by Martin Holladay Although most builders can confidently specify plumbing or roofing materials, many feel out of their depth when it comes to answering customers' questions about broadband Internet access or home automation. Perhaps you're still sitting on the sidelines, wondering whether today's communication cables and hardware will become obsolete, the way Betamax lost out to VHS. Customer demand for structured wiring varies widely, depending mostly on geography. In some areas of the country — including San Jose, Calif., and northern Virginia — builders have been forced by insistent customers to get up to speed on communications wiring. But in rural areas away from high-tech hot spots, demand for structured wiring is still weak. "Builders won't spend a nickel until they know that their customers want it," says Bill Black, vice president for wire and cable at the Copper Development Association.

Communications wiring is often referred to as low-voltage wiring or structured wiring. Structured wiring includes the cables, outlets, and distribution boxes, as well as the process of installing them.

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