Discussion:
Is contractor's license req'd to install VOIP systems in Calif?
(too old to reply)
Glenn Geller
2014-04-28 04:33:51 UTC
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I plan to start installing VoIP phones systems on hosted
PBX platforms (that is, with no central PBX unit on
premises). Some of the jobs will be over $500 and thus
might be contracting as defined in California. I didn't get
a straight answer from http://cslb.ca.gov about whether
a contractor's license is required. The classification that
might apply is Low Voltage Systems Contractor, described at
http://cslb.ca.gov/GeneralInformation/Library/LicensingClassifications/C-7LowVoltageSystems.asp
.... which says that this is anyone who "installs, services
and maintains all types of communication and low voltage
systems which are energy limited and do not exceed 91
volts. These systems include, but are not limited to
telephone systems, sound systems" ...etc. The whole
thing is below.

So in California, does installing a VoIP system (where the
job exceeds $500 in total) require a contractor's license?

What about if it's just desk phones being attached to the
existing ethernet network: would that make a difference?
C7 - Low Voltage Systems Contractor

California Code of Regulations
Title 16, Division 8, Article 3. Classifications

A communication and low voltage contractor installs,
services and maintains all types of communication and
low voltage systems which are energy limited and do not
exceed 91 volts. These systems include, but are not
limited to telephone systems, sound systems, cable
television systems, closed-circuit video systems, satellite
dish antennas, instrumentation and temperature controls,
and low voltage landscape lighting. Low voltage fire alarm
systems are specifically not included in this section.

Authority cited: Sections 7008 and 7059, Reference:
Sections 7058 and 7059 (Business and Professions Code)
Steve Pope
2014-04-28 04:59:31 UTC
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Post by Glenn Geller
I plan to start installing VoIP phones systems on hosted
PBX platforms (that is, with no central PBX unit on
premises). Some of the jobs will be over $500 and thus
might be contracting as defined in California. I didn't get
a straight answer from http://cslb.ca.gov about whether
a contractor's license is required. The classification that
might apply is Low Voltage Systems Contractor, described at
http://cslb.ca.gov/GeneralInformation/Library/LicensingClassifications/C-7LowVoltageSystems.asp
.... which says that this is anyone who "installs, services
and maintains all types of communication and low voltage
systems which are energy limited and do not exceed 91
volts. These systems include, but are not limited to
telephone systems, sound systems" ...etc. The whole
thing is below.
So in California, does installing a VoIP system (where the
job exceeds $500 in total) require a contractor's license?
What about if it's just desk phones being attached to the
existing ethernet network: would that make a difference?
First, you should (or at least could) talk to an attorney rather
than asking me or others here.

As I understand it, there are two separate licensing isssues. One,
is a contracting license needed, two, is a Professional Engineer
license (or certification, whatever it is called) needed.

A general contractor is allowed to perform construction, plumbing,
electrical, and some other types of work (but not, say, pest
control work). An unlicensed individual may perform such work,
but they face certain compromises, such as they may not attach
a lien if the customer does not pay, and if a permit is required,
the customer must obtain it (since the contractor is not licensed).
In such unlicensed situations, the customer is the permitee, and
the "contractor" is merely a worker on the job, not a contractor.

It's vaguely similar if the work would require a PE to perform
it -- a random unlicesed individual might do it, but only if
(a) they do not call themselves a PE or engineer, and (b) the
customer themselves has a PE on staff. Again, the contractor
is just a worker, not a professional. This is called the "industrial
exclusion clause".

If you are serious about getting into the business, first talk
to an attorney and second follow their advice, which may indeed
involve getting various sorts of licenses.

But in the meantime .... my personal advice, for what it's worth,
don't turn down any work.


Steve
Thad Floryan
2014-04-28 05:36:58 UTC
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Post by Glenn Geller
I plan to start installing VoIP phones systems on hosted
PBX platforms (that is, with no central PBX unit on
premises). Some of the jobs will be over $500 and thus
might be contracting as defined in California. I didn't get
a straight answer from http://cslb.ca.gov about whether
a contractor's license is required.
"Contracting" as defined at the above-cited URL seems to be
work performed on homes and related properties, and you have
to past tests before you can get a contracting license.

