Cable ONE provides services to eight communities, six of which were in the direct path of Hurricane Harvey, and in its aftermath, Cable ONE was able to get customers’ internet services up and running on the heels of power restoration.
Cable ONE has more than 330 miles of plant covering Aransas Pass, Ingleside, Ingleside on the Bay, Taft, Gregory, City by the Sea, Port Lavaca and Point Comfort. With the storm approaching, on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, General Manager Juli Blanda began making calls to the Phoenix, AZ team to plan securing materials, water, etc.
When mandatory evacuation was called Thursday, Aug, 24, staff secured the office, the buildings, and the head ends. One is located in Gregory and the other is in Port Lavaca, and are where all the fiber and cables come out of to provide video, phone, and internet, Blanda explained. They sandbagged and boarded the head ends, and did what they could to protect the computers. Of the 16 staff members, 15 evacuated. Some took trucks, but most vehicles were placed at the head end in Gregory.
Blanda had contact information and locations for all her staff associates before they evacuated.
The only one who stayed in the area was technical operations manager David Hilarides, who lives in Ingleside. He has lived in Florida and gone through hurricanes; and he wanted to stay so he could be ready to assess things immediately, Blanda said.
Hilarides said there was a lot of wind and rain, pointing Harvey was his “fifth hurricane in Cable TV.” He said Harvey was a lot like the rest, with a lot of wind, noise, and horizontal rain. He said when the power went out, he had his generator start-up which kept his fan going. He was also proud to point out he actually had Cable service up until 10 p.m. Friday night, as the network held up well, and his generator provided power. He said the fiber going to the Cable ONE building in Aransas Pass never went down.
On Saturday, he rode to the tower in Gregory to assess damage, then drove back “on the fiber line” through Ingleside, and Aransas Pass to the office. He said water was in the parking lot, but not into the building. He said there was no electricity, but since they provide Internet service, they wanted to get things up and running for when the power was restored.
Blanda had evacuated to Seguin and said it was a good thing because she had access to phone service and was able to be in contact with everyone. That Saturday, conference calls, getting hotels and contractors lined up to get back in the community to get things back up,
She said their first concern was make sure all associates were okay, then assess the plant. She also noted Cable ONE stopped billing everyone, regardless of where things stood with customers. She said they made that decision and backdated it to the day the hurricane hit.
The company’s first concern was to get its fiber back up and get the emergency operations center (EOC), police and fire departments operational, and thus they increased the band width on the fiber circuit. She said the EOC was handling everything for the city, so the increased band width was provided for two months with no additional fees.
They also wanted to assist businesses get back in service, which especially helped those which were able to open.
Cable ONE provided three free Wi-Fi hotspots in town for residents at the Cable ONE office in Aransas Pass and at the Ingleside Chamber of Commerce, with an increased bandwidth at the latter.
During Hilarides assessment, it was discovered the secondary warehouse in Gregory was demolished, and thus they lost a lot of materials. This delayed them in getting some things running, because items lost included equipment boxes which go in people’s homes.
Blanda worked with the team in Phoenix to secure hotel rooms for associates and contractors coming into the area, and to find a secondary location. On Monday, Aug. 30, the first Cable ONE visiting associates came in, and they were also able to secure a warehouse office/ war room at 2082 FM 2785 in Ingleside, just past the Moose Lodge. She said it became a man camp with offices, caterers, and showers, to house contractors.
As people get power back up and get back into their homes, Cable ONE also was able to reopen its lobby in Aransas Pass, and had 25 percent of customers back on by Sept 18. They delayed in opening because they didn’t have equipment. When they were able to replace equipment, they also did not charge customers for the damaged equipment.
They also used the main office to send work out from, and stage people and equipment until they were able to get a warehouse up and open.
Challenges they faced included not being able to work after dark because of not having power, working around debris, and residents’ concern about who was walking around one’s yard at night.
They also faced issues with fibers being cut by track hoes, personal tractors, and people as well as city/state workers attempting to clear areas.
The company is a business, but it also sustained losses, including non-billing, however getting the community back up and running was more important. Hilarides explained it best as he noted, “We live here. Yes, we are a for profit company, but at the same time we’re providing a service. He said we have a lot of shut ins, and ours is their only window to the world.”
Blanda said Cable ONE is in smaller communities for that reason, as associates live and work here, their kids go to school here, and they are as entrenched in the community as they can be. She also added getting service back, “Is the right thing to do.”
Cable ONE also contributed $20,000 to the Salvation Army, and $2,500 to St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Catholic Church.
Blanda said their main message to customers about Cable ONE is, “We went through this storm together, and we’re still going through it.” She said they worked to get service restored as quickly as possible, and now they working to get it to the level it was before the storm.
They are still finding damage and are urging residents to notify them so repairs can be made.
Although Cable ONE is local, restoration efforts were also assisted by associates coming from all over wanting to help, and they still have them coming from Idaho Falls, Sioux City, Iowa, and more. She said more than 100 associates gave up their time and stayed away from family two and three weeks at a time to stay here and help.
Notable numbers released from Blanda include: staff working seven days a week, 12-plus hours a day since Aug. 25, 2017; replacing more than 72,653 feet of fiber; replacing more than 258,403 feet of plant material; replacing more than 350,000 feet of drop material; replacing 150 drops per day; conducting more than 5,000 locates per day; putting in more than 10,000 Cable ONE hours with 17 local associates and 100 visiting associates; and having more than 50,000 contractor hours to date. There also were a total of 85 or more visiting technicians, contractors and temps.
Blanda pointed out Cable ONE has reinvested 25 percent of its annual budget back into restoration and rebuild efforts in the area, emphasizing its standing as a local business.
Source: Aransas Pass Progress
By Norma L. Martinez