Jackson officials file complaint with utility board regarding Altice services
By CHARLES DAYE, Staff Writer - October 16, 2020
JACKSON – Municipal officials have filed a complaint with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) against Altice (also known as Optimum) in regard to service the company is providing to its customers in Jackson.
Township Council members announced the action during a meeting on Oct. 13.
“The town has formally filed a complaint with the BPU regarding Altice. The town has, in my opinion, worked in good faith before filing this complaint. We reached out to the management of Altice months ago in attempts to alert them to the concerns,” council President Alexander Sauickie said.
“These are not new concerns and they did not start with the (coronavirus) pandemic, they were in existence before that. However, we did want to try and do right by Altice and see if we can work through their management,” Sauickie said.
According to the complaint, the concerns regard what municipal officials said is inferior cable television and internet service being provided to customers in Jackson by Optimum/Altice USA under its current franchise issued by the BPU.
The complaint states that Optimum/Altice is seeking to blame the COVID-19 state of emergency for its inability to provide adequate service, however, Jackson officials said the complaints regarding service existed prior to the pandemic.
In the complaint, Jackson officials said the franchise that has been granted to Altice makes no exception for an increased use of its services due to people being confined to their home.
Officials said that despite inadequate service, slow upload speed, poor network connections and the inability to use “DropBoxes,” the firm has not offered or provided a public statement that its fees would be reduced due to its failure to provide adequate services.
Residents have complained about an inability to receive satisfaction when contacting the company’s customer service department and about waiting on hold for hours, only to be told the issues are “temporary” and will be immediately resolved.
Those seeking to address their concerns in person must wait for an extended period of time at an understaffed storefront location, according to Jackson officials.
Jackson officials said they have provided a direct link on the township’s website for residents’ complaints to be directed to Altice, according to the complaint.
Jackson joins Hamilton Township and Robbinsville, both in Mercer County, in requesting the BPU to immediately begin an investigation into the adequacy of services being provided by Altice to its customers.
In addition to filing a complaint with the BPU, “the council is requesting a 50% reduction in the fees that are paid to Altice for the residents going forward,” Sauickie said.
Municipal officials are asking the BPU to push for a 50% reduction in fees charged by Altice to its customers until the company can show it is providing 100% of the service.
Officials in Howell recently took similar action against Altice. Officials in that neighboring town heard from residents who expressed displeasure with internet service that is being provided by the company.
Sauickie told the Tri-Town News this week that Jackson’s officials have agreed with residents for some time regarding the service Altice is providing.
“We admittedly took an approach where we tried, in good faith, to work with Altice’s management. … We took further steps by putting a link on our website to allow residents to file complaints that went directly to Altice. It has not gotten better to the point where we feel they rectified the problem,” he said.
“Altice’s initial response was, ‘Hey, (the service issues are) due the pandemic.’ More people are at home and using WiFi, but our franchise agreement with Altice does not allow for that, meaning it is not an excused reason.
“And frankly, we looked at other providers, like XFinity/Comcast, where they are not having that (service) problem. We can’t excuse it because of the pandemic; if anything, the pandemic is the reason the service has to be what it is supposed be,” Sauickie said.
“In addition to poor internet and cable service, Altice is providing an inferior storefront for the residents of Jackson. The store residents have to go to is an embarrassment. It is a subpar building, with a subpar environment inside,” he said.
“We have heard the residents. We have taken the full action of filing the complaint with the BPU and we have taken the additional action (of asking) for a discount for our residents. We can’t have (customers) paying full price when they are not getting full service,” Sauickie said.
A representative of Altice did not return a request for a comment.