FWIW, I've installed many phone systems operating as a sole
proprietorship (i.e., "consultant") for one-person companies
to medium-sized businesses and never needed any license to do
such work as reported on tax forms over the decades. I never
even needed a business license as I discovered discussing the
matter with my town -- I have a home office where I develop and
test things for later deployment at client sites and I would
occasionally VPN to client sites to fix problems remotely:

Loading Image... 196kB, circa 2010

but I've never had clients visiting me. A business license would
have been required if I had been a walk-in operation regarding
parking/safety compliance (ADA) issues in my home neighborhood.

I've installed and maintained PBX and also asterisk VoIP systems
for many clients which appear simply as a line-item on invoices.

Do everything correctly the first time and you'll get continued
business and referrals without having to advertise. The last
resume I filled out was in 1965 for the GTE/Sylvania Electronic
Defense Labs (in Mountain View) and that was a mere formality
after I was already hired and working there (after moving from
White Sands Missile Range).

With that written, you should operate as if you were a business
with proposals, contracts, and proper billing/invoicing procedures
regardless if you're doing it for a neighbor or small/medium-sized
businesses -- that's just good (NOT common) sense and will also
avoid problems with the IRS and FTB. Worse thing you could do is
not have EVERYTHING in writing and signed-off -- make sure all
parties agree and understand to what you're proposing to do for them.

I always would submit a very lengthy report of time/tasks with all
my invoices so that everything I did was documented and understood/
accepted/paid-for by the clients.

FWIW, I've been retired since 2008 when Levanta (formally Linuxcare)
went belly-up on March 31, 2008.
Post by Glenn Geller
[...]
So in California, does installing a VoIP system (where the
job exceeds $500 in total) require a contractor's license?
I am NOT a lawyer and I've only had 1 traffic ticket since I began
driving in 1960 (in 1974 driving 63MPH on I-280 during the phony oil
shortage), but to ease your mind you might want to contact a lawyer
for a freebie consultation about the matter -- seems many/most will
do that per ads I've seen.
Post by Glenn Geller
[...]
What about if it's just desk phones being attached to the
existing ethernet network: would that make a difference?
"just desk phones attached to the existing ethernet network"
doesn't make sense. Expensive and pricey VoIP phones (e.g.,
a Cisco 7960) can be connected to existing Ethernet and it's
better if that Ethernet has PoE otherwise you'll be using wall
warts that get kicked/unplugged and/or catch fire.

What kind of VoIP system are you contemplating for installs?

As much as I like asterisk, I now have Ooma for my "landline"
augmenting my cell phone. The Ooma system uses plain standard
"just desk phones" and existing telephony wiring. The present
phones in my Ooma setup are:

Plantronics SP-4 headset phone with a CIDCO (NOT Cisco)
SA-99A-22 Callid ID unit with 99 number nemory at my desk

PacBell wall mount in my kitchen

2500 set with backlight in one bedroom

I'll be adding 1 or 2 more phones to cover the rest of the
house. Fortunately the Ooma Telo supplies a 5.0 REN (Ringer
Equivalence Number) and the present load with those 3 phones
s only about 2 REN so I have plenty of leeway for additions.

FWIW, the Ooma Telo box is on my LAN and it connected with the
OOMA home site automatically and all I had to do was select a
phone number, enter E911 data, and supply auto-billing info --
easiest phone installation I ever did after I disconnected the
old PacBell wiring at the demarc to re-use the existing house
wiring solely for Ooma use.

Note also the Ooma Telo and all my LAN infrastructure (switches,
router, etc.) are connected to UPS systems

Thad
Thad Floryan
2014-04-28 05:54:55 UTC
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Post by Thad Floryan
[...]
FWIW, I've been retired since 2008 when Levanta (formally Linuxcare)
[...]
Typo: S/B "formerly Linuxcare". Fingers seem to modify
what I'm writing to prank me when I'm having a snack at
the terminal. :-)

Thad
Thad Floryan
2014-04-28 06:10:56 UTC
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Post by Thad Floryan
[...]
FWIW, the Ooma Telo box is on my LAN and it connected with the
OOMA home site automatically and all I had to do was select a
phone number, enter E911 data, and supply auto-billing info --
easiest phone installation I ever did after I disconnected the
old PacBell wiring at the demarc to re-use the existing house
wiring solely for Ooma use.
[...]
The Ooma Telo box initially was "configured" via DHCP on my LAN.

