DENVER–Between an active hurricane season that wreaked havoc in Florida, Texas and Caribbean, and hard-to-control fires raging in California, communications professionals have been focused on network recovery efforts as of late. During a keynote session at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, executives discussed how cable networks have fared in the face of natural disasters.

Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global, said the company’s network passes around 1 million homes in Puerto Rico. “Today, less than 1% of them are online. Noting that he was heading to the island this week, he said, “It’s about as bad as it gets. We’ll rebuild the networks, but I think it’s important to rebuild the communities. If people leave the towns, it’s a bigger long-term problem.”

Tony Werner, Comcast president of technology and product, emphasized the dedication of the company’s workforce. “It’s heartbreaking, but it just shows you the culture. We’d have technicians that would tell us stories that just yesterday they were on their rooftop,” waiting for responders “to come save them, their pets and their family. They’re back at the office trying to help us restore service. It shows the mettle the cable industry is made of.”

Cox VP of Engineering and Operations Patricia Martin said Hurricane Katrina “taught us an awful lot. What we’ve really excelled at…is our incident management, making sure that we are prepared. You can’t always predict, but you can plan to react very quickly to get our customers back in service.” She said local relationships played a role in protecting a key facility in an area impacted by wild fires. Fire fighters “deployed a truck to protect it and had a helicopter dropping fire retardant over it.”

Comcast SVP of Technical Operations Ed Marchetti said the Houston area, during Hurricane Harvey, received 51-inches of rain in four days. “You look at the effort, the restoration effort, was just amazing. You looked for the technicians out-of-market that volunteers to come in to help. Just some of the employees and the dedication to their peers, to their customers. Their families were in a state of disarray, but they made sure their families were safe, then the next action was for them to show up for work. We had almost 2 million subscribers that were hard down.”

He continued: “I think this year has just been an epic year for natural disasters. The one thing that this industry is very good at is, in times of need, not only the employees but also the vendors, contractors, it’s just amazing the local support that the whole ecosystem that we rely on were there at a moment’s notice.”


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