From left, commissioner Sam Nolte, commissioner Kristie Tenney and county commission president Terry Cutright consider a franchise renewal agreement with Suddenlink Thursday morning.

Commission passes draft of Suddenlink renewal franchise agreement, setting public hearing for Oct. 29

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission on Thursday approved the first reading and a public hearing advertisement for a franchise renewal with Suddenlink.

Suddenlink is a subsidiary of the telecommunications company Altice USA and provides internet, cable, cellphone and home and business security solutions.

A public hearing is set for 1 p.m. Oct. 29, but Upshur County residents may provide feedback on Suddenlink’s services and the franchise renewal agreement ahead of the meeting by visiting the county’s website, www.upshurcounty.org, hovering over ‘How Do I?’ and clicking on ‘File Cable Franchise Comment.’ You may also simply click here.

At Thursday’s meeting, Upshur County Administrator Carrie Wallace read the title of the ordinance, which states that it would, in essence, grant a renewal franchise to Cequel III Communications II LLC, a Delaware Limited Liability Company doing business as Suddenlink Communications “to operate and maintain a cable System in the county of Upshur.” The ordinance also details the conditions of the franchise agreement.

Wallace also prepared a notice of public hearing for the Upshur County Commission.

“The Upshur County Commission has scheduled three readings and a public hearing on the review of the cable franchise ordinance with Suddenlink, excluding the municipality of Buckhannon, and the readings and public hearings will be held in the commission meeting chambers located in room 301 of the Upshur County Courthouse Annex, at 38 West Main Street Buckhannon West Virginia 26201,” Wallace said. “The first reading is today, 10:30 a.m. Thursday Oct. 1.”

The second reading is set for 10:30 a.m. Thursday Oct. 8, and if passed on second reading, the public hearing will take place at 1 p.m. on Thursday Oct. 29, also in the commission meeting chambers. Ultimately, the third reading and consideration of adoption will be at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday Nov. 5, Wallace said.

Wallace said a copy of the ordinance is available online, on the county’s website and the ad will provide a link to the website.

“Along with the draft ordinance, we also have our ordinance from June 15, 2015 on the website, and a comment form,” Wallace said. “That’s a fillable PDF that residents can submit their comments in writing. Even if they are going to come to the hearing, we would like to have those comments in writing for your consideration and review prior to the hearing date.”

Wallace said their office has received several calls with complaints about Suddenlink’s service.

“A franchise agreement is required for a cable service to operate within the franchise area, which is Upshur County, and [the agreements] are not exclusive, meaning that if another franchise or another cable service provider was interested in expanding in Upshur County, they would by all means, be able to do so,” Wallace said. “People are more understanding of your renewal once I provided them with that information.”

Wallace explained this is a draft ordinance and is likely to change.
“This is a draft ordinance, where both parties are able to edit throughout the reading process, and our prosecuting attorney does have a copy that he’s in the process of reviewing, so it will likely change during the second reading, or it will likely have revisions during the second reading,” Wallace said.

Erin Jones, director of government affairs for Altice USA, said a franchise renewal would be for a five-year term, and they are working on maintenance and upgrades.

“We are working on maintenance and updates there, just try to keep up as we’ve done elsewhere during COVID,” Jones said. “There’s been a lot of people working from home, and we have to try to increase bandwidth to customers and we’ve got some more work to be completed this month and additional plans for next year to keep addressing the system and expanding for everyone.”

Commissioner Kristie Tenney made the motion to approve the first draft and the public hearing advertisement and commissioner Sam Nolte seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

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