Two more eastern North Carolina municipalities have joined the effort begun by Tarboro to get state Attorney General Josh Stein to bring pressure to bear on Suddenlink in regard to repeated and prolonged service issues and an ever-increasing fee schedule.
The Rocky Mount City Council on Monday unanimously approved the sending of a complaint letter while the Ayden Town Council unanimously approved the same action on Tuesday.
It was on Dec. 30 that a certified letter with Mayor Joe Pitt’s signature was sent by the Town of Tarboro to Stein that requested his office conduct an investigation into Suddenlink and Altice’s business practices — specifically connectivity and pricing.
Since that time, Washington and New Bern joined the effort and Tarboro Ward 8 Councilman Tate Mayo contacted Rocky Mount Mayor Sandy Roberson last week before Rocky Mount took action.
Mayo also has been in contact with Greenville Mayor P.J. Connelly in an effort to get that city to join in the effort with Stein’s office.
“David’s chances of beating this Goliath keeps improving,” Mayo wrote in an email to the Telegram. “If we can get Greenville on board, we definitely have a better position.”
Mayo, like many Tarboro residents and businesses, has been battling service and billing issues with Suddenlink and noted that he had experienced about six internet outages before noon on Wednesday.
“Local communities should have a say in the level of service they receive,” he said. “We’ve got to get (state) House Bill 129 rescinded.”
Mayo estimates at least $500,000 per month goes into Suddenlink and Centurylink coffers.
“Our citizens aren’t getting what they are paying for,” he said.
House Bill 129, passed in 2010, removed the authority that local municipalities had over companies such as Suddenlink and CenturyLink. It also singled out Wilson’s Green Light service, which was in the process of expanding into Pinetops at the time.
More recently, the General Assembly again acted to benefit the larger telecommunications companies by not passing the FIBER NC Act, which was supported by the N.C. League of Municipalities.
State Rep. Shelly Willingham, D-Edgecombe, was one of 70 co-sponsors of the bill.
The FIBER NC Act would have eliminated existing state restrictions and increased the authority of local governments to build out broadband infrastructure and lease the fiber to internet service providers. It would apply to counties with 4.7 percent or less of households without broadband service as determined by the Federal Communications Commission.
League of Municipalities Executive Director Paul Meyer has called on the legislature to immediately take up and pass the FIBER NC Act after it convenes.
While Greenville has not yet filed a complaint with Stein, the Greenville City Council on Wednesday heard a proposal from Indiana-based Metro Fibernet LLC to install a $35 million to $40 million fiber-optic network that will provide voice, video and internet services to businesses and residents.
Council member Brian Meyerhoeffer said that the two topics council members get calls about more than any other are city streets and poor internet service.
Council member Will Litchfield said he welcomed competition to the sole internet provider, Suddenlink. Meyerhoeffer and Councilman Rick Smiley both voted “absolutely” when asked for their vote.
Smiley laughed and asked all five council members to make the motion to approve in unison.
Suddenlink is a subsidiary of Altice USA Inc., which was created after the May 20, 2015, acquisition of Suddenlink by Netherlands-based Altice NV. Suddenlink is being rebranded as Altice.
Altice USA is the nation’s fourth-largest provider of cable television, internet access, telephone service and original television content, serving roughly 4.9 million residential and business customers in 21 states.