Getting ‘Lifeline’ Back Online


Cable companies know how important
their service is by the volume of calls
when things go wrong.

Or, sometimes, when they’re driving through
neighborhoods destroyed by a tornado and
people come running up and begging for help
to connect to the Internet.

That’s what happened last Monday to Chris
Whitaker, area operations vice president for Time
Warner Cable in Eastern North Carolina, after
storms on Saturday caused massive damage,
especially in and around Raleigh. (See photo,
Through the Wire.)

In TWC’s service area, 175,000 homes were
without power at the peak. By Wednesday afternoon,
that number was below 3,000, but
many of those are homes that were destroyed and won’t be
back online anytime soon.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” Whitaker said
of the devastation. “There were pockets of homes and communities
that were just completely destroyed, people completely

Sixteen of TWC’s 1,000 local employees suffered damages,
and four employees “lost everything,” she
said. None were killed, fortunately; the storm was
blamed for 24 deaths.

Whitaker said she was able to help the man who
came up to her on Monday, in a Raleigh suburb,
from the tent that he and his family were staying in.
TWC provided him a “mobile hot spot” with Internet
access. Working with the American Red Cross,
TWC also is helping get mobile Internet connections
to customers staying in hotels.

“With lifeline phone services on our network,
we absolutely make it a priority to get our customers
restored when something like this happens,”
Whitaker said. “And our employees rally to
the cause. It’s just an amazing effort. These people
are working around the clock, but they’re excited,
they’re still smiling, they’re happy to help, they want
to know what else they can do.”

The company donated $25,000 to the American Red Cross
and volunteer efforts included 25 staff ers manning phone
banks at a local TV station for four hours. As of Wednesday,
it had 250 employees in the field working on restoration.

Restoring a lifeline, that is.