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City to forward residents’ complaints about service to Altice USA, Suddenlink’s parent company

BUCKHANNON – The City of Buckhannon received a sizable amount of input – largely negative – on Suddenlink’s internet and cable service locally during a recent meeting of the city’s Television/Cable Board.

Mayor Robbie Skinner said the feedback would be forwarded to the company’s governmental affairs specialist.

Skinner convened the Sept. 30 Television Cable Board meeting after the city received a slew of complaints from residents and a letter from Suddenlink, which is a subsidiary of Altice USA, seeking to renew its franchise agreement with the city in 2023, when the current agreement expires.

Owned by Altice USA, Suddenlink is a telecommunications company that provides internet, TV, cellphone service, security services and more.

The TV/Cable Board kicked off their meeting by reviewing submitted comments about Suddenlink’s service in Buckhannon, and Skinner gave an overview of the comments received by the city which included service interruptions for cable and internet and people having problems getting technicians to their homes.

“There’s also a few comments in here that when folks were told to be home during certain hours that a technician would be at their home,” Skinner said. “Technicians did not show up during those time-frames to correct their issues. We also have issues that we’ve known about with the local office here in Buckhannon.”

Mayor Robbie Skinner at the city’s Sept. 30 TV/Cable Board meeting.

Skinner said the office that used to be open on Fifth Street closed, and they thought it would not reopen, but lately there have been talks of reopening the store.

“A recent phone conversation with their representative Erin Jones, the director of government affairs for Altice USA, which is the parent company of Suddenlink, [indicated] they’ve communicated this office is only closed temporarily, and it does plan to reopen once things settle down,” Skinner said.

Residents have also expressed concern that Suddenlink is working with contract employees who are using their personal vehicles instead of actual Suddenlink/Altice USA trucks.

Skinner said having reliable internet service is essential, especially during a time in which many people are working from home some or all of the time.

“I think it’s important to note that a lot of folks have been transferred to working from home during this time frame we’ve been living in, and service interruptions can provide loss of revenue, potentially, and also could just drain productivity from a workday standpoint,” Skinner said.

Skinner said reviewing these concerns is a first step and the city’s franchise agreement is not up for renewal until 2023. City attorney Tom O’Neill also wanted to reiterate the agreement with Suddenlink is not exclusive, and other providers could operate in Buckhannon under their agreement.

“The city’s franchise agreement provides the city can grant franchises to other entities; we’ve just never had another one come seek a franchise,” O’Neill said. “That’s an important thing to keep in mind here, too.”

O’Neil said there is a formal and informal process for consideration for the renewal of a franchise, and he recommended the informal method unless the board was serious about not renewing the agreement.

“The informal process is to talk with them to negotiate terms between the provider and the board, and to hold a public hearing at which public comments can be taken, prior to making a final determination on whether or not the franchiser will be renewed,” O’Neil said.

Skinner said he hasn’t used Suddenlink in five years because he uses Micrologic for internet and streams TV through YouTube. (YouTube TV, for example, is a streaming television service that offers live TV, on-demand video and cloud-based DVR from more than 80 television networks.)

“I get all my local stations from Clarksburg, just as you would through cable, but I realize that’s not that’s not the reality, or a possible for everyone,” Skinner said.

He said this meeting was the first step and they hope to contact Erin Jones next, so she knows all the community concerns.

“I think it’s important to note that tonight is not the night in which we are making any decisions,” Skinner said. “This is, as I said in the beginning, this is the first step; this is opening the conversation. We are here to receive input from the public, and we’ve received a lot of it in our packet and like I said earlier, we will be forwarding all the details provided in the packets to our representatives with Altice USA Suddenlink for their review and to understand the real issues going on here.”

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