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Altice asks for contract renewal at virtual TOW public hearing

WASHINGTON — A public hearing was held on Thursday, Jan. 13, immediately following the Town of Washington (TOW) re-organization meeting, and before the regular January Town Board meeting.

The purpose of the required hearing was to discuss whether the town should renew its contract with Altice to continue to provide its residents with cable television service.

Altice Director of Government Affairs John Dullaghan attended the Zoom meeting, which drew about 16 residents who shared their opinions on the level of service they believe Altice currently provides.

Most town residents who spoke at the virtual hearing did not appear pleased with the cable company’s service. Complaints were lodged concerning the high cost of service, poor reliability, poor communications when problems arise and difficulties reaching the company in times of crisis.

TOW residents who complained said in this current time, during the coronavirus pandemic when so many people are working from home or attending school virtually and relying on the internet, the lack of good access to the internet is a major problem. Concerns were raised that service is often unstable and wavers in and out of connectivity — sometimes town residents said they have no service at all.

Of those who spoke at the Jan. 13 public hearing, some of the Altice customers said they also felt that the services the cable company provide are over-priced, especially considering that service is often interrupted when there is inclement weather and can be disrupted for long periods of time.

Dullaghan listened to all of the complaints and other statements that were submitted during the public hearing, acknowledging that Altice struggles with certain challenges as all cable companies do.

When the Town Board was asked why the town’s cable service provider must be Altice, the answer was simple: Central Hudson owns the service poles, but the cable lines belong to Altice.

To have another company serve the town would mean a new company would have to come in and install new cable lines in the town of Washington. Because this is a rural area with a small population, that would be a hugely expensive project, and simply not financially feasible for most companies to attempt.

Dullaghan announced that improvements are slated within the Altice company, and that as early as 2023 Altice will be applying for a permit to install a fiber optic system.

He said converting to fiber optic will cause some major upheavals while the conversion is in progress. In the meantime, he said that there is a full staff ready to help with service and service calls, including students who are working remotely from home.

As a show of faith, Dullaghan also gave those at the hearing his cell phone number and his e-mail address so they can get in touch directly with him. Town Supervisor Gary Ciferri likewise shared his cell phone number to those present.

The town’s current contract with Altice runs out on Tuesday, Jan. 25, but there’s an agreement to keep service in place until the town can sign a renewal, most likely in February.

Legal notices were published inviting other companies in the territory to bid for the town’s cable contract, but the town didn’t receive any replies, according to Town Clerk Mary Alex. The Public Hearing was adjourned at 7:14 p.m.

The village of Millbrook also gets its cable service from Altice; it signed a contract with the cable provider on June 23, 2015, for a 10-year period (previously the village had contracted with Altice for a 15-year term).

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