Erin Jones, director of government affairs with Altice USA, said one of the most common complaints they have received is in regard to the closed Suddenlink office.

Altice USA official: Buckhannon Suddenlink office to reopen

BUCKHANNON – A representative with Altice USA told the Upshur County Commission they plan to reopen the Buckhannon Suddenlink Office on Fifth Street.

The Upshur County Commission had a public hearing in regard to the county’s Suddenlink franchise renewal agreement; Suddenlink Communications is a subsidiary of Altice USA, a telecommunications company headquartered in New York that provides cable television, internet access and other television services.

Upshur County Administrator Carrie Wallace said the commission ran public advertisements from Oct. 6 through Oct. 13 in The Record Delta newspaper, letting the community know about the three readings of the agreement and the public hearing.

The commission approved the first and second readings of the ordinance at its Oct. 1 and Oct. 8 meetings.

“The purpose of the public hearing today is to receive comments from the public regarding your decision to renew the cable franchise agreement,” Wallace said. “We did publicize a cable franchise agreement comment form online, and we have received 13 submissions today. You have those on your desk for review and copies of those have all been provided to Suddenlink as well. The draft ordinance is available for the public online www.upshurcounty.org.”

The draft ordinance is viewable starting on page six of the commission’s packet from the Oct. 29 meeting. The ordinance, if passed on third reading Nov. 5, would extend the franchise for a term of five years.

Wallace reiterated that a cable provider cannot operate without a cable franchise agreement, so if the commission did not renew the agreement, there would be no option for cable tv outside corporate limits.

“Cable franchise agreements are non-exclusive, meaning that multiple agreements may be executed,” Wallace said. “If a new cable provider would like to expand services in the county, an existing cable franchise agreement with Suddenlink would not prevent them from doing so and as of today’s date, we have not received interest from other cable providers.”

Erin Jones, director of government affairs with Altice USA, said one of the most common complaints they have received is in regard to the closed Suddenlink office.

“I know we’ve heard some complaints about the local store being closed, that is not really just in Upshur County – we had them closed everywhere in the peak of COVID-19, to try to work through all the different state regulations and keep our employees safe,” Jones said. “The store is a requirement in the previous agreement, and it is a requirement in this agreement to have a local presence, so we do have plans to reopen that store soon, and we are working on staffing right now.”

She said they have also received complaints about their call centers, which were affected by COVID-19.

“In some places [our employees] were not considered essential employees, so they shut down some call centers, and we have our big main ones in Texas, which was a hotbed for a while, so we had to shift people to working remotely,” Jones said. “We had to stagger some employees to work different shifts, but I think right now we have pretty much made up all of our capacity on the customer care side.”

Jones said they are working on other methods through which customers may get in touch with Suddenlink, including Apple Business Chat, Google Chat and text messaging.

“We’re able to see large-scale outages on nodes, but usually we need 14 percent of any customers on one node to be able to identify an issue and especially if it’s a large area and there’s a few houses that might be down, we need to know,” Jones said. “We expect people to call in and notify us because it’s usually a localized issue.”

“Then, if we take care of a larger issue, it is still helpful because it could be something with their equipment or it could be some wiring into that specific house, so it is really extremely helpful to let us know if there’s an issue regarding any equipment or service,” Jones added.

She also talked about Altice Advantage Internet, which helps provide internet to families with students.

“Altice Advantage Internet is our low-income broadband service that’s $14.99 a month, and it’s 30 megs, and that’s for families with children who receive free and reduced lunch benefits, and also seniors and veterans who receive supplemental security income,” Jones said.

Wallace said the third and final reading of the ordinance will take place Thursday, Nov. 5 at 10:30 a.m. in the commission meeting room on the third floor of the courthouse.

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