Originally created 08/27/99

Comcast shifting strategy



Jones Intercable laid off 20 office workers Thursday as part of a restructuring plan by Comcast Corp., the company's new owner.

The mostly low- to midlevel clerical positions were cut to create new jobs in the company's expanding customer service department and Internet operations, said Bill Botham, Jones Intercable's public relations director.

The changes also reflect Comcast's desire for stripped-down middle management, he said.

"We're trying to go from a heavy administrative focus to a heavy customer service focus," Mr. Botham said. "We're in a competitive environment now. We've got to take calls quicker and get to peoples' houses quicker."

The company anticipates rolling out its new cable modem Internet service later this year. Employees displaced Thursday will be given priority for those jobs, Mr. Botham said.

"When we're done with this, we'll end up with more people than we started with," he said.

Jones Intercable employees became aware restructuring would occur when Comcast assumed management in April, but some of the affected employees were unaware their positions were being cut until they showed up to work Thursday.

Management broke the news with plainclothed, off-duty sheriff's deputies on the premises for "everybody's peace of mind," Mr. Botham said, adding that the workers were offered "generous" separation and outplacement packages.

Comcast, the nation's No. 2 cable company, is part-owner of the QVC and E! Entertainment channels.

Jones Intercable's crosstown competitor, Knology, last week laid off three Augusta employees as part of a companywide "streamlining" effort.

Knology said it laid off nine other employees in six other markets.

Damon Cline covers business for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3486.