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Atlantic Broadband reopens counter service

Cable, internet provider responds to customer demands

Under pressure from the city, Atlantic Broadband on Monday reopened its customer service counter on Beale Avenue, but that wasn’t part of a companywide reopening of service counters — all closed in June because of the coronavirus, a company spokesman indicated.

The reopening in Altoona occurred “after having considered the current needs of our customers (here), and given the precautionary measures we have been able to establish to ensure a safe environment,” Andy Walton stated in an email. Elsewhere, “The needs of our customers will be examined on a location-by-location basis to determine whether front-counter service is necessary. At this time, our front counters are largely closed due to the continued risk from COVID-19 and the fact that alternative, contact-free customer care options are now available.”

Complaints from area residents to the Mirror indicated that those other options hadn’t been satisfactory, especially the call-in option.

Moreover, the city made a case to the company that its franchise agreement required counter service — a service that at least one city official said has always been excellent.

“We are aware that some customers have experienced difficulty when trying to reach us by phone, or who have experienced long hold times in recent weeks,” Walton wrote.

He blamed high call volume due to storm outages, vehicle crashes, the company’s resumption of its policy of disconnecting customers who didn’t pay their bills following a COVID-19-related suspension, plus a surge of customers trying to set up their children for remote learning.

Tropical Storm Isaias caused problems that included disruption of commercial power and infrastructure damage in six states where the company operates, which meant ABB workers needed to wait for power repairs before they could do what they needed with ABB equipment, according to Walton.

Vehicle accidents led to fiber and network facility damage, resulting in “significant outages” that required initial work by power companies before ABB workers could “reattach equipment and restore service,” Walton wrote.

The June 30 end of the Federal Communication Commission’s “Keep Americans Connected (Pledge)” program, designed to prevent people from losing phone and internet service, led to discussions intended “to help customers who are struggling to manage their payments,” Walton wrote.

And the start of school led to “families reaching out to establish service for distance learning and work-from-home,” he wrote.

“We recognize that long hold times are frustrating for our customers,” Walton wrote. “We thank our customers for their patience.”

The company is trying to improve the alternatives to counter service, according to Walton.

There are phone system enhancements, including automated call routing based on speech analytics to minimize the need for callers to make menu selections before reaching an agent, along with an online option for those who had participated in the Keep Americans Connected program, plus expanded “online, self-care, virtual support and other contact-free options,” Walton wrote.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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