I later used its web interface to establish a fixed LAN IP and I
also added that IP to my DHCP server's database "just in case:"

host oomavoip {
hardware ethernet 00:18:61:14:50:11;
fixed-address 172.20.20.83;
}

Thad
Thad Floryan
2014-04-28 09:38:10 UTC
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Post by Thad Floryan
[...]
"just desk phones attached to the existing ethernet network"
doesn't make sense. Expensive and pricey VoIP phones (e.g.,
a Cisco 7960) can be connected to existing Ethernet and it's
better if that Ethernet has PoE otherwise you'll be using wall
warts that get kicked/unplugged and/or catch fire.
[...]
I just finished watching a movie (AMERICAN HUSTLE) and while in
the bathroom taking a pee it occurred to me my comment above re:
"doesn't make sense" is not strictly true. There are adapters
for analog phones termed ATA (Analog Telephone Adapters) that
permit using standard phones with VoIP.

I've never setup using ATAs but I now recall they existed -- it's
been since 2007 since I last encountered the ATA term -- and a
Google search finds some more info using this search term:

analog converter for VoIP

7 or 8 years ago I recall someone mentioned a company or service
named, IIRC, 'SIPPURA' (? sp ?) and this Google search term:

sippura voip

finds a lot of hits that seem useful despite Google's retort
'Did you mean: sipura voip?'

Seems Google Search needs to seppuku itself for that insult:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seppuku

:-)

Thad
Roy
2014-04-28 13:38:10 UTC
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Post by Glenn Geller
I plan to start installing VoIP phones systems on hosted
PBX platforms (that is, with no central PBX unit on
premises). Some of the jobs will be over $500 and thus
might be contracting as defined in California. I didn't get
a straight answer from http://cslb.ca.gov about whether
a contractor's license is required. The classification that
might apply is Low Voltage Systems Contractor, described at
http://cslb.ca.gov/GeneralInformation/Library/LicensingClassifications/C-7LowVoltageSystems.asp
.... which says that this is anyone who "installs, services
and maintains all types of communication and low voltage
systems which are energy limited and do not exceed 91
volts. These systems include, but are not limited to
telephone systems, sound systems" ...etc. The whole
thing is below.
So in California, does installing a VoIP system (where the
job exceeds $500 in total) require a contractor's license?
What about if it's just desk phones being attached to the
existing ethernet network: would that make a difference?
...
To install VOIP does not require a license. Plugging a phone into an
existing ethernet cable is the same as installing a computer.

To install ethernet cabling may or may not depending on the
installation. Opening up walls, running cable through plenum spaces,
etc complicates things and might need a license.
Thad Floryan
2014-04-28 21:58:21 UTC
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Post by Roy
[...]
To install VOIP does not require a license. Plugging a phone into an
existing ethernet cable is the same as installing a computer.
Hi Roy,

That's the way I see it,too.
Post by Roy
To install ethernet cabling may or may not depending on the
installation. Opening up walls, running cable through plenum spaces,
etc complicates things and might need a license.
The thought of getting a license to network a company never occurred to
me. I'd usually get a quote from a reputable installer on behalf of my
client(s) and have them secure permits and do the work and provide test
results, then I'd pass-through the costs to my client(s) after taking my
cut. Some of those installs ran to six figures due to the number of
drops and "modifications" to building infrastructure -- that DEFINITELY
requires a license for code compliance and safety.

I wired the majority of clients (SOHOs and small businesses) myself
and did everything 100% correctly and per codes and never received any
callbacks to fix any problems. Ever.

One job in 1998 taught me a valuable lesson: never bid a fixed-price
unless there's an "out" for unanticipated surprises requiring additional
time and materials, and NEVER bid without a total walk-/crawl-through
the premises before submitting the bid.

The CFO of Anila, Inc. (Palo Alto CA, and long since shut down by the
DoJ) was a longtime friend and recommended me for general IT contracting
and networking the single building at Waverly and Channing which was
previously occupied by the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and now is
occupied by "Welch Road Imaging" per Google Earth. The one-story
building dated back to the 1800s AFAICT based on remnants of bare
electrical wire under the floors supported by ceramic standoffs, and
apparently two additions were added over the decades to create the
present structure which, obviously, was built to different standards and
codes and had 3 different types of foundations one of which had a hole
blasted-/punched-open through which access could be gained to the
underside of the newest addition.

