Of course for flash faults the transformers to do this voltage level shift have such low capacity that faults would be limited to a few hundred amperes and a safe level (won't melt you wrench in your face) This would be the case of your Comcast scenario also.
I couldn't locate the thread, but last fall, I described a 3' by 2' by 2' metal box, with "ALPHA" marked on it, on my utility pole, and even posted a picture in an effort to try to figure out what it was. I also mentioned it had a circuit breaker in a box underneath it (and I wanted to know what the darn thing was for). I now understand these boxes exist across the nation and I now have the answer in case you may have one in your locality:
The boxes are 120v to 90v transformers owned my Comcast. Each one can support approximately 10 customers (that each have an approximately 12"x5"x2" silver metal box attached to the Comcast line). A Comcast technician explained to me that purpose is that the Comcast technicians do not need to be licensed to work with 90v as they would if they worked with 120v equipment. The circuit breaker is for the transformer box, of course, and the extra meter is so that Comcast can be billed for the electricity that their transformer uses.
And that's the rest of that story...good day!
Bill
BTW, Comcast's strategy (of going to 90v) appears to me to be an interesting example of what I call "angle shooting". I don't know enough to say whether it is in the spirit of the law or not. Isn't 90v equipment just about as potentially harmful to life and property as 120v equipment?
BTW2, I asked a Comcast technician (I had 3 out last week) why they just threw my cable-splitter on the ground under my house when they installed my service. He said that's just the way they install them. I said, "What about *craftsmanship*, I said if I installed it I would have mounted it somwhere...". That word is very powerful. Before I contract people to work on my home I may talk to them about craftsmanship--that way I may be able to get things finished to my level of expectation rather than, in some cases, the minimum level that gets the contractor out the door. I only mention this to help empower anyone else who may prefer more control over the way his or her work is performed by a contractor. It seems that if the contractor agrees to perform at a certain level of craftsmanship then the customer is empowered compared to if the contractor merely agrees to get the job "done". I haven't actually tried this technique yet, but it occurred to me after my conversation with the technician about the cable-splitter.
Bill
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[snip]

I take anything a Comcast technician says with a large block of salt.
The overhead cable from the distribution box to our previous house was 20+ years old and did not provide adequate signal. The Cable tech put in an amplifier instead of replacing the cable. That works for a while, but eventually the cable will be too lossy to work, even with amplifiers. The problem was solved shortly after we moved from that house - a limb fell on the cable line and took it down - the tech couldn't be bothered to get a tree trimming crew out either.
Remember the ads with "Comcastic" in them? It almost sounded like the real description: "Comcraptic".
Since having some tress taken down (now the sky is visible in the right place), I'm seriously looking at satellite TV (dish/directv) as an alternative.
The cable service here is underground, but even with an amplifier the signal has deteriorated to at best semi-decent. There are lots of audio/video glitches - the server farm providing digital cable service just doesn't have the capacity to handle the number of subscribers they are trying to serve.
John
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On 7/2/2010 10:12 AM, snipped-for-privacy@jecarter.us wrote:

In this case he was correct ... ALPHA provided those boxes across the country for years.
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On Jul 2, 10:12 am, snipped-for-privacy@jecarter.us wrote:

Few utilities do any PM on trees, either.

Yeah, Comcast is crap, at least until you experience any others. I had Adlephia, which after their run in with the feds was bought by Comcast. They were alright, at least in my experience. Great TV and Internet connections and decent service, at least as long as I had them. I then moved and went to TW, which other than being a PITA who didn't think much of service, was alright too.

Don't! We moved again and now have no cable service so use Dish. What crap! The thing is constantly freezing, skipping, and out-of- sync and occasionally it's out totally for the local thunderboomer. The set-top-box sucks too. It'll hang, requiring a five-minute power cycle (think: crappy PC and WinBlows).

