Mayor puts Mediacom on notice: Get better, or we’ll compete with you

Published 2:04 pm Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Mayor Earl Johnson would like to put Mediacom on notice.

The cable and Internet company has a franchise agreement to operate in the city, but that doesn’t mean the city can’t compete with them. And if conditions don’t improve, that’s exactly what he intends for the city to do.

“For the entire time that I have been mayor, I have not received as many complaints about anything as I have received about the cable and broadband service from Mediacom,” Johnson said Tuesday during the city council’s meeting. “Whatever it is that they’re doing here, they need to make some changes.”

Mediacom acquired Andalusia TV Cable in late 2016, and has been working on the system for more than a year. Doug Frank, Mediacom group vice president for the coastal region, told The Star-News in December the company was in the process of rebuilding 100 miles of cable, and expected to be able to deploy 1-Gig service within six months.

Initially, the company maintained customers’ original Andy Cable packages, but in January, began transitioning to Mediacom packages. To deploy the new service, Mediacom is sending technicians to install new cable boxes, and in some cases, new modems, to its customers.

But customer complaints have been so loud, the mayor said, and ample broadband is so key to the ability to conduct business, the city might need to become an Internet provider for the good of local businesses.

“(Mediacom) operate(s) here because we let them,” Johnson said, referring to the franchise agreement the company has with the city. “As a city government we can’t tell them or make them do anything. But we can locate someone who is an expert on broadband and Internet who can tell us what we can do.”

Competition has always improved service, he said.

“Cities like Opelika have dealt with this problem before,” he said. “We could meet with the mayor and their technical support team and compare notes.

“This city will not grow or attract businesses and industries that we want here unless they can be assured the broadband and television services that are necessary to run a business,” he said. “A lot of businesses, if they don’t have broadband, it shuts their business down. It’s a serious thing.”

Johnson said he has met with Mediacom officials to address his concerns, but the service has not improved.

“I don’t know of anything else to do but to start asking questions and find out,” he said. “We need enough broadband to provide our people with what their needs are and we don’t have it right now. People are paying for services that they are not getting them.

“I want to see if there is something we can do,” he said. “It’s our duty to look into it.”

Johnson said he believes the city’s utilities department could easily become a broadband provider.