ROBBINSVILLE, NJ -- The New Jersey Division of the Rate Counsel has asked the state's Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to press forward on an investigation into Altice's, also known as Optimum, ability to serve its customers. The request comes just weeks after the BPU held a hearing precipitated by complaints filed by, among others, Hamilton Township Mayor Jeff Martin and Robbinsville Township.
The Rate Counsel, Stephanie Brand, issued a report on March 23, just a week after more than 100 elected officials and members of the public voiced their concerns during the six-hour hearing, asking the BPU to "proceed with an in-depth investigation to assess the functionality and capabilities of the Company’s network/infrastructure and its business practices."
Altice representative Marilyn Davis testified at the hearing saying it is the goal of the company to provide reliable service and a positive customer service experience. She added that “2020 provided unique and unprecedented challenges” particularly as “broadband demand grew suddenly with a shift to remote learning and work.” Davis also noted that the company saw an average increase of broadband use of 40 percent per household. Optimum provided approximately $17 million in debt forgiveness for their customers despite their increase in usage.
The Rate Counsel's report noted that Altice reached a $72 million settlement in New York to improve storm resiliency which included $3.4 million in credits to New York customers.
"Rate Counsel stands ready to work with the Board, the Company, the townships and other parties and stakeholders in a process that allows the Board and parties to discuss specific regulations; metrics; best practices; and examine the cause(s) of the service quality and customer service issues raised by customers, to assist in the development of a plan that provides a path in ensuring that safe, functional and reliable service is restored and maintained," the report read.
A deep-dive investigation, according to Brand,"will allow the Board to make an informed decision and issue targeted directives to assist Altice in resolving service issues and eliminating the apparent unfair business practices throughout its service footprint."
In addition to Hamilton and Robbinsville, several towns across the state -- Dunellen, Sayreville, Green Brook, Howell, Jackson, Montville, North Brunswick and Piscataway --have filed complaints with the BPU about Altice.
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