Charter gets earful from community
Politicians, public blast firm over recent service troubles
Charter Communications executives blamed network upgrades for recent service outages and promised to resolve every customer service issue they can in separate meetings Monday with Mesa County commissioners and Grand Junction City Council members.
Charter Vice President and General Manager Christopher Fulton, Government Relations Senior Manager Erik Rasmussen, and Director of Field Operations Paul Kugler met with commissioners Scott McInnis and John Justman and Mesa County Administrator Frank Whidden Monday morning in front of an audience of 10 citizens, including Grand Junction city councilor Marty Chazen and displeased Charter customers. McInnis said the size of the crowd was not proportionate to the complaints he’s heard.
“You’re using our (rights-of-way) and we have certain expectations,” McInnis told the Charter employees. “To my knowledge this is the first time we’ve had a major operational problem dealing with continuity of service across the board ... I’m here today, asking you, demanding of you, that we get this fixed now.”
Fulton said Charter is working to resolve any remaining issues following the company’s two most notable service problems this winter.
One started Dec. 12, when 5 percent of customers with Bresnan.net email addresses found they could not log into their email accounts or access email from certain devices during a process where Charter moved those accounts onto Charter’s email platform. While calls to customer service about lingering email issues have declined from a high of “hundreds and hundreds of calls per hour,” Fulton said there are still a handful of calls about the issue coming in now.
The second incident took place last week, when some Colorado customers, including School District 51, lost Internet and phone service for hours after some obsolete equipment was replaced. Fulton, who didn’t specify how any customers were without service, said the outage occurred because some internal network equipment had relied on that old equipment to run properly.
Fulton said equipment changes and system upgrades to expand channel offerings and increase Internet speeds happen all the time. Most of those changes are uneventful, he said, but not this time.
“We’re doing all this stuff to create bandwidth so we can bring great products and services to the community. With that being said, it doesn’t make it acceptable that we put people through the wringer to do it,” he said.
For now, Rasmussen said Charter will cease all network changes until the company is sure all glitches in service have been identified and fixed. McInnis said the county will keep track of complaints it receives about Charter and forward a spreadsheet of those complaints to Charter. McInnis said the county plans to keep track of those issues and whether they are resolved.
“We want to go back to normal,” McInnis said.
“You and me both,” Fulton replied.
Charter and CenturyLink officials met with city officials Monday evening to address the city’s concerns about the area offering increasing Internet speeds and capabilities to attract technology-based businesses to the area.
Charter Mountain States Sales Manager Charles Eady said as the result of recent upgrades, Charter customers now get 60 megabits-per-second service for the price of 30 megabits per second. For $60 more a month, residents can receive 100 megabit-per-second service. Companies that want a gigabit or 10-gigabit service would have to pay for the development costs and those costs vary according to location, among other factors.
Councilors said they are concerned that except for a few pockets, Mesa County appears to have slow Internet speeds according to the Colorado Broadband Mapping Application, a statewide map indicating broadband strength throughout the state. The Denver area, meanwhile, is mostly smothered in a deep red color, indicating that most areas enjoy more than one gigabit-per-second of Internet service speeds.
A lighter red color indicates an area is serviced by up to 100 megabit-per-second speeds.
“What that map is saying is not correct as of this moment,” Eady said of Mesa County having some of the state’s slower Internet speeds. “We’re on the other side of that now.”
Abel Chavez, CenturyLink’s director of state and local government affairs, told councilors providing fast Internet speeds in the Grand Junction area would require more public-private partnership and requested the city go after federal grants to help with some of the development costs.
Chavez said the reason why some remote ski resort towns enjoy high-speed Internet is because the demand is greater, residents are willing to pay for it and there are multiple Internet providers.
“We’ve got to go where the demand is, not where the need is,” he said.
Charter and CenturyLink representatives said they would like to be included in future talks alongside city officials with prospective businesses that require high-powered Internet connections.