News

Manhattan's MSO: An Innocence Lost

9/08/2002 8:00 PM Eastern

Ask Time Warner Cable of New York City president Barry Rosenblum how the attitude of his 1,300 employees has been forever transformed since the events of last Sept. 11, and he'll point to a common ritual before and after that day: the fire drill.

Spring one inside Time Warner's main office in midtown Manhattan — or at service centers covering the system's 1.2 million subscribers — and when the drill alarms go off, no one hides thoughts of resignation, sarcasm or indifference to following protocol.

No one thinks those thoughts anymore, Rosenblum said.

"People have lost their innocence," he observed. "If there's a fire drill, people who used to joke about them before take them seriously now. Everybody's lined up. People are less naïve about what life could be like and understand what can happen now.

"One person told me that he has sneakers handy, so that when a disaster takes place, he's ready to run for his life."

Time Warner Cable employees showed their mettle last Sept. 11, Rosenblum said. "It was an incredible outpouring. Our staff and technicians would have done anything, without any motivation, without any regard, to keep the system on."

The system was able to make do without need of huge assists from neighboring cable systems, such as those of Cablevision Systems Corp. in the Bronx, part of Brooklyn and all of Long Island, and Comcast Corp. and AT&T Broadband in New Jersey.

Cablevision's technical crew helped Time Warner uplink a satellite feed of its local news outlet, New York 1 News, from Home Box Office's technical center in Long Island, so other Time Warner Cable systems around the country could run NY1's live coverage of the World Trade Center collapse and aftermath.

Time Warner continued the NY1 feed for several days, making it available to outside systems as well.

'ACTION MODE'

When the first plane hit one of the World Trade Center's twin towers at 8:46 a.m. Eastern time Sept. 11, Rosenblum caught the scene in his office over NY1.

"I went from floor to floor to keep people calm," Rosenblum recalled. "When we realized with that second plane hitting the WTC that this was an act of terrorism in progress, everyone went into action mode.

"We had to use cell phones because regular phone lines were down. We ordered a couple of days worth of food immediately. We made sure technicians in Brooklyn could get back to their building as quickly as possible, while Manhattan employees were advised about school closings and traffic conditions.

"All of us called customers to let them know that their installs wouldn't take place, why, and to keep calm."

For Rosenblum, the most important achievements of that day were no TWC employees killed or seriously injured; the installation of a special high-speed Internet access connection to the city's command center at 1 Police Plaza; and a cable system that continued to function citywide.

"Some installers had their trucks crushed," he said. "That was it. We stayed up and running well after other communications went down."

This week, as Rosenblum and his colleagues mark where they were and what they did a year ago, many security and disaster-preparation practices have been adopted, affecting everything from access to police and fire departments to visitor checks.

But one direction in which Time Warner hasn't moved is the coordination of a regional disaster recovery plan, in association with other operators. Technical factors and other complications weigh heavily against crafting a plan that every system owner in the area can get behind.

Rosenblum supports ongoing communication between systems on disaster affairs — as well as sharing ideas that could work in a variety of surroundings — but he believes one plan can't fit all, regionally or nationally.

"Every city has different needs, different interfaces, different considerations to work through," he said. "It's a tough process, especially in an age of multiple headends and customer-service facilities for some systems.

"If we keep our own systems operating, that would help everybody else."

September