Back in time to Feb. 3, 1999

Photo by Item Archives

Super Bowl LVIII is shaping up to be a barn burner.

You have the No. 1 seeded powerhouse San Francisco 49ers, who barely scraped by the Detroit Lions, facing off against the Kansas City Chiefs, who are quickly reaching Brady/Belichick Patriots levels of dominance. And Taylor Swift will be there — if she can make it back from Tokyo in time (reports suggest she can, and will).

But, in 1999, as the Denver Broncos were taking on the Atlanta Falcons at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami in Super Bowl XXXIII, thousands of Marbleheaders were left in the dark as to what exactly was happening.

That’s because a computer glitch at MediaOne’s transmission hub in Beverly interrupted service for more than 3,000 Marblehead cable television subscribers — and another 9,000 MediaOne subscribers in Beverly, Boxford, Hamilton, Middleton, Topsfield, and Wenham. The glitch only impacted subscribers who had a particular type of converter in the homes, with some 4,000 Marbleheaders experiencing no issues.

Still, a football fan’s nightmare, to be sure.

Paul Rabin, the chair of Marblehead’s Cable Television Advisory Committee, was among the thousands who lost service in the middle of the game. Rabin was watching with his son, Jason.

“I couldn’t believe this was happening during one of the most widely watched events of the year,” he is quoted as telling The Daily Evening Item at the time. “I tried to call MediaOne as soon as it happened but I couldn’t get through.”

When the service cut out, Rabin said, he began bracing for a barrage of calls from irate subscribers on Monday.

“But it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” he said. “I received some calls but most people had their service back on by then.”

MediaOne Manager of Government Affairs Jane Lyman said company engineers were still trying to get to the root of the problem on Tuesday.

“It’s very frustrating to us and we understand the frustration of those subscribers who lost service for the game,” she said. “We’ve had no problems in the past. This is the first time that it has happened to this extent.”

Subscribers who did lose service during the game were set to receive a $10 credit on their next bill.

“We’re upset that this happened and we apologize for the inconvenience it must have caused our customers,” Lyman added.

The outage came as Rabin and his committee were preparing to begin negotiations with MediaOne, whose license was set to expire in June of 2000. Rabin said the committee was happy with aspects of the company’s performance but that there were things to be improved upon.

And, he said, the committee had not ruled out inviting another company, like RCN, to town to compete for residents’ cable TV business.

This reporter, for one, would maybe never recover if his TV cut out during the Super Bowl.