Charleston residents soon might have another option for cable and internet service.
CAS Cable has applied to the city of Charleston for a franchise agreement. If a deal is reached, the Parkersburg-based company would compete with Suddenlink to provide cable, phone and internet service throughout the city.
“As a West Virginia company, CAS Cable has always had the goal of helping build better communities by providing great service through cutting edge technology,” the company said in a statement. “With our expansion into Charleston and the surrounding communities, we will be providing industry leading high speed Internet service at speeds of 2 Gigabits per second, HD video options, and advanced communication services along with superior customer service.”
Under federal law, cable television companies must have a franchise agreement with the municipalities where they operate. Charleston has always had contracts only with Suddenlink or its predecessors, city officials say.
“The way that we consume media now, cable and internet are synonymous,” said Councilman Ben Adams, chairman of the city’s select committee on cable franchise. “So Suddenlink is, not the only, but the primary provider of those services — the primary provider of internet and the only provider of cable television to the city of Charleston.”
The select committee was established late last year to review the city’s franchise agreement with Suddenlink and recruit other service providers to the city. Suddenlink’s franchise agreement expires Dec. 3.
The agreement will remain in place unless it’s revoked, city attorney Kevin Baker said. He added that he expects the city to reach agreements with both companies.
Adams said when the committee was announced that he got emails daily about Suddenlink, although that has slowed lately.
“People complain about Suddenlink, and the complaints about Suddenlink center more on service, as opposed to billing or to ... as opposed to actual cable service,” Adams said. “[Customers] get their television fine. But they have problems with Suddenlink, and it usually stems from internet and the [customer] service ... . That’s one of the bigger things that we’ve encountered.”
Complaints about Suddenlink’s customer service are well documented. This summer, the West Virginia Public Service Commission opened an investigation into what PSC Chairwoman Charlotte Lane called its “disastrous customer service problems.” The commission received more than 1,900 quality-of-service complaints about the company, according to a news release.
Earlier this month, Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper testified before the commission, criticizing the company’s alleged poor service and it’s out-of-country call center.
“If Suddenlink used the same ruthless efficiency to fix their service as they do to cutting off your service, we wouldn’t have a problem,” Carper said in a news release.
In a statement, Suddenlink said the company looks forward to continuing its agreement with Charleston and is “committed to providing exceptional service and support.”
“We’ve recently made enhancements to our call platform and have future upgrades planned to ensure customers are receiving timely and expert help. To date, we have seen increases in customer satisfaction due to these investments,” the company said. “Additionally, we continue to introduce new products and service models to provide our customers with more choice and flexibility.”
Adams said that, because of the complaints, getting another company to compete with Suddenlink is a “huge deal.”
According to the city, if an agreement is reached, CAS Cable intends to expand service into North Charleston and the West Side during the first quarter of 2022. It would work to reach all of Charleston thereafter.
CAS Cable will make a presentation to the city’s select committee at its next meeting, which is 6 p.m. Monday in Room 308 at City Hall.
The city will hold public meetings in November and December about each proposed franchise agreement.
The select committee will make recommendations to the City Council, which will ultimately vote on the franchise agreements, Adams said.