Features

Hunt Brown – Charter Communications

Connecting the world one tether at a time

Like many who enter the legal field, Hunt Brown has always been passionate about helping others. His first job was as an assistant attorney general for the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, where he advocated for colleagues, employees and clients—a common thread throughout his career, regardless of employer.

Unlike many who enter law, however, he’s equally passionate about technology and what it can do for others. That’s why he’s been applying his legal expertise in the telecommunications industry since March 1996. Three years later, he became the director and senior counsel of east division operations at the Connecticut-based broadband connectivity company Charter Communications.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, he had already been in the role of senior vice president and associate general counsel for nearly half a decade and was well prepared to help.

As Brown recalls, Charter Communications’ infrastructure served as the backbone of many businesses—and individuals—as they worked to survive the pandemic.

“The demand for our services increased on a massive scale, and, as great as that was from a business standpoint, we also had to work hard, efficiently and very quickly to ensure we provided the support our business and residential clients needed during a time of quarantines and global upheaval,” Brown says.

Driving communications—and safety

While Charter Communications was focused on its customers, it was equally concerned about protecting employees—especially front-line employees who had direct contact with customers.

As a part of the COVID-19 response, Brown became part of a team that virtually met daily in the first few weeks after the quarantines went into effect. Later, they met at a minimum twice a week for over a year. Consisting of Charter Communications’ lawyers, human resources personnel, government affairs specialists as well as other staff around the country, the team would examine and analyze changes to local ordinances as well as state laws and federal executive orders regarding offices and work.

“This was beyond complicated as rules and regulations were sometimes changing by the hour or even minute,” he recalls. “It took teamwork across the organization to stay on top of everything.”

Part of the complication was that Charter operates across thousands of jurisdictions. Adding to that was the issue that the company never shuts down.

Brown and his team needed to be aware of the new laws, rules, regulations and policies relevant to the company. Once those were identified, they had to figure out how to implement practices to ensure the company and its staff were compliant.

“We had practices that were tried and true, so making changes was far from easy,” Brown says. “Again, our success was dependent on collaboration across the company—we had to work together from soup to nuts, from those answering phones to the executives.”

He and his legal team worked closely with the various operations teams to build on existing approaches and efficiencies. Their actions impacted tens of thousands of employees—and sometimes they only had a day to get it done.

For instance, they would learn of a new mask mandate and only have hours to inform the personnel who could the get the masks and sanitizing materials to technicians. They couldn’t just order these materials using pre-pandemic “business as usual” practices either as supplies were scarce or on a backlog, so they sometimes had to find acceptable equivalents.

“This was all in real time and quite an undertaking,” Brown says. “The safety of our staff always remained a top priority—and still is.”

Advocating for others

The pandemic is perhaps the most extreme example but not the only time Brown and his team, as well as regional operations teams, have advocated for and supported the communities in which they operate. For example, they’ve provided guidance to local, state and federal authorities on how Charter can collaborate and share investment between the public and private sectors. According to him and others at the company, this will help to close the digital divide.

“Unfortunately, some companies simply don’t have the equipment, experience, skill or workforce,” Brown says. “We simply make the government aware of what we can do, as we try to drive more opportunities for those in underserved areas.”

He adds that his team and others at Charter Communications offer guidance that reflects the operational realities of building such networks—and that the company can often more quickly complete such tasks with its years of experience. For instance, in 2022, it extended its network to reach more than one million additional homes and businesses across the nation.

He and his team also ensure the legal language in government contracts and policies is clear to avoid unintended consequences.

“We work fairly but with defined expectations, and given our track record of performance, we are confident we can execute accordingly,” he says.

Overcoming challenges to bring technological help and advancement to people is one of the aspects he enjoys most about working in this industry and why he joined Charter Communications in the first place. In 1999, when his then employer InterMedia Partners was being acquired, he began looking for a new job. He heard about Charter Communications’ then owner, Paul Allen, investing in cable because he felt expanded networks capable of providing internet service were the future.

Brown was intrigued by the dynamic nature of the field—and, decades later, it still fills him with wonder.

“One of the best parts of working at Charter Communications is the focus on communications, what it enables, and the future,” he says. “Even now, it boggles my mind how far we’ve come—and where we’re headed.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Summer II 2023 Edition here.

Published on: June 15, 2023

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