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Pay TV providers await power to assess damage

Waking up hot and sticky and contemplating a cold shower and a smelly refrigerator is one thing.

But missing Sunday NASCAR or the Buccaneers game because the cable is out? What more does Mother Nature expect us to endure?

Pay television companies say they are working around the clock to restore what some people miss most when the power goes out. But for the most part, they say they're at the mercy of the power companies.

"Once the power is out, chances are that's why you don't have cable," said Dan Ballister, vice president of communications for Bright House Networks, Tampa Bay.

Same goes for satellite television.

So the pay television providers are asking customers to call the number on their bills only if the power is back on but the cable or satellite system is still down. Chances are, in that case, there is localized damage that must be repaired.

They are asking for patience because the localized repairs to one or two customers take more time.

Bright House, which claims about 1-million customers in seven bay area counties, said it had restored service to about 100,000 customers as of 5 p.m. Monday. Mirroring comments from some power providers, Ballister said damage appears to be worse than when Frances blew through three weeks ago, particularly in Polk and Pasco counties.

Cable and satellite providers are reluctant to share specific numbers about how many customers they have in each county and how many are without service.

Brian Aungst, the regional director of public relations, Pinellas, for Bright House, said 81 percent of the company's Pinellas customers had service. In Hillsborough, the figure was 72 percent, according to Nancy Carey, director of government and public relations.

Adelphia Communications, which provides cable to parts of Citrus and Hillsborough counties, said all of its customers should now have service. About 1,300 customers in Hillsborough briefly lost service, said Betsy Silverfine, public relations manager for the Adelphia southeastern region.

All but about 3 percent of cable subscribers who get service from Knology of Pinellas County should have service, said Lizbeth Dison, manager of public relations. Like the other providers, she said the company hopes to have service returned within days, not weeks.

"We are moving quickly on our repairs," Dison said. "We expect a quick turnaround."

Gregg Stucker, a spokesman for DISH Network, said his company has more than 100 technicians from 12 states in Florida working to restore service to those without. He was not able to provide numbers or percentages of outages.

A representative of Direct TV did not return phone calls.

Stucker said DISH will allow people to "pause" their service if they are without it now and are attempting to concentrate on home repairs.

"They can give us a call and we'll work it out," he said.

Cable providers said customers will not be billed for any days of service they miss, and that a future bill will reflect the credit. Customers who do not feel that their bill reflects the amount of time they were without cable are encouraged to call their provider.

"That's the last thing we want our customers worrying about at a time that is already stressful," Ballister said.