Cablevision Systems Discards Voice Mail


In a rare move away from technology, Cablevision Systems
Corp. last week eliminated its internal and external voice-mail system in favor of more
person-to-person phone contact.

But some MSO executives are concerned that the elimination
of voice mail will translate into the loss of important client and business messages,
thereby hampering their ability to work effectively.

In a memo sent to Cablevision and Rainbow Media Holdings
Inc. personnel Oct. 2, a Cablevision human-resources staffer said it was effectively
eliminating the voice-mail system, which was becoming an "impediment to servicing our
internal and external customers." The memo said the move was by order of Cablevision
CEO James Dolan.

In its place will be manned phone lines that will bounce to
other desks if the intended target is not at his or her desk. In the end, internal and
external calls to Cablevision will be met with a human voice.

"We have the corporate view that in a highly automated
society, given the choice between hearing a voice or a machine, people will opt for the
human voice," said Charles Schueler, vice president of media and community relations
for Cablevision. "The general feeling is that communications both internally and
externally will be better, more personal and less reliant on machinery."

But not everyone within Cablevision shares the corporate
view. Several MSO and system-level executives complained that the loss of voice mail would
compromise their efforts to perform their jobs effectively.

"If I'm in one office, no one in my office or
from the outside can reach me without voice mail, nor can I reach them," the
executive said. "It's going to cause major problems."

However, Schueler said, the system, which does not include
customer-service representatives, will work for all involved. He added that many employees
will be tied into a messaging service that will work during and after hours.

"All appropriate arrangements are being made for
internal and external calls," he said. "We have answering services, we have
pagers and we have much more enhanced, people-based telephone coverage that has been met
with a positive response both internally and externally."