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Cable executives will unveil upgrade plan to county commissioners

by Christy Chalmers

AT&T Cable Services is promising $50 million worth of upgrades that will lead to better, more reliable reception for Douglas County and other northern Nevada communities.

Project Manager Cheryl Chernisky will tell the Douglas County Commission about the proposed changes Thursday. She said her presentation will focus on AT&T’s efforts to inform the public of the project, as well as the changes.

“This is our initial contact just to let the (county commission) know what we’re doing,” said Chernisky. “This is basically just to let everyone know there will be construction crews in their neighborhoods, and they may experience temporary interruptions in service.”

Cable television service is a top concern among Douglas residents, who have lodged numerous complaints with county leaders about poor pictures and frequent service interruptions. AT&T Cable inherited the existing system when it merged with TCI Cable in March.

Chernisky said crews are inspecting the system and assessing which improvements are needed. Ultimately, the system will be improved to provide “two-way” service using fiberoptic cable and other high-capacity materials.

“What it’s mainly going to do is improve the reliability (of the system) and open the door for us to offer high-speed Internet service,” said Chernisky.

The Douglas County improvements are part of a $50 million effort to upgrade cable service throughout northern Nevada. Chernisky said AT&T representatives will be using various methods to alert Douglas residents to cable work in their neighborhoods, ranging from door tags and direct mail to advertisements and automated telephone messages.

Barb Shelley, regional communications director for AT&T Cable Services, said the upgrades won’t result in a direct cost to customers, although there may be slight “adjustments” in rates.

“It shouldn’t affect the cost, because it’s just a part of doing business,” she said. “It isn’t like people are going to be told now that we want millions of dollars, but there may be a slight adjustment.

“We are really excited to make this investment in our communities. Everyone will benefit.”

Chernisky expects the improvement work to begin within 30 to 60 days, but she didn’t have an estimated project time because the assessments are not complete. Still, she said residents should have plenty of advance notice when crews begin working.

The announcement of the upgrades coincides with discussions on the company’s franchise agreement with Douglas County. The agreement allows AT&T to be the county’s sole cable provider and use county rights-of-way and other conduits for its equipment in exchange for a fee.

After listening to complaints about cable service in late 1998, the county commission implied TCI, which was then running the system, could expect a probationary period to improve service or face competition from another provider.

Shelley said the impending franchise negotiations did not spur the improvements, a position that was confirmed by County Manager Dan Holler.

Holler said cable officials have been informed of the county’s concerns and demands, but work on the agreement has been idling. County leaders initially said they wanted to review the issue every six months, and Holler said a review is due but won’t happen Thursday.

What: Douglas County Commission hearing on cable TV service

When: Thursday, 1 p.m.

Where: Old courthouse, 1616 Eighth St., Minden.