Underground NYC Fire Melts Time Warner Cable Fiber

On Oct. 6, a steam pipe snaking under the streets on Manhattan’s Lower East Side blew a hole — which caused an underground electrical fire melting Time Warner Cable fiber-optic lines, knocking out service for about 24,000 of the MSO’s Big Apple subscribers.

The New York Times East Village blog posted a brief item on the outage that day, noting that Time Warner Cable restored service to most customers by about 5 p.m. and pointing out to readers that AT&T offers free Wi-Fi in the neighborhood’s Tompkins Square Park.

End of story?

Not to Jeff Simmermon, TWC’s director of digital communications.

On Tuesday, Simmermon put up a blog post with pictures showing the rat’s nest of cabling in the affected area — shared with Verizon, RCN and others — including before-and-after photos depicting the cross-section of a regular fiber cable, and one after the subterranean fire.

Here’s the before:

And the after:

His point was to tell the story of what happened, to let subscribers know that Time Warner Cable is actively working to fix problems when they (inevitably) happen.

“There’s a misconception that we put a wire in the dirt 30 years ago, and that was it,” Simmermon told me. “But in fact, there are a whole bunch of people working around the clock to make the service work.”

TWC launched the TWCableUntangled blog about a year and a half ago, Simmermon said, as a way to explain how the MSO operates.

So, is it working to combat the perception that the Big Bad Cable Company doesn’t care about customers? Simmermon believes it is. “Once people find a story or a piece of media to wrap their heads around, they go, ‘Oh… OK,’” he said.


Programming Note! Don’t miss the Multichannel News breakfast panel discussion at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2011 in Atlanta, Video’s Next Act: Setting the Multiscreen Stage, on Tuesday, Nov. 15, prior to the opening general session. Click here for more info: www.multichannel.com/SCTE2011.