Charter to step up notification efforts for future cable outages

Charter Communications will step up efforts to notify subscribers about future cable outages following a glut of complaints stemming from this week's continued service interruptions, the cable company's general manager said Thursday.

All 65,000 of Charter's San Luis Obispo County customers lost cable and Internet service early Tuesday morning as the company worked to upgrade its operations systems. The improvements were the first in a three-phase process to consolidate its satellite hubs from outlying communities to a central site at its San Luis Obispo headquarters.

By Thursday afternoon, many customers told The Tribune they were still experiencing interruptions that lasted from a couple hours to several days.

San Luis Obispo resident Paul Marcotte said he has been unable to access the Internet from his home since Monday night.

The retired building maintenance professional said he relied on the service to keep in touch with property managers hired to keep tabs on a home he owns in Palm Desert.

"I don't know how much e-mail I've got that I'm not responding to," Marcotte said.

Marcotte, who worked Thursday with a technician dispatched to correct the problem, said he had begun to research competing services such as the AT&T dial-up connection.

The cable company sent mailers and took out television, newspaper and radio advertisements weeks before the outage to alert customers to the planned outage, said Vice President and General Manager Edward Merrill.

That effort did not appear to have worked. By Thursday afternoon, Merrill said, Charter had fielded about 700 customer complaint calls and continued working with subscribers such as Marcotte on a case-by-case basis.

Merrill said he did not know how many customers continued experiencing service disruptions.

But, he said, the spate of complaints has prompted the company to re-evaluate its notification process as it prepares to launch the project’s later phases. Future efforts will include sending additional notices to remind customers immediately before planned outages.

"Clearly, it wasn't enough," Merrill said. "We thought we were very aggressive in our campaign but it doesn't appear to have really gone that well."

-- Stephen Curran