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Blackout angers residents

Nearly 35,000 customers have no television service for six hours and many miss Major League Baseball All-Star game.

July 14, 2007|By Anthony Kim and Chris Wiebe

BURBANK — A software glitch blacked out cable television service in nearly 35,000 households just before 5 p.m. on Tuesday. The blackout lasted for six hours.

Parts of Burbank, Glendale, La Crescenta and La Cañada Flintridge were affected by the largest television service failure in recent memory, said Craig Watson, vice president for communications of western division operations for Charter Communications.

"This kind of problem is quite rare and was obviously not expected and, in this case should not have happened," Watson said.

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The glitch happened in a piece of equipment called a digital network control system, which communicates signals to digital boxes, Watson said. The system is connected to digital boxes in about 50,000 households in the cities that were affected, he said.

"But we had a software failure in that piece of equipment that knocked out the digital boxes completely. The experience of our customers would be they lost their TV," Watson said.

Ironically, the outage occurred while Charter was in the midst of a system upgrade to improve the cable network, he said.

"We were developing a stronger system to be more redundant," he said. "So if there was a mechanical failure … there would be a switch over to another system."

The most recent service disruption, however, was due to a software failure, not a mechanical failure.

There are 27,000 households with at least one digital box in Glendale, about 18,000 in Burbank, about 2,500 in La Crescenta and Montrose and about 1,700 in La Cañada Flintridge, Watson said.

But not all of these so-called digital households suffered through the six-hour television blackout.

Customers who run the cable directly into their television sets, instead of through a cable-company tuner, were not affected, he said. And some neighborhoods were shielded from the failure because the glitch did not penetrate their specific node, or service area, he said.

Charter Communications is offering clients that were affected by the blackout credits on their bills, Watson said. Normally, the company gives credit for the number of hours service was down by calculating the hourly rate, he said.

"That is what we're doing," he said. "In terms of whether customers will be satisfied, I'm hoping they will."

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