Cable television rates, complaints on the rise in Stanford

September 14, 2003|EMILY BURTON

STANFORD - Cable rates continue to rise here despite growing complaints about the quality of service.

Compounding the problem is the fact that the city council is locked into a 15-year contract with Adelphia, the cable provider.

In July, customers saw a 27-cent raise in basic rates and a $2.23 raise in the second tier cable package. Mayor Eddie Carter said the city is getting multiple complaints from cable customers whose service had been disrupted for hours at a time. Some also questioned the rate increase.

Adelphia holds the franchise on area cable business, eliminating the option of users switching to another cable service provider. Its only local competition are satellite dish providers.


While the city can protest the raise in basic rates, the second tier of service is optional for customers and cannot be contested. It is estimated that only 10 percent of customers buy only the basic package. Additionally, contesting the rise in rates and poor customer service would mean lawyer fees and years of added expenses, straining the already-tight city budget, said Carter.

"I just feel like they have us over a barrel here. I mean, even if they raise these rates, we can't do anything," Carter said at the council meeting last week.

Adelphia customer Ella Mae Curlis said her cable service has been unreliable and frustrating, going out as often as every other day. She was upset to see rates increase while her service decreased.

"They always give me an excuse, you know, there was a wreck, or their equipment overheated," said Curlis, who has asked for her bill to be adjusted for down time.

Earlier this week, an automated recording at Adelphia of Richmond said, "We are currently experiencing technical difficulties with Power Link (Internet service) and want to assure you that Adelphia technicians will restore your service as soon as possible."

Stanford, Danville and Harrodsburg were listed as affected areas. A representative of Adelphia, who would not comment further, said they had contacted City Clerk Sandy Gooch this week and was told she was not aware of any cable problems in Stanford.

"I was not aware of any, no," said Gooch. "If they call (City Hall) with any cable problems, I tell them to call the company." When asked if she had been receiving any complaining calls, she said no. Mayor Carter and several council members said they had been getting calls at city hall and at home from upset cable customers for weeks. The cable issue was discussed at length at the last city council meeting, where Curlis spoke adamantly about her cable service problems.

"If they get enough complaints, then something's going to change, 'cause they're not going to lose money," said Curlis.

Adelphia representatives did not answer any subsequent questions regarding service in Stanford.

"I hate the cable company. I used to live to fight the cable company, but as I've gotten older, I realize they got us," said council member Steve Lucas.

Two cities have begun proceedings against Adelphia

Adelphia, the nation's sixth largest cable provider, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June 2002. As Adelphia works to reorganize its finances under Chapter 11, two cities have already begun proceedings against it, claiming the company failed to follow FCC procedures for a rate increase.

"Federal law requires that they file a form to justify a rate increase," said Winchester Mayor Dodd Dixon. "They said they were too busy to file in 2003."

Dixon confirmed that his city is contesting rate increases, as are officials in Mount Sterling.

"We've had very cordial relations with Adelphia; only in 2003 has it fallen apart," said Dixon.

Dixon is also executive director of the Kentucky Regional Cable Commission, a conglomerate of central Kentucky cities he said was "created by elected officials for the communities" to help small central Kentucky cities become harder to be ignored by cable providers. Dixson said that, bankruptcy or no, Winchester was proceeding with the complaint.

"We've had heated conversations with their lawyers. Now it's pending before the FCC, and we are awaiting their decision," said Dixon.

Carter said that without membership in the commission and the city's current budget situation, Stanford has limited options.

"I don't know what our options are," said Carter. "I don't know if we have very many."

A representative of the company was invited to attend this month's City Council meeting but was unable to be there, said Carter.

"They couldn't come, and supposedly they would come to the October meeting," said Carter.

With complaints mounting, there is little the city can do to alleviate the cable woes until the next meeting.

"I've already changed my mother to satellite," said Curlis, "and if it keeps this up, I'll switch as well."

Central Kentucky News Articles