Mediacom hears Millville customer complaints

Facing nearly a full house of residents, Mediacom representatives joined a Millville Town Council workshop to directly hear concerns about service, straight from the horses’ mouths.

The Town of Millville has a non-exclusive franchise agreement with the cable TV, Internet and phone service provider. However, that contract only covers cable television, which was intended as the main topic of discussion.

But many citizens’ problems were three-fold, with numerous complaints of service outages for phone, Internet and television.

“[As a company], we’ve had a frustrating summer,” said Carrie Boggs, Mediacom’s government relations manager. “I know you all have had a frustrating summer with your Internet.”

Half the problem is reaching the call centers, customers said, with long hold times and busy signals, leading to a two-week waiting period to get tech support out to the customer.

Millville public meetings from 2011 and 2013 showed similar displeasure with customer relations and lack of reliable service.

Mediacom has a “non-exclusive agreement,” so another company could come in to apply for a franchise agreement, Town Solicitor Seth Thompson had pointed out in 2013.

When Mediacom had a digital upgrade at the beginning of the year, they admitted that their national forecast for tech support was way behind the actual call volume. Customers needed to install digital boxes to receive all their channels if their system wasn’t already compatible with a new broadcasting format.

All over Delaware, Mediacom had a “huge, huge amount of demand for us to come in and install digital equipment that we mailed and thought customers would want to do on their own,” Boggs said.

Tech employees came from the Midwest and South just to help manage demand.

Freshest in many minds was an Internet outage Monday, Aug. 25, when Mediacom was swapping a major router.

“Everything was going as planned, but software issues” delayed the reboot from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m., said supervisor Dave Rickards. “It’s unacceptable, really. It’s something very unfortunate that should have been invisible to the people.”

Running from Lewes to Ocean Pines, Md., the outage was what Rickards said was one of the largest local outages they’ve had. Although it’s meant to increase bandwidth for customers (which can improve Internet speeds for gaming or streaming video), many residents still complained of slow speeds.

Some other major outages have been related to Route 26 road construction.

Resident Wally Barns referenced the original franchise agreement, in which Mediacom promised “high-quality” service.

“What constitutes reliable … service, and is that what we have gotten?” Barns asked.

In March, Mediacom also trailed in the Consumer Reports’ National Research Center’s annual telecom survey, which Barns called a repeat of previous years’ results.

“Mediacom does not meet the definition of what I would consider … reliable,” he concluded.

Conducting his own ping tests — a test of Internet connections — Barns said, he had more than 100 service interruptions in the last 68 days, lasting from minutes to hours.

Rather than paying penalties, he suggested monthly reports and a service improvement plan.

Richard Shoobridge had already dropped Mediacom for cable television but still uses the other services. He said a call center employee had suggested his router wasn’t working, when Shoobridge knew the outage was more widespread.

“I would like truth from the company when I call up the company and ask them what’s happening,” he said.

“What happens if that phone goes down and I’m trying to call 911? Granted, I have a cell phone, and most people do, but that’s not the point,” said resident Paul DuCott.

Getting frustrated

Repeated Internet, phone and cable television outages are driving some residents up the wall, they said. If they’re lucky, repeatedly restarting the system fixes the problem.

“I was ready to throw my computer out the window, I was so frustrated,” one woman said.” I didn’t bother calling and reporting it, because we know there’s been issues.”

Two hours after his modem was installed, resident Matt Cassera said, he already had tech problems that left him without service for two weeks.

“I called the day it was installed. They would not come out to fix it for 14 days,” Cassera said. “But I still have to unplug and re-plug it four to five times a day. Every day. I don’t even call anymore because I get ‘Did you unplug it?’”

He claims that the “rudest” customer service rep refused to credit his account for those 14 days of lost service. Boggs called that an “anomaly. We are supposed to give credit where credit is due.”

All Mediacom customers are typically eligible for billing credits if they report the service outage quickly and request a credit within 30 days, Boggs said. But credits are given for full days, not just a few minutes or hours.

Most of the complaints aired came from residents of Millville by the Sea and Bishop’s Landing, so Tech Manager Pat Hynes promised to investigate the individual homes when he returned to the office Wednesday, after Coastal Point deadline.

“We have a reporting program that we look at. It tells us if the modems are dropping in and out. I haven’t looked at any of your modems. Something seems to be tied together. I would like some time to look at this,” Hynes said.

Some residents complained about their refurbished equipment, which seemed even less reliable. It’s normal practice to clean, refurbish and test equipment, then return it to the field, Boggs said. But she apologized to anyone who’s been on the “short end of the stick.”

Mayor Gerald “Gerry” Hocker Jr. reminded residents that Internet service is a private contract between Mediacom and customers, not part of the Town’s cable franchise agreement.

Boggs said the Delaware area is “dear” to the company, being part of the growth from a “mom-and-pop” business to national provider. She said Mediacom is the eighth-largest service provider, “small of the big, and big of the small” companies.

Boggs thanked people for their patience. She said maintenance now continues seven days a week; technicians have been pulled from other projects; and 60 new phone staff are about to complete their training.

“We are getting back to equilibrium.” In the next week, Boggs said, she expects customer service to at least return to normal.

Mediacom customers are being encouraged to notify the company about service problems. They can troubleshoot by calling or using Facebook, Twitter and the company’s mobile phone app.

The next regular Millville Town council meeting is Monday, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m.