ADAMS, Mass. — Residents and town officials are questioning Charter Communications over price hikes and unsatisfactory service.
Charter Communications Director of Government Affairs Anna Lucey fielded complaints and attempted to quell some concerns from town officials and residents Wednesday, however, it was made clear: residents are not happy with the service.
"I think if you want to change to a nationwide price you should provide a nationwide service," Selectman Richard Blanchard said. "Out here, to put it bluntly, the service sucks but we are paying the premium rate."
Although the meeting was sparsely attended, the Selectmen still made their concerns known. One major issue is poor cable reception.
"I hear from a lot of people about the poor cable reception and I have cable and I watch certain shows and at times the voice goes off three or four seconds at a time," Selectman Joseph Nowak said. "You miss the gist of whatever you are watching."
Resident Francie Anne Riley said she also had connection concerns but with her internet, which is unusable in the evening.
"The bandwidth the family can use seems to be strangled down and if I am watching anything around 9 o'clock it freezes," she said. "It never happened before and now I have two different accounts and I can't use them."
She said it only happened after Charter took over Time Warner.
Charter bought Time Warner and another provider for $65 million in May 2016, becoming one of the largest cable and internet providers in the nation. The television and internet services also operate under the Spectrum name.
Lucey took down Riley's address and said although she had no specific issues to report in the Berkshires, Charter is surveying all the cable systems it has acquired from Time Warner.
Selectwoman Christine Hoyt said her concern was access and that although it is an Federal Communications Commission issue for Berkshire County to be tied in with Albany, N.Y., she wished the county could access Boston news channels.
"We are underserved here in the Berkshires with local news and we no longer have a Boston or Springfield news feed," she said. "It becomes an issue when we have major events happening across the state ... like with the Boston Marathon bombing the governor was addressing the state but it was cut for us to accommodate Albany programming."
She added that sports are also an issue and Boston sports often take a back seat to New York sports.
"Although it does not directly affect me it affects a lot of people in the area," she said. "There was no preseason Patriots football and that was hard for a lot of folks to comprehend ... it may seem like a small thing."
Lucey said as a Massachusetts resident she knows it is no small thing and made a note of the concern.
Town Counsel Edmund St. John III also chimed in and said he wished there was more public input when Charter decided to ditch a channel.
He added that Berkshire County should receive the same high-definition channels as the eastern part of the state.
"If you happen to be down in Boston on game day or any other day you can see Channels 4 and 5 in high definition," he said. "For whatever reason, we here in the Berkshires can only see those channels in standard definition. I don't register this as being fair to us being paying customers. We should not be treated any differently."
Other attendees had concerns over the cost.
Cheshire resident Peter Gentile came out from behind the Northern Berkshire Community Television camera to say when his promotional plan ended, he was told his new fee would jump from $103 to $182.
"It is absurd … I was told I could save some money by downgrading my internet so it would be slower and I would lose approximately 30 channels and my bill would only go down $7.75," he said. "This is an impoverished community, this is an elderly community that is getting older and poorer and ... I wish that you would go back to your team and explain."
Lucey said Charter is trying to equalize fees throughout the nation and for the foreseeable future to make this transition easier, former customers can keep their Time Warner packages and switch to Charter when they are ready.
She said residents may see an increase when their Time Warner promotional package ends and they are faced with the full price of the package.
Charter does not offer these promotional packages, Lucey said, which while subsidizing cable bills, did not allow Time Warner to invest in its infrastructure.
"It did lend a problem to infrastructure reinvestment that Time Warner could do, which is one of the reasons why we don't have similar promotional packages that constantly deflate the cable bills," she said. "We want to keep all of our services up to date and continue to reinvest but I understand the sticker shock isn't pleasant."
Lucey said if anyone has any issues they can contact Charter or the town.