Superstorm Sandy: One Year Later

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This week marks the 1-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy’s pounding of the East Coast, and the industry still is finding takeaways from the devastating event. At this month’s SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, Time Warner Cable chief security officer Brian Allen said one lesson learned was the need for real-time flexibility. He recounted how the storm quickly overran emergency preparedness plans, including fueling TWC trucks and generators, and called on cable to create the sort of strong relationships telecom has built with power companies because timely outage info is critical in an emergency ( Cfax , 10/23). Among considerations are ensuring different sources and locations for fuel because bridges and roads can be closed. Verizon used Sandy to accelerate its migration to fiber from copper in the NY area. "What has proven out is where we have our fiber network in place, it’s a much better customer experience. We actually saw it during the storm. In the places where we had our fiber deployed—whether for enterprise business customers or consumer customers through FiOS—we didn’t take as many trouble reports," said Kevin Service, pres for the Northeast Region for the telco. Verizon already had plans to migrate more customers to fiber, but as a result of the storm, "we’ve doubled down a little bit," he said. Other takeaways for Verizon included how critical it is to protect and harden switching centers (ie, moving electrical and switching equipment to higher floors and encasing equipment in waterproofing) and the importance of communications to the customer base and unique stakeholders. "We did some unique things during the storm, where we rolled our mobile garages as mobile comfort stations for customers. We opened up retail stores to let people charge cellular phones or come in and get out of the cold," said Service. "We assigned local managers almost as project managers to work directly with local officials, town officials to keep open lines of communication with respect to what they were seeing and what we were doing." Sandy had a $110mln financial impact on AOCF in 4Q for Cablevision due to lost and damaged homes as well as customer service credits, curtailed sales efforts and suspension of collection procedures as the company worked through the storm’s impact. The MSO actually was the 1st service provider to extend a comprehensive credit program across all 3 of its services—cable, phone and Internet. There’s a moving video that recaps the efforts by Cablevision’s employees, including working more than 200K hours of overtime and fixing more than 63K downed lines, on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRnR3QUeC10). The MSO credits investment in smart tech with aiding in recovery efforts, allowing it to prioritize techs’ workload. And as cable’s WiFi pioneer, Cablevision’s WiFi hotspots were almost all fully operational shortly after the storm, helping the area stay connected. TWC operated mobile power stations, hired food trucks to provide warm meals to people in parts of Queens and Staten Island, and donated money and time to restoration efforts. A year may have passed, but the MSO still has Sandy on its mind. When it launched 1700 WiFi hotspots in Manhattan in July, it decided to revisit the Sandy idea of mobile WiFi trucks. This time, it asked folks for donations to the Robin Hood Foundation, which has played a big part in Sandy relief efforts. Earlier this month, the MSO partnered with Weather Channel for an event in the area with Jim Cantore on emergency preparedness.

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