SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Two million Spectrum customers across the Northeast found themselves without cable television and internet services for hours this weekend, leaving many to wonder what could have caused such a major interruption.

Spectrum said Monday that ice and heavy snow took down its fiber optic lines in multiple locations in the Northeast starting Friday night and continuing Saturday.

Not only did the storm damage the company’s main lines, it also brought down backup lines that normally provide “critical redundancy,” the company said.

Making matters worse, repair crews were delayed getting to the downed lines by road closures caused by fallen trees and downed power lines, the company said.

Spectrum said safety is a “priority consideration” for its repair crews following a large-scale weather event.

“For example, in one location, there were live power lines down, along with trees, right next to damaged fiber,” the company said in a statement. “Our field teams are not allowed to access impacted areas until the area is deemed ‘clear’ by utility providers.”

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The company declined to disclose the locations of the downed lines, citing network security concerns.

Winter storm

A massive winter storm has led the state to reduce the speed limit on a 140-mile-long stretch of the New York State Thruway on Friday.
Lauren Long |

Spectrum’s fiber optic lines are buried underground in some areas but are strung along utility poles in other areas. It’s those above-ground lines that are vulnerable to storm damage.

Lara Pritchard, a spokesperson for Spectrum, said the vast majority of its customers in the Northeast lost cable TV service and a smaller number lost internet service as well. One of the areas where many internet customers lost service was the Syracuse area, she said.

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The problems started Friday night in Maine and spread throughout the company’s service territory in New England and Upstate New York on Saturday, according to the company. New York City was not affected, the company said.

The service was restored shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday — in time for Syracuse University basketball fans to watch SU play Wake Forest Saturday evening.

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Rick Moriarty covers business news and consumer issues. Have a question or news tip? Contact him anytime: Email | Twitter | Facebook | 315-470-3148

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