Spotsylvania News

Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

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Supervisors Grill Comcast

 Supervisors are overwhelmed with residents’ complaints about Comcast.

So, Tuesday night the county board invited a Comcast representative to explain why the company damaged private property, changed the channel line ups, deleted some channels and has poor overall service. 

Marie Schuler, director of government and community affairs at Comcast, said Comcast took over Adelphia in July 2006. After the buyout, she said the company concentrated on replacing damaged fiber cables, regrounding infrastructure and replacing power supplies and monitoring equipment. 

Comcast identified 90 miles of fiber optic and coaxial cables that needed to be replaced.   About 50 percent is done. She said the regrounding wasn’t up to specs  and was causing power surges to their equipment.  This effort will reduce outages.

Upgrading the power supplies will improve the back-up battery power from three hours to six hours.

“As a result of all this activity we realize we have caused an inconvenience to customers,” she said.

Comcast hopes to have all of the work done by the end of the year.

Supervisors said many customers were not  warned about the work and power outages.

“We door tag the customers with a number to call for more information,” Schuler said. 

As for the channel line-up changes, Schuler said Comcast decided Aug. 25 to “realign the channels by genre.”

“We actually added 50 channels to the channel line up. We also added eight new [high definition] channels,” she said.  “We decided it was time to change the whole channel lineup and reset it by genre. Now, all news programs are grouped together,” etc. 

Some customers are steaming over the decision to remove the Hallmark channel from the line up (what in the heck is the Hallmark channel?).

“Hallmark is a niche program providing old reruns of Matlock, The Waltons, Murder She Wrote,” Schuler explained. “We felt it was a duplication of programming, Now it is in the digital line up.”

Hey, I love the Waltons!

Many of these reruns run on other separate network, she said. 

Customers are  angry about the new $4.95 “check fee.” Schuler said this fee is only charged when a person wants to pay their bill with a live agent over the phone.

“It’s typically customers who forgot to pay their bill and are paying it at the last minute,” she said.  

Supervisor T.C. Waddy said residents near Lake Anna and in the Livingston District have been waiting nearly a decade for a cable company to provide service out in the boonies.

OK, he didn’t say boonies, that’s my word.   

“We are looking into that,” Schuler said.

Supervisor Vince Onorato said he voted against the franchise change because Comcast wouldn’t agree to keep the local news station.

“It was primarily a cost factor,” Schuler said. “We also lost the employees who were working on that.”

Schuler said Comcast only discontinued the half-hour news program because it took a lot of work to produce. Onorato urged  them to reconsider the decision because he enjoyed the program because it was another avenue for local officials to express their views. 

Supervisor Hap Connors tried to mediate the situation with his calm critique: “I would think this whole debacle could have been solved by better communication upfront.”
Schuler agreed.

Supervisor Jerry Logan said he got a call from a Mill Road resident who told him that contractors upgrading cable in  her yard cut trees and scattered trash.  She was never notified they were coming , he said. 

“When she approached the workmen, they didn’t speak English,” Logan said. “That was yesterday. They came back today, and one worker was using her outside faucet.  This is the type of complaints that I am getting. I know quality control is a tough issue but I think if you were to tighten down on your contractors and make sure they treat your customers with respect,” these problems could have been avoided.

And if it could get any worse, Comcast  removed from its basic cable package the outdoor sports/fishing channel. Now Logan has to pay $5 for it, and that didn’t make him a happy man.

So, to summarize: Supervisors acted on the complaints; Comcast is sorry and should finish the work soon; channels are by genre now; and customers can still get the Hallmark and fishing channels but you have to pay more for them.

Is everyone still mad at Comcast?