Getting help with Comcast issues cited as big problem

By BUSTER WOLFE,

Some complaints voiced by Hattiesburg residents during two recent public hearings on a new cable provider contract were resolved in the current contract that was approved by the City Council in 2011 and expired in 2014.

The hearings, held at the Mount Carmel Baptist Church and the Jackie Dole Sherrill Community Center, were held by the city’s Cable Advisory Board for public discussion of Comcast’s performance while the City of Hattiesburg is in negotiations for a new cable contract.

Comcast, which has been providing cable service to the city since the three-year contract expired, drew criticism from most speakers because of the lack of local help in resolving cable problems. The 2011 contract provided for local service aid.

“(Comcast) shall maintain a convenient Local Customer Service Center and billing or payment office physically located in the City for receiving Subscriber payments, handling billing questions, subscription additions or modifications, bill dispute resolution, and equipment exchange,” the contract states. “(Comcast) shall establish a local phone number which shall enable Subscribers to contact Comcast during Normal Business Hours and shall public this local phone number on its bill.

“The Local Customer Service Center shall employ persons capable of answering questions, accessing customer accounts, making changes to customer accounts and trained to resolve disputes.”

The contract called for the local representative to contact someone who could resolve the question and – if not answered on the same day – to provide a work order or other written confirmation of how the issue will be resolved. Customer Comment Cards were also to be available in the Local Customer Service Center.

Sandra Payne, one of the first speakers at the first public hearing, said problems exist when trying to get answers.

“Comcast is a wonderful product until you have problems,” she said. “Once you have problems, you get thrown to the 1-800 people and all hope is lost.”

Another standard included in the 2011 contract included a wait time of no more than 30 seconds before a representative answers the phone. That was supposed to be met at least 90 percent of the time, with a busy signal only 3 percent of the time.

Anna Revies said she had problems with getting answers to her questions after calling the toll-free telephone number for service.

“I have laid the phone down, gone to the store, come back and nobody is on the phone,” she said. “It is not fair and it is not right that you have to pay all this money for bad service.”

Among other complaints by individual customers included the duplication of channels, the lack of more free premium channels through Xfinity, too many music channels and having Hattiesburg television channel WDAM broadcast both ABC and NBC programming.

Ronnie Colvin, Comcast senior director of external affairs, provided a five-minute overview of the cable system and what improvements and services were available. He said the technology has become advanced.

Comments may be written or given orally during the public hearing. Written comments may be sent or delivered to City Hall, First Floor, Department of Urban Development, 200 Forrest St., Hattiesburg, MS 39401. The written comments will then be forwarded to the Cable Advisory Board members.

For additional accommodations, including alternative formats for those with visual and hearing impairments, please call (601) 545-4598 or email kweeks@hattiesburgms.com. Requests should be made at least two business days before the hearing.