Politics & Government

Lexington turns to Kentucky attorney general to resolve ongoing Spectrum complaints

Spectrum commercial had former Lexington Mayor Jim Gray ready to stab his TV

Former Mayor Gray voiced his frustrations with Spectrum cable at a Lexington forum in 2017 and said the city was working on bringing "real competition" to the city's cable TV landscape. Since then, Metronet has been installing fiber-optic cable .
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Former Mayor Gray voiced his frustrations with Spectrum cable at a Lexington forum in 2017 and said the city was working on bringing "real competition" to the city's cable TV landscape. Since then, Metronet has been installing fiber-optic cable .

The city of Lexington has been forwarding complaints from some residents about cable and internet provider Spectrum to Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear since April.

Terry Sebastian, a spokesman for Beshear’s office, said it has received 25 complaints about Spectrum from the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government from April 25 to Aug. 8. Of those complaints, only two remain unresolved.

Overall, Lexington has received about 400 complaints about Spectrum and its parent company Charter Communications since January, although many of those were follow-ups to prior complaints.

“We started to use them as an additional resource because they already have a consumer complaints division,” said Scott Shapiro, Lexington’s chief innovation officer. “We started forwarding complaints that had been ongoing and for those that involved seniors on a fixed income.”

The city’s relationship with Spectrum, which has a franchise agreement to operate in Fayette County, has been strained over the last two years. The city saw a rapid increase in the number of complaints after Charter Communications purchased Time Warner last year. But federal communications law gives the city limited recourse to deal with such things as price increases and poor customer service.

The city took the unusual step of forcing Spectrum to address complaints at a public hearing in August 2017, but officials have since backed off any effort to fine the company.

The city also signed a cable franchise agreement in late 2017 with MetroNet, which has agreed to spend $70 million to wire the city of Lexington for high-speed internet and cable television over the next three years.

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear Timothy D. Easley

Sebastian said Beshear’s office receives an average of 250 complaints a month about various cable and telecommunications providers. The attorney general’s office met with Lexington officials in April about outstanding complaints.

Spectrum has been responsive when the attorney general’s office sends them a complaint, Sebastian said.

A spokesman for Spectrum said the company has stepped up its efforts to address customer complaints.

“In the past year, Spectrum has invested significant time and money in the Lexington area to improve service,” said Mike Pedelty, a spokesman for Spectrum.

Some of those improvements include increasing internet speeds and upping the number of technical support staff in Fayette County, Pedelty said.

Spectrum officials have previously said that many of the complaints had to do with expired Time Warner promotional deals. Spectrum has said it eliminated those types of promotional rates because they can cause confusion.

Cable rates can also go up if cable channels charge Spectrum and other cable carriers more to broadcast their content.

“The majority of complaints we receive about Spectrum are ‘rate increases’ and ‘billing errors.’” Sebastian said. “Usually, the consumers are complaining about the rate increases after a promotional term has ended.”

Other state attorneys general have filed lawsuits against cable companies for deceptive business practices. Most recently, the New York Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against Spectrum in 2017, alleging the company was charging for internet speeds it did not provide. That case is ongoing.

Sebastian declined to comment on whether Kentucky would pursue similar litigation.

According to copies of complaints the Herald-Leader received through the Open Records Act, several Lexington customers have claimed they were charged for internet speeds they did not receive.

Other popular complaints include allegations that monthly cable bills increased without prior notice and that customers were turned over to collection agencies for past-due bills that had been paid.

Any consumer can contact the attorney general’s office with a cable complaint. It does not have to go through the city first, Sebastian said.

“In the case of Spectrum, we have received numerous complaints regarding the company and continue to mediate those complaints. In doing so, this process allows us to work toward resolving consumer issues, while monitoring allegations that Spectrum is engaged in any misleading or deceptive conduct,” Sebastian said.

People can file a complaint at ag.ky.gov or request a complaint form by calling 888-432-9257 and selecting option #3.