BUCKHANNON — In March 2020, members of the Upshur County community packed the County Commission meeting chambers to express frustration and concerns over service provider, Altice USA. The company had recently bought out Suddenlink, reportedly creating many issues for subscribers. However, these issues evidently extend beyond the Upshur community, as the Public Service Commission of West Virginia will be holding Public Comment Hearings about Suddenlink on August 23 and 24.
Director of Government and Public Affairs for Altice USA, Erin Jones came to Upshur County last March to hear the concerns and attempt to address the many issues community members had been experiencing. At that time, the overwhelming majority of complaints from community members involved billing, uneven pricing across the board, language barriers through the call centers, issues not getting resolved by technicians, and most importantly, poor cable, phone and internet service.
One community member expressed during the March meeting, “We are paying outrageous fees for a service we are not receiving.” Other members of the community said they would not mind paying the money, if they were actually receiving good service. Most asserted that they believe they are being taken advantage of, due to the lack of other providers in the area.
Concluding that meeting, Commissioner Sam Nolte asked the question everyone wanted an answer to—“What can we expect in the future from Altice?” This question came from the many frustrations expressed, in addition to a generational switch to more internet-based streaming services, rather than cable. Jones explained there would eventually be an “over-the-top service,” and an app on your smart TV like Netflix or Hulu to stream things through the internet. She added, “I am always willing to help,” and with the assistance of Director of Operations Steve Adkins, they reported a plan to address the issues of each person who attended the meeting. Adkins explained, “We will do what it takes to get it resolved.”
By early October of 2020, the Upshur County Commission scheduled three readings and a public hearing regarding their renewal with the cable franchise. Submitted comments were also encouraged in person at the public hearings or via the Cable Franchise Renewal Comment Form found on the county’s website.
On October 29, 2020, Jones returned for the public hearing regarding their renewal agreement. Unfortunately, there were—and continue to be—no other service providers interested in serving Upshur County. By November 5, Commissioners approved the renewal franchise agreement due a to lack of other options. Their approval however, does not exclude or prevent the county from accepting another franchise agreement from another provider if they so wish. Commissioners have also continued accepting complaints, all of which are reportedly forwarded to Suddenlink.
Now, due to the overwhelming volume of complaints across the state, the Public Service Commission of West Virginia is holding three public comment hearings on August 23 and 24, as previously mentioned. These meetings will take place on Monday, August 23 at 5 p.m. in the Ceremonial Courtroom at the Raleigh County Courthouse, 215 Main Street, Beckley; and Tuesday, August 24 at 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. in the Commission’s main hearing room at 201 Brooks Street, Charleston.
In a press release from the Public Service Commission, Chairman Charlotte Lane expressed, “The Commission has received thousands of complaints from Suddenlink customers about the unacceptable level of service by the Company. Listening to citizens’ input is a critical part of how the Commission decides cases. We provide several ways for customers to comment on the cases in front of us and actively encourage customers to be part of the process.” These hearings will reportedly give customers the opportunity to express their concerns with Suddenlink’s quality of service, or lack thereof.
Interested members of the public who want to make their concerns known to the Commission but choose not to participate in the public comment hearings, may send a letter to the Public Service Commission at 201 Brooks Street, Charleston, WV 25301.
Those attending in person will be required to wear a mask. Documents regarding this case and the full procedural schedule can be found on the Commission website at www.psc.state.wv.us, with reference to Case No. 21-0515-CTV-SC-GI.
After a year and a half of conversation and filed complaints, members of the Upshur community may finally receive some sort of resolution following the public hearings conducted by the Public Service Commission of West Virginia at the end of this month.