I bid my usual fee for each network drop without due diligence crawling
under the building to examine how to run wiring and plenum, drilling
through ceilings, walls and floors, etc. Note that I won the bid due to
offering to do it off-hours (6pm to 6am). Long story short, the job was
taking 3x longer than I had expected due to clearance problems, need for
breathing apparatus for crawling under the building (dust), and it was
complicated immensely due to the different foundations and access
points.

The worst task took 6 hours to drill a single hole into a wall from the
attic with only 9" clearance at the point the hole needed to be drilled
5 feet into the wall and through a firebreak to run a single Ethernet
cable. I had to buy seven 10" one-inch-diameter extensions for my 1/2
HP Milwaukee drill to drill that hole after laboriously adding extension
after extension followed by only 5 seconds needed to drill the hole with
the building shaking as if we were having an earthquake.

Due to the building's additions, about half the Ethernet cabling had to
run through the attic and the remaining ran under the floor. I had to
install the rack and UPS system about midway in that complex with 2
plenums, one to the attic and the other to beneath the flooring, along
with building a data cabinet from Home Depot in East Palo Alto to hold
the UPS, one computer, DSL modem, backup system, printer, and supplies.

Thanks to my CFO friend, we agreed on extra money to cover the extra
time and expenses (e.g., the drill extensions and special drills to go
through concrete and other material) and I ended-up breaking even on
that project.

Live and learn. :-)

Thad
Steve Pope
2014-04-28 23:29:37 UTC
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Post by Thad Floryan
The thought of getting a license to network a company never occurred to
me. I'd usually get a quote from a reputable installer on behalf of my
client(s) and have them secure permits and do the work and provide test
results, then I'd pass-through the costs to my client(s) after taking my
cut. Some of those installs ran to six figures due to the number of
drops and "modifications" to building infrastructure -- that DEFINITELY
requires a license for code compliance and safety.
This goes against what I know (or think I know) about permitting.
A building permit can be taken out either by the owner, or by
a licensed contractor who is contracting with the owner ... not
by a licensed contractor who is contracting with a party who is
neither the owner, nor another licensed contractor.

This may or may not be a solid rule, but it's what contractors have
told me.

Steve
Thad Floryan
2014-04-29 00:18:25 UTC
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Post by Steve Pope
Post by Thad Floryan
The thought of getting a license to network a company never occurred to
me. I'd usually get a quote from a reputable installer on behalf of my
client(s) and have them secure permits and do the work and provide test
results, then I'd pass-through the costs to my client(s) after taking my
cut. Some of those installs ran to six figures due to the number of
drops and "modifications" to building infrastructure -- that DEFINITELY
requires a license for code compliance and safety.
This goes against what I know (or think I know) about permitting.
A building permit can be taken out either by the owner, or by
a licensed contractor who is contracting with the owner ... not
by a licensed contractor who is contracting with a party who is
neither the owner, nor another licensed contractor.
This may or may not be a solid rule, but it's what contractors have
told me.
Hi Steve,

Interesting, The point is I'd have to sign-off on the work after I
was satisfied it was performed correctly -- I was always acting as the
clients' agent in all such build-out requirements. Most of these were
in San Mateo and many in Palo Alto, Mountain View, Santa Clara, and
San Jose.

In Cupertino (where NIS moved in 1975 to after its 1972 founding in Los
Altos for more space at 20370 and 20380 Town Center Lane) I was an employee
and still signed-off on the false floors, networking, HVAC etc. for the
DECsystem-20 systems and VAXen and I did the same for NIS after moving to
Saratoga Ave in San Jose and again moving to 4040 Moorpark Ave but I didn't
get a cut of the action back then.

I left NIS in 1994 and became an independent IT contractor again and didn't
become an employee again until the founding of Sigaba. Inc. in 2000 until
they went belly-up in 2006 (at the Crossroads complex at 101 and Hwy 92) at
which time I became again a consultant and walked across the courtyard to
work at Levanta (aka Linuxcare) until they went belly-up in 2008 when I was
called in early on March 31, 2008, to close down the company. I finally
decided to retire after being in the workforce since the early 1960s.

