April 25, 2014

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Bad cable service may spur competition in Lorain

LORAIN — Lousy service complaints have some Time Warner Cable customers threatening to cut the cord.

“If you want to keep customers, you’re going to have to make customers happy,” resident J.R. Lee told Chris Thomas, Time Warner’s government relations director for Northeast Ohio, at a Monday City Council hearing. “A lot of your customers in the city of Lorain (are) not happy.”

Lee said an installer for Time Warner in 2008 or 2009 cut a 40-inch square in the siding of his house to install a line for Internet service despite Lee saying he told him to not cut the siding and to install the line through his basement. “I ended up replacing the siding,” Lee said.

Lee, an East Side Block Watch leader, was one of a handful of speakers with a litany of complaints about Time Warner. Complaints included:

  • Exorbitant rates, especially for “bundled” service in which customers receive cable, Internet and phone service from the company.
  • Pixilated or frozen images on some television channels.
  • An automated customer service center that makes reaching customer representatives difficult, and different customer representatives offering different solutions to complaints.
  • Frequent service disruptions due to antiquated equipment such as old cable boxes.

Resident Loraine Ritchey, co-chairwoman of the Charleston Village Society, a neighborhood improvement group, asked Council members in December to schedule the hearing. Between May of 2011 and Dec. 28, Ritchey said she had pixilating images. Ritchey said she called numerous customer representatives and supervisors and wrote Glenn Britt, Time Warner chairman and CEO.

After numerous hassles, Ritchey said the problem was rectified. However, since January, Ritchey said emails to the city of Lorain frequently bounce back because her computer’s IP address has been blocked. Ritchey said Time Warner has given her the runaround.

“The computer illiterate, who is paying for all these people, one way or another, is the one having to sort it out,” she said.

Lorain received nearly $658,000 in annual franchise fees last year from Time Warner which earned about $21.4 billion in revenue last year. With 5 percent of customer payments going to Lorain, Ritchey said city officials should help residents unsatisfied with Time Warner. “Your citizens leave Time Warner, you lose revenue,” she said.

Mayor Chase Ritenauer said after the hearing that Lorain has not been approached by any competitors about obtaining franchise rights, but he would consider offers. “Competition is good for the consumer,” he said.

Thomas said Time Warner has upgraded most coaxial cables, but resident Mike Beatty said wires from the cables into most homes are 30 or more years old. He said wiring to homes was not part of a 2000 upgrade by Time Warner’s predecessor Adelphia Communications.

“It is perplexing and something we need to stay on,” he said. “We all have a vested interest in making it work and making everybody happy.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.