Satellite Subs Lost Signals


Like others around the country last week, the satellite industry was caught off guard by the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

The Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association canceled the fall SkyForum conference that had been scheduled for last Friday in Manhattan.

"We at the SBCA express our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the victims," the association said in a brief statement issued late last Tuesday. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to them."

As of last Wednesday, the SBCA had no immediate plans to reschedule SkyForum, and was still working through event-related contractual obligations.

From the rooftop of their offices in Alexandria, Va., SBCA workers could see the Pentagon as it burned Tuesday. "You could smell it from here," SBCA spokesman James Ashurst said.

DirecTV Inc. closed its offices in El Segundo, Calif., Tuesday morning as a precautionary measure because of their close proximity to Los Angeles International Airport, DirecTV spokesman Bob Marsocci said.

Direct-broadcast satellite customers at least temporarily lost local broadcast and East Coast network feeds from New York stations that had transmitted their signals to DirecTV or EchoStar Communications Corp. via uplink stations at the World Trade Center.

In one instance, a station was broadcasting the imminent collapse of one of the towers, and the signal was lost at the moment the building collapsed.

Most of the broadcast signals were restored via satellite once the stations switched to uplink feeds from Manhattan's Empire State Building.

EchoStar fielded requests Tuesday from several law-enforcement agencies that wanted to have DBS systems installed in new or temporary facilities following the attacks, so that they could keep in touch with the unfolding events. EchoStar spokesman Marc Lumpkin said the company worked with local retailers to make sure the satellite dishes and receivers were installed quickly.

"We're ready to handle more requests," Lumpkin said last Wednesday.

Satellite radio start-up XM Satellite Radio last Tuesday announced it had postponed its commercial service launch and related events previously slated to take place last Wednesday. The company is headquartered in Washington.

"The thoughts and prayers of all XM employees go out to those affected by these horrible events," XM president Hugh Panero said in a statement.

The Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing typically purchases disaster insurance when it plans any big conference, senior vice president of marketing Seth Morrison said. Still, there's no way to plan ahead for some forms of disruption.

Morrison said that there was no way to replicate the planning meetings that CTAM had expected to hold last week with various cable industry leaders, who tend to congregate only for big events such as the Kaitz dinner. Much of the planning — including an intended meeting about next summer's CTAM Summit — will now have to be conducted less formally, through long-distance conference calls.