October 30, 2020

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Hamilton, Robbinsville mayors demand BPU investigation of Optimum internet service provider | News

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HAMILTON — Enough is enough. Numerous customers of Optimum telecom service in Robbinsville and Hamilton...

HAMILTON — Enough is enough.

Numerous customers of Optimum telecom service in Robbinsville and Hamilton are complaining of poor service, prompting the mayors of both townships to demand an investigation.

“Both municipalities’ residents have experienced similar, unacceptable issues and a lack of timely remediation from Optimum,” Hamilton Mayor Jeff Martin said Tuesday in a press statement, adding he and Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried “will fight for our residents by partnering together on this issue and hope that by doing so it will provide for a stronger likelihood of these concerns being taken seriously by the state.”

Fried in a statement said Optimum has “failed” in its duty to furnish safe, adequate and proper service for its customers, adding, “We should not have to continuously pressure this provider to do its job.”

Attorneys for both townships sent letters to the New Jersey state Board of Public Utilities last week asking BPU to commence an investigation into the Optimum brand telecom service as provided to frustrated customers in Robbinsville and Hamilton.

Optimum is a flagship brand of CSC Holdings LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corp., which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Altice USA Inc., a publicly traded corporation that generates billions of dollars in annual revenue.

Under the corporate structure, CSC Holdings provides broadband communications and video services in the New York metropolitan area under the Optimum brand name.

Optimum customers here in Mercer County have complained of price gouging, unreliable internet access and poor customer service, among other issues, according to complaints cited by Hamilton and Robbinsville townships.

“Internet Service has gone from already horrible to almost laughable,” a customer complained, according to the Robbinsville special counsel Anthony R. Francioso’s BPU letter dated Aug. 24. “Unresponsive to problems. Left on hold for hours, and never get return calls. For many in Robbinsville, they are the only service in town.”

“Since Altice took over,” another customer complained, “it has been the worst at customer service.”

Elissa Grodd Schragger, Hamilton’s law director, cited several complaints in her letter to Lawanda Gilbert, director of the BPU’s Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications.

One of the complainants talked about an extensive service outage in Hamilton Township.

“As we are still in the COVID-19 crisis,” the complainer said, “Optimum’s service outage has not only deprived us of our main source of news and entertainment (cable TV), but also made it virtually impossible for us to communicate with the outside world or work from home (cable internet).”

The resident who complained of the Altice takeover, however, said Optimum’s customer service “has been bad for about five years,” well before the coronavirus pandemic placed New Jersey under an ongoing public health emergency.

BPU is the state agency with authority to oversee regulated utilities like Optimum, and BPU may initiate investigations, convene public hearings and decide what action to take, if any, if and when it finds a utility has violated its basic duty to provide safe, adequate and proper service.

Janet Meahan, an Altice USA spokesperson, said the company is “committed to delivering reliable service” to all Optimum customers.

“We have longstanding relationships with the townships of Hamilton and Robbinsville in delivering advanced connectivity services to local residents and businesses, from investing in our network to deliver faster broadband speeds to launching new products like Altice One and Altice Mobile,” Meahan told The Trentonian on Tuesday via email. “We are committed to delivering reliable service and support to the communities we serve and look forward to working with the local mayors and councils to address these customer matters and any other concerns.”

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