Frustrated by complaints of shoddy customer service and the recent layoffs of 56 employees, Lexington city officials want Spectrum executives to come to city hall to discuss the city’s mounting concerns about the cable company.
In addition, the city’s legal department is looking at the 2014 cable franchise agreement and a separate settlement to determine if the layoffs in Spectrum’s Lexington office last week were a violation of the franchise or settlement agreement.
But the city has little leverage over the company, which provides cable, internet and phone service in Lexington. Federal regulations say the city cannot mandate how the company does business.
Sally Hamilton, Lexington’s chief administrative officer, sent Spectrum and its parent company, Charter Communications, a letter Wednesday outlining 10 complaints the city wants Spectrum to address, including rate increases without increases in services; customers not being allowed to speak to supervisors; and customers being told they must bring cable boxes to the Palumbo Drive location when the franchise agreement says cable boxes and other equipment can be mailed.
The city has received more than 100 emails this year about the cable company, the letter said. Hamilton asked the company to provide answers both in writing and in person.
Lexington Urban County Councilman Kevin Stinnett said during a Tuesday council work session that in addition to a face-to-face meeting with officials of Spectrum and Charter Communications, the city should also lobby Washington lawmakers to give local governments the authority to better police cable companies that provide poor customer service.
“The federal government does not give us a lot of power locally,” Stinnett said. “We need more control of this. This affects people’s daily lives.”
Councilman Bill Farmer Jr. told the council Tuesday that a former constituent told him that he tried to call Spectrum to inquire about paying with a credit card over the phone, something he was able to do with its predecessor, Time Warner Cable.
The automated phone system told the man that to discuss credit card payments over the phone, he would have to talk to a customer service representative, “which would cost $5,” Farmer said.
Farmer said the 2014 cable franchise agreement requires the cable company to have knowledgeable customer service employees available during business hours. People shouldn’t have to pay to talk to someone, he said.
“This is no way to treat the client and the customers that get service from this entity,” Farmer said. “Folks deserve better than this.
“I will ask for a presentation,” Farmer said. “We need a live human being and if I have to tender $5, I’ll do it.”
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray agreed.
“I have heard lots of complaints,” Gray said. “Let’s invite them.”
Councilwoman Jennifer Mossotti said she had talked to some local officials with Spectrum who promised top brass with the cable company would get back to her.
“It’s been a month now,” Mossotti said. People have been given cable boxes that don’t work. Rates have been raised without sufficient explanation. Channels have been dropped suddenly.
Janet Graham, the city’s law commissioner, the franchise is non-exclusive. There are other cable service options in Fayette County. Others may be coming soon.
“In my opinion, a cure for a lot of these issues is competition,” Graham said. “We are currently looking at perhaps other entries into the market that will foster better services for everybody.”
A representative for Charter Communications did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.