City loses cable on night of election, debate


A failure of the Comcast Cable television system left many would-be viewers in the downtown area unable to watch last night's city election returns and a live cable television broadcast of a presidential debate in Baltimore.

Comcast customers in postal ZIP codes 21201 and 21202 discovered only "snow" on their screens if they tried to tune to any Comcast channel -- including the debate among Democratic presidential candidates at Morgan State University, broadcast on cable by the Fox News Channel, and results of the municipal primaries.

Comcast spokeswoman Kirstie Durr said the service interruptions were apparently caused by a Whiting-Turner construction project that damaged fiber-optic cable lines. It was not immediately known where the incident occurred or how many customers were affected, said Durr, but technicians were working to restore service late last night.

By 10 p.m., Durr said, cable crews had installed a temporary line to resolve the problem, but some customers were expected to experience poor picture quality or disrupted service until a permanent fix was available.

Baltimore has a history of ill-timed outages. Viewers -- including some in areas affected last night -- were shut out for the crucial fourth game of the 1999 World Series because of technical problems at cable provider TCI Communications, which Comcast acquired in 2001. That outage occurred a year after a power outage caused thousands of TCI customers to miss the final episode of Seinfeld.

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