Frances' Fury: Slow-Moving Storm Hampers Cable's Damage Assessment
There were similarities in Hurricanes Frances and Charley, but FL cable ops noticed their differences. Charley quickly cut a path through the Sunshine State weeks ago, allowing damage assessment to begin rapidly. Winds and rains from Frances lingered over the holiday weekend, making landfall Sun and again Mon in the FL Panhandle. Even late last evening Bright House Networks’ damage reports were incomplete. "We don’t have a number on how many of our 750K customers lack cable…and we don’t know how much damage there is beyond local power outages," BHN’s Brian Craven said. Craven was hunkered down in his boarded-up home, without power for 36 hours. Late in the afternoon, power returned to the Craven household. As of noon yesterday, 6 mln people were without power; 57of 67 counties experienced power outages. [How seriously did Floridians take Frances? This is the 1st time Craven’s boarded his FL home since 1980.] In areas of FL where there’s power, cable outages and unresponsive call centers handed MSOs a severe PR headache. Retired cable exec Rod Warner reported from Sarasota Mon that his cable went dead Sun at 5:25pm, although electricity and phone were unaffected. A call Sun to Comcast was routed to a call center in Canada. Early Mon, Comcast phone lines rang busy. 2 of BHN’s call centers were taken down Sun in preparation for Frances; all 3 were back up Mon evening. Local radio and TV (including cable news nets) shone, with round-the-clock updates from listeners reporting street closings, space at shelters, open gas stations and plenty of complaints about cable outages. BHN ran 30- and 60-sec radio spots, and more than a dozen radio stations simulcasted its News 13 net. The good news: For 90% of cable outages, customers will need only to reboot their box once power is restored. Bright House had 1300 workers on the ground, including 700 out-of-state holdovers from Hurricane Charley, which devastated FL less than 3 weeks ago. Ironically, Charley may have helped prepare the MSO for Frances. It sent notices to LFAs reiterating response numbers and promising to be in their community once the storm subsided. Craven said the MSO is in constant contact with employees to make sure they’re OK. "It’s heartening," he said. "Everyone is more than willing to jump in and help" especially considering how important high-speed data can be during the storm.