Residents were able to voice their opinions last week related to Mediacom Delaware LLC’s application to renew its franchise agreement to provide service in areas of Sussex County.
On Oct. 17, Mediacom filed an application with the Delaware Public Service Commission to renew its cable television franchise — currently serving certain unincorporated areas of Sussex County.
Mediacom is the current holder of a 15-year cable television franchise issued by the commission in 2000. The franchise agreement is set to expire on June 10, 2016, but includes a provision granting Mediacom an option to request renewal for an additional period not to exceed 15 years.
The Dec. 4 public hearing held at the Millsboro American Legion Post 28 was attended by area residents, as well as Mediacom representatives and representatives from the Delaware Public Service Commission.
“I know you’re all not here to tell us what a great job we’re doing,” said Carrie Boggs, Mediacom’s government relations manager, to those in attendance.
Boggs said the perception that the company is seeking an exclusive agreement is incorrect.
“It doesn’t prevent anyone from coming into the market.”
She said the company is known for servicing rural communities, rather than metropolitan areas, across 22 states.
The company’s normal monthly capital expenditure is $20 million, equaling approximately $240 million a year, which is approximately $15 of a user’s monthly bill.
“We invest a lot of our money into our company, into our plant, into your service,” she said, noting that the company also offers scholarships to local high school students and sponsors community events.
Pat Hynes, the area’s operations director, said with the digital transition this year mailers were sent out to customers to inform them of the switch. He said in the spring a great deal of traffic was seen in both calls and visits to Mediacom offices, requesting assistance on how to program televisions.
“We planned for it, we expected it. It got to the point where we were getting a lot, so what we did was to try to alleviate that, we flew it techs from other areas in our system.”
Hynes added that Mediacom wants to have a good relationship with its customers.
“We’re here for you. We understand there’s been problems and it’s frustrating,” he said. “We’re all local people. We want to make you happy, give you the best experience you can have with us. With your feedback, with wherever our shortcomings are, to fill those in and do a better job for you folks.”
David Cornish said he attended the meeting because he is pleased with his service.
“I have had absolutely no problem,” he said.
Georgetown resident Jim Malloy said his experience was completely different from Cornish’s.
“My wife and I are both in real estate, the Internet is absolutely essential. We were literally losing customers.”
He added that he feels there isn’t any local response for the poor service, and that his family’s experience is not unique.
Malloy said he was so dissatisfied with calling the company for help and having to wait “no less than one half hour to speak to a human being,” he filed a complaint with the Public Service Commission.
Charles Dorn echoed Malloy’s comments, stating he wants Cornish’s service.
“I’ve been here three years and Mediacom has been nothing but problems,” he said.
“To get service you hang on the phone forever to try to talk to somebody. When you finally get a person you’re told, ‘Oh yeah, we can get out in 30 days.’ That doesn’t make it in this world.”
He questioned why another provider could not be brought into the area to offer cable service to residents.
“If you give them 15 years, what’s their incentive to improve,” questioned Dorn’s wife, Pat. “The Internet is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity.”
Jayne Sheahan said she has had extreme problems with pixilated images, tiling, as well as the change in volume when switching channels.
“I, too, think a limited agreement is what we need, not 15 years,” she said.
Walter Barcus said he was attending both personally and professionally, as he works for an area TV station.
“We get our programming in over fiber optic. We have Mediacom tower site as well as FiOS because we cannot afford to be off the air,” he said. “We’ve gone, to my knowledge, at least four or five months not being able to use Mediacom. We actually paid to have fiber optics run from the pole to the building.”
Barcus also said he was concerned that the agreement allows Mediacom to “redline areas they don’t want to serve.”
“In the current agreement there is a line that says it if there are not at least 40 customers on a road per mile, they don’t have to go down that road.”
Barcus suggested Mediacom be granted a one- or two-year contract, with the caveat that they must return to the state and show how they are making improvements.
Mediacom provides cable television and Internet service to several communities in Sussex County, and the Public Service Commission is currently seeking public comment regarding Mediacom’s franchise renewal application.
A public comment session will be held in the summer of 2015 to accommodate Mediacom’s seasonal customers. Additional information can be found at the Public Service Commission website, at www.depsc.delaware.gov by referencing Docket 13-431.