Complaints about TCI may be directed to County Commission Dec. 5 |

Complaints about TCI may be directed to County Commission Dec. 5

by Merrie Leininger

Douglas County residents will have a chance to voice their concerns over cable service during an upcoming inquiry by the county commission.

Problems with TCI cable have led to an formal inquiry before the Douglas County Commission decides to approve the franchise with the company again.

Commissioner Kelly Kite said the inquiry is a result of complaints of unresolved problems from county employees and residents.

Kite said the county can’t deny TCI the franchise unless it can be proved TCI has repeatedly ignored customer service issues and violated the agreement with the county.

“We maintain they haven’t really abided by the agreement,” Kite said.

He said county road department employees have complained for a year because of exposed cables in ditches and culverts. He said exposed cables have even caused flood control work to stop.

“This has been going on for over a year and hasn’t been taken care of,” Kite said.

Complaints from residents about cable service will also receive serious consideration by the commissioners, he said.

Commissioner Jacques Etchegoyhen said at the last commission meeting, about 30 people showed up to complain about the customer service.

n Lacking service. “Even if the quality is awful, there is no reduction in their bill,” he said. “Service is lacking.”

The county decided to proceed with a formal inquiry rather than the shorter informal inquiry.

“The informal process would just include a hearing or two and then the county commission would have passed it,” Etchegoyhen said. “The formal inquiry is more in-depth, we will be looking at specific levels of service, what happens when there is a quality problem. We will take more time looking at the issues. The commission felt the time would be well spent.”

Kite said public meetings on the subject will be set by the county manager.

He said the commission is required to begin the review process 36 months before the 2001 expiration date. He said he believes they will be done by that date, but isn’t sure how long it will take.

Kite said county residents should be aware the agreement is a franchise, not a contract.

“In a franchise, we charge for them to put their facilities in county easements and right-of-ways. The only way we can refuse them is if they did not act responsibly in installation and maintenance in our right-of-ways and easements,” Kite said.

Etchegoyhen said the commission cannot regulate the cost of cable, or what channels they carry. The agreement with one company, however, does not mean another cannot come into Douglas and compete with TCI.

“If someone else wants to come in and put in cable they could do that tomorrow. However, it is expensive and difficult to get a foothold,” he said. “But I know the county would be very open to that. It could take a very long time to work this agreement out. And if we can’t come to terms, who knows.”

n Inherited problems. TCI General Manger for Northern Nevada Carol Eure, said the company is attempting to deal with the many problems left to them by the preceding company, Columbia Cable, who had the franchise agreement with them.

“We acquired the system in 1995 and there have been several instances that cables were found were they were not appropriate,” Eure said. “We have been working on it all year long. It is an on-going process.”

Eure said TCI is very eager to settle any problems customers may be experiencing.

“We do admit we have some service problems,” she said. “I am working with the ones that did show at the county commission meeting.”

She said if any customers feel their problems are not being addressed by calling the regular customer service number, they can ask the representative to transfer them to her office.

For help, call 882-2136.

Naomi Menkin, an Indian Hills resident who was at the commission meeting, said she has had problems solved by Eure since the meeting.

“They’ve been playing around with it since that day. We have gotten back the two channels that went out without explanation,” she said.

However, she said Eure told her the reason they went out in the first place was because the Menkins did not call to reinstate the channels, something Menkin denies.

“I called three times. We even got the bill increase,” she said.

She said the reception is theremaining problem now, highlighted by a visit to family in San Diego last week.

“It was crystal clear like being in a movie theater,” she said of her brother-in-law’s reception. “When we came home yesterday it was like snowflakes. I have a feeling it’s as good as it’s going to get. I’m not anticipating any serious improvement. Everybody on the block has had the same problem.”

Menkin said the commission should require TCI to pay stiff penalties for repeated service problems.

She admits problems might have stemmed from the previous franchise, but is angry that the problems have continued for the two years TCI has been in control.

“Columbia was worse, but I am not getting straight answers out of TCI,” Menkin said.

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