A resolution expressing council’s dissatisfaction with customer service provided by Suddenlink was unanimously approved at the Jan. 14 meeting.
The resolution requests that the Public Utilities Commission of Texas enforce customer service standards established by the Federal Communications Commission. Copies of the letter will also be sent to Texas State Representatives James Talarico and Terry M. Wilson, to State Senator Charles Schwertner and to each commissioner of the PUC.
Many residents mistakenly think the city allows Suddenlink to have a monopoly on Georgetown, District 4 Council Member Steve Fought said at the Dec. 10 City Council meeting, where the idea of the resolution was first discussed.
The city formerly had a franchise agreement with Suddenlink, Fought clarified. But in 2005, Texas adopted a statewide cable franchise agreement provision. It stipulated that once all existing franchises with cable operators expired, they would transfer to the statewide agreement. Suddenlink’s agreement with Georgeotwn ended in 2010, after which they transferred over to the statewide agreement. Rates for retail services are held at the state and federal level.
“Neither the city nor the state has entitled Suddenlink to a monopoly for cable service in Georgetown,” Fought said. “It is simply that Suddenlink has an enormous amount of physical assets in place and customers online.”
He said another provider would have to make a similar significant investment in equipment and overcome Suddenlink’s market saturation, and so far, no other cable company has been willing to make such an investment.
The city has no power, Fought said, and residents must take complaints to Suddenlink or the court. He said the creation of the resolution, overseen by Fought and District 5 Council Member Kevin Pitts, is an attempt to tell the state ‘this isn’t working, we need some help,’ on behalf of Georgetown residents.
Five residents spoke about their negative experiences with Suddenlink at the Dec. 10 meeting, including Germano Kountz, who started the Facebook group "Remove Suddenlink From Georgetown Texas."
Suddenlink Regional Vice President Travis Nance also spoke at the meeting. Fought said Nance and other executives have been working with the city manager and staff to talk over problems and seek solutions.
Nance said recently Suddenlink has gone through a billing and operating system conversion that has changed the interface of every tool a customer, technician and agent touches.
The point of the digital transformation was to extend additional resources to the customer, including cloud-based DVR as well as the ability to self-provision a modem and interact with customer service in new ways, such as through text messaging.
As a result of this, there were negative customer impacts in terms of billing cycles and high call volumes for help, Vance said.
At the Jan. 14 meeting, Fought reported that he had been sending constituents’ issues to Vance, and as a result, 25-30 people had some fairly serious problems resolved.
“Sometimes, you have to go straight to the top,” Fought said.