Tax Watch columnist David McKay Wilson hears from Optimum customers still out of service.
Frustrated with their inability to reach customer service at Optimum online, Westchester County residents still without service six days after Tropical Storm Isaias hit lined up on a Peekskill sidewalk Monday, waiting to speak with someone — anyone — from the cable provider about getting reconnected.
All said they had electricity.
None could get online.
One was a graduate student with a paper due. Another was an elementary school teacher in need of communicating with the school administration. A third was an estate manager working from home.
None could reach anyone from Optimum, the cable company once owned by Cablevision that was sold to Altice USA several years ago.
“We haven’t seen an Optimum truck anywhere,” said Camilly Coelho, a Hunter College student studying online from Katonah, who was there with her father, Jose. “I’m in school, with essays due. I don’t need someone telling me they are sorry. I need a solution.”
Also in line was Chrissy Levee, a second grade teacher at Fulmar Road School in Mahopac, who lives in Cortlandt Manor. She never lost electricity. But her Optimum services have been out since Isaias hit on Tuesday.
“It’s hard to get someone on the phone,” she said. “I figured I’d try here.”
Those who lined up in Peekskill were among hundreds of Westchester residents — or perhaps thousands — still without Optimum cable and internet services, six days after the storm struck. Many remain in the dark about when their service will be restored. While electric utilities responded sluggishly soon after the storm hit, customers later in the week received updates by text or email about progress.
Optimum, however, hasn’t provided much information, customers say.
“There has been zero communication,” said Rodman Reef, a Larchmont-based consultant in the financial industry, who has had electricity since Friday. “In the early days after Isaias hit, the customer service phone would just ring and ring and ring. Then the automatic system would pick up, and then disconnect you. Optimum’s customer service is so bad that it makes Con Edison look good. Think about that.”
Altice spokeswoman Lisa Anselmo said the vast majority of those without Optimum services still did not have electric service. She said that service restoration was hampered by further injury to Optimum lines by clean-up crews that damaged its fiber optic wires when clearing trees that brought down its lines along with the electric company wires.
How many customers are out?
She declined to say how many customers Optimum has in the Lower Hudson Valley but said less than 3% were still without service. She suggested customers communicate with the company through its online portal or monitor its posting on social media. But that advice may not have been of much use to those without internet service.
She said those with electricity restored but no Optimum service may still be out because the electricity that powers the broadband lines comes from another source.
“It could be because the power that feeds the node/neighborhood level in the area comes from a different source than the power that feeds the home,” she said in an email message. “Or, restoring the service may require repairs, as I mentioned, because of downed trees or subsequent fiber cuts.”
She suggested those still without cable service who have electricity to unplug their cable box, and wait at least 30 seconds before plugging it in again. She also recommended that customers use the Twitter platform, and tweet their issue to @OptimumHelp. They can also call 866-950-3278 or visit www.optimum.net/support/outage.
Cable television companies are regulated by the state Public Service Commission, which oversees billing practices, requires rebates on service interruptions of more than four hours, and has regulations regarding programming changes.
Westchester state and local officials had a conference call Monday morning with an Optimum government affairs representative who wasn’t much help either, said Bedford Supervisor Chris Burdick.
“It was a very lame call,” said Burdick. “We didn’t get any information about what the company was doing, where the power was still down. We asked what resources were coming in to help. We heard nothing, nothing, nothing. That’s Optimum.”
Back at the Optimum store
In Peekskill, tensions grew on the Park Avenue sidewalk after an Optimum employee screamed at Coelho when she and her father sought more detailed information about the outage, and when they might have cable and internet services again.
Anselmo has apologized to Coelho and said an investigation is underway by local management.
Interviews with Levee and Coelho after they spoke with Optimum representatives at the Peekskill office found they received no information about service restoration. Coelho said she was told there was an outage in Katonah, but not much else.
As for Levee, there was total disinterest.
“They didn’t even take down my name and address,” said Levee.
Follow Tax Watch columnist David McKay on Facebook or Twitter @davidmckay415. Support local journalism with a subscription.
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