BUCKHANNON - Local Suddenlink customers who want to sound off about the cable and Internet provider's service are encouraged to attend a public meeting Monday, city officials said recently.
Buckhannon City Council, the city's TV/Cable Board and Suddenlink officials are convening for a joint meeting slated for 7 p.m. at Buckhannon City Hall, 70 E. Main St., to discuss several issues that have arisen recently.
"We will have a combined meeting of the city council and TV Cable Board at 7 p.m. on Monday," City Attorney Dave McCauley announced at City Council's Nov. 21 meeting.
"The cable reps were wanting to meet at 5 p.m. or 5:30 p.m., but after talking with a number of you, we want to give our citizens who have issues with Suddenlink the opportunity to be able to attend the meeting as well."
The meeting's agenda features two items - "discussion regarding Suddenlink franchise renewal with the city of Buckhannon" and "request for consideration of a ROW (right-of-way) for cable path by Suddenlink."
Suddenlink's rates and channel offerings have been an ongoing topic of debate at Buckhannon City Council meetings over the last several years, with several council members saying that residents frequently call them at home to complain about the company.
The most recent issue regarding Suddenlink surfaced at council's Nov. 7 meeting, when city engineer Jay Hollen informed council members that the company had installed a fiber-optic line along the border of the city cemetery without municipal permission - and without offering the city any consideration, or payment.
Suddenlink officials were supposed to receive an executed right-of-way agreement from the city before proceeding, Hollen said, but installed the line prior to receiving the document.
Suddenlink officials told The Inter-Mountain the fiber-optic line is intended to prevent outages that would have otherwise occurred.
One day after the right-of-way discussion took place, Suddenlink's director of government relations, Michael Keleman, drafted a letter to city officials informing them that rates will rise with the start of the Dec. 10 billing cycle.
According to the letter, which was provided to the media Nov. 21, the cost of Basic Cable Service will increase by $1 per month, and the cost of Expanded Basic Service will jump by $2.50 per month. The letter also notes that there will be a $1 per month hike in premium services and all digital tiers - and states that Suddenlink 15 and 30 megabit Internet service will increase by $3 by per month.
"While we pledge to hold prices as low as possible, we continue to face the rising costs of TV programming, equipment, insurance, and other expenses," Kelemen wrote in the letter. "Suddenlink is absorbing a portion of these cost increases and passing along a portion to customers."
At the last few council meetings, McCauley has reminded council that the city's franchise agreement with Suddenlink expires on Dec. 31, 2014. The sooner city officials begin negotiating with the cable and Internet provider about the terms of the franchise agreement, the more favorable the outcome is likely to be, the city attorney has said.
Council members are urging residents to voice their opinions at Monday's meeting, rather than simply post them on social networking websites.
"I just want to encourage everyone's attendance when our cable friends come to see us," Councilman John Waltz said at the Nov. 21 meeting. "We're going to have a real, live chance to make a difference with something and tell people what we think instead of using message boards. We're going to be dealing with real people."
Contact Katie Kuba by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at IMT_Kuba.