Server farm? ...and you're thinking of going to satellite? I hope you don't like local TV, either. We did get CBS, NBC, and Fox (no ABC), but each is another $3/mo and none are "local". Two are from NYC and the other SF, all a lot further than 1000 miles from being "local".
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On 7/2/2010 12:55 AM, Bill wrote:

What I said:
http://groups.google.com/group/rec.woodworking/msg/bbf1bcd9b50b88a2
:)
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Swingman wrote:

Swingman: Yes, you made a good call--and I remembered that (but I couldn't find it). I was able to add a few more details or I would not have bothered posting.
As far as Comcast workers, they are not all equal. Some seem really on the ball, and some try to baffle you with BS. The people that work the phones evidently work from a script. Someone wrote, "Comcast is great until you have problems." I think that's a pretty fair statement.
Bill
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Bill wrote:

FWIW, My Comcast service is back down. I was told it would probably be back up in 4 to 8 hours and it wasn't. Was I surprised it wasn't, ha! I drove the 10 miles to get to this connection so no one would think I was being unsociable!
Bill
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I doubt anyone will think less of you, even if you decide to take a weekend off now and then. Just don't make a habit of it. ;-)
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Lobby Dosser wrote:

Thanks. I always feel negligent when I'm not able to be around to read and reply to answers after I post questions.
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There is medication for that one! LOL
Thanks. I always feel negligent when I'm not able to be around to read and reply to answers after I post questions.
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On Fri, 02 Jul 2010 01:55:01 -0400, Bill wrote:

OTOH, I had a Comcast tech out to the house a while back to install an Internet connection and he replaced our wall mounted box for the TV service. Said the one we had was getting old and it'd probably give trouble in next few years. He didn't have any copies of the installation manual I was supposed to get for the Internet connection, so he described the process for me and removed the cost of the "installation kit" from our bill.
I don't know if he was a special case or if that's normal service in our area, but at least I can state that not all Comcast service is bad.
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On 7/2/2010 11:11 AM, Larry Blanchard wrote:

I switched over from Comcast to ATT uVerse a few years back and at first it was a startling upgrade in on-site customer service ... the past year or so it appears that ATT may have been hiring ex Comcast field guys, or reading from Comcast's "how to screw the customer" playbook.
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It's funny how customer service importance has grown over the years. Fifteen years ago, all that was available in high speed Internet was Rogers. Didn't worry about customer service much (even though it was sub par) because they were the only game in town.
Then competition came by in the way of DSL Internet over the phone by my current ISP Teksavvy. Tried them and the customer service was great. I'm ashamed to admit, three years ago, I got lured away by another competitor for about two days due to a much lower price. Two days of hell and I went back to Teksavvy with my head hung low apologizing all over the place.
Now at 56 years of age, it's not quantity or price that's important to me near as much, it's quality and customer service that I pay for and would pay even more for if necessary. Guess criteria changes over time.
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"Swingman" wrote

there is a "how to screw the customer" playbook, they would screw that up from time to time and actually give good service occasionally.
But if you hire total fuckups, give them litle supervision and have a company that just doesn't care, then the customer screwing is assured and consistent This is the Comcast philosophy.
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Heck I thought you were about to say that this is the US government philosophy.
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replying to Bill, Terroreign wrote:

Bill, thanks for your follow up in finding out what this was. I work for a utility company and recently had stray AC current issues on our system. One of the first things I noticed was this "Alpha Box" on a utility pole near our system. Now that I have an idea what it is and the voltages associated with it, I will be able to troubleshoot my problem more efficiently. Also thanks for the heads up on the craftsmanship.
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It's actually a UPS, not just a transformer. There'll be batteries inside the box, and an inverter.
It outputs either 63V or 87V. For reasons I don't know, those are the standard voltages for cable distribution amps.
John
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replying to John McCoy , Terroreign wrote:

Good to know John. Thanks for the input.
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On Saturday, March 28, 2015 at 8:48:28 AM UTC-4, John McCoy wrote:

It's actually a 5 year old thread.

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