Three Sigaba pix here:

Loading Image... 2000 launch party San Francisco
Loading Image... 2001 CES Las Vegas
Loading Image... 2001 CES Las Vegas

Thad
Steve Pope
2014-04-29 00:49:14 UTC
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Post by Thad Floryan
Post by Steve Pope
This goes against what I know (or think I know) about permitting.
A building permit can be taken out either by the owner, or by
a licensed contractor who is contracting with the owner ... not
by a licensed contractor who is contracting with a party who is
neither the owner, nor another licensed contractor.
This may or may not be a solid rule, but it's what contractors have
told me.
Interesting, The point is I'd have to sign-off on the work after I
was satisfied it was performed correctly -- I was always acting as the
clients' agent in all such build-out requirements. Most of these were
in San Mateo and many in Palo Alto, Mountain View, Santa Clara, and
San Jose.
In Cupertino (where NIS moved in 1975 to after its 1972 founding in Los
Altos for more space at 20370 and 20380 Town Center Lane) I was an employee
and still signed-off on the false floors, networking, HVAC etc. for the
DECsystem-20 systems and VAXen and I did the same for NIS after moving to
Saratoga Ave in San Jose and again moving to 4040 Moorpark Ave but I didn't
get a cut of the action back then.
I left NIS in 1994 and became an independent IT contractor again and didn't
become an employee again until the founding of Sigaba. Inc. in 2000 until
they went belly-up in 2006 (at the Crossroads complex at 101 and Hwy 92) at
which time I became again a consultant and walked across the courtyard to
work at Levanta (aka Linuxcare) until they went belly-up in 2008 when I was
called in early on March 31, 2008, to close down the company. I finally
decided to retire after being in the workforce since the early 1960s.
You clearly have way more experience with this than I do.

The California code section 19825 in the Health and Safety Code
is often interpreted the way I did above, in which the work done
under permit is done either by the owner, employees of the owner,
or licensed contractors who contract with the owner (and not an
unlicensed entity). However, it's really up to the local permit office
to say what is, or isn't, allowed. I strongly suspect the way you
describe it is routinely considered allowable by the authorities in
your area -- obviously they are approving computer wiring projects
all the time that include contractors of various statuses.

Steve
David Kaye
2014-04-28 18:43:10 UTC
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Post by Glenn Geller
I plan to start installing VoIP phones systems on hosted
PBX platforms (that is, with no central PBX unit on
premises). Some of the jobs will be over $500 and thus
might be contracting as defined in California.
Take this for what it's worth, which may be nothing, but I have gone by the
opinion of an attorney I've dealt with on business matters for years. The
opinion I was given was that security cameras can be installed by screwing
mounts to existing supports, connecting ready-made cable, and tying off the
cable with ties, etc., but no "invasion" can be done. That is, no holes can
be drilled through walls and no cable can be run through walls or conduits
unless they're ready-made cables (with connectors on them).
Glenn Geller
2014-04-29 18:00:46 UTC
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I'm the original poster. Thanks for the replies, which are very useful.

I posted the same question on two other forums. Those two threads
are here:

http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r29202789-Is-contractor-s-license-req-d-to-install-VOIP-systems-in-Calif-

http://sundance-communications.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/570911/In_California,_is_contractor_l#Post570911
Thad Floryan
2014-04-29 22:55:01 UTC
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Post by Glenn Geller
I'm the original poster. Thanks for the replies, which are very useful.
I posted the same question on two other forums. Those two threads
http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r29202789-Is-contractor-s-license-req-d-to-install-VOIP-systems-in-Calif-
http://sundance-communications.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/570911/In_California,_is_contractor_l#Post570911
Hi Glenn,

I really enjoyed the DSLreports thread -- some items were humorous. :-)

It appears from the responses at both URLs above there are gotchas and
exceptions and it didn't appear that any lawyer participated.

A quick search about getting a license reveals, as was stated in the
DSLreports thread, you're going to need to be a "journeyman" and take
a test or two along with paying a[n unspecified] fee.

You might want to post your identical question to this Usenet group:

comp.dcom.telecom

to receive additional input and thoughts about the matter. That group
is arguably the oldest Usenet group and its archives to 1981 are here:

http://telecom-digest.org/
aka
http://massis.lcs.mit.edu/telecom-archives/

Note also it's a moderated Usenet group so it may be several hours
before your posting will appear; there is a new temporary moderator
who responds quicker to submissions than the "official" moderator
who is taking a short break.

Thad

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