Red Bay officials working on cable issues
RED BAY – Red Bay’s council members were all ears Monday night in the hopes they would receive an explanation for the poor quality of service many Red Bay residents have reported having with the city’s Mississippi-based cable provider, MetroCast Cable Company.
MetroCast’s regional manager, Rick Ferrall, and the company’s regional engineer, Tommy Taylor, were present at Monday’s meeting to try to ease some of the concerns the council expressed in a letter sent to MetroCast a month ago asking for proof of certain services and requesting a MetroCast representative come to personally address the council.
Councilman Brad Bolton told Ferrall that he and other Red Bay citizens had experienced local and premium stations freezing and not being restored for days, which he said was particularly a problem after the April 27 tornadoes.
“After the storms came through, the stations from Huntsville and Birmingham were frozen for five days on the same radar from April 27,” Bolton said. “It would have almost been better if it was just a blank screen instead of seeing those storms. Some of our residents were concerned they couldn’t get up-to-date weather information if more storms came through.”
Ferrall said the cable issues Red Bay residents experienced after the historic storms were simply out of his company’s control.
“Our main fiber optic line was torn down but we had everything back up in 24 hours with the exception of two stations,” Ferrall said. “The reason we were given for why those stations were down is they both had problems with their generators. As soon as we got the signal from the stations, it was back on.”
Ferrall also explained that some of the fiber optic line that delivers the cable to Red Bay is underground but some is aerial, which is the type of cable that was damaged on April 27.
“Really, it just boils down to bad communication on our part,” Ferrall said. “We should have communicated better, but we had damage in numerous locations that we were trying to fix.
“In hindsight, if we had done a better job communicating with you, everyone might have known what was going on with the stations and why they were frozen.”
Council members thanked Ferrall for his willingness to try to improve communications with the city in the future, but they were still concerned about issues that seemed to spring up even when the weather wasn’t stormy.
Bolton said as recently as June 15, stations were frozen again for no apparent reason.
“There was a Facebook discussion that day about the cable being frozen and I know there were at least 20 people involved in that discussion,” Bolton said.
Taylor said several reasons for a station freeze-up could be given such as a bad connector in the customer’s home or a cable that’s been chewed on by a squirrel.
“We get less than one call a day average from Red Bay with problems,” Taylor said. “But if we get called about a problem, we’ll come out and fix it.”
Ferrall added the communication needed to work both ways so his company would know when people were experiencing problems.
“There may have been several people with a problem, but we only received two calls from Red Bay on the 15th,” Ferrall said. “We have someone who is on call 24/7 who can come and fix a problem, but we have to know about it first.”
In the initial letter of complaint sent to MetroCast last month, council members requested to see proof of an agreement between MetroCast and Comcast regarding the fiber optic lines that are now providing stations to Red Bay; proof of all upgrades performed in Red Bay that justified the rate increases as recent as April 1; and proof the city is receiving their signals through the fiber optic line.
“I don’t think it’s too unreasonable to see a contract between you and Comcast,” Councilman David Tiffin said.
“Without this proof there is no way for us to know the fiber optic upgrades were actually done,” Bolton added. “Whenever we get rate increases, we don’t have anything to go back to to tell our citizens, ‘Well, they’ve proved they have the fiber optic lines. It’s there.’”
Ferrall said he would see what he could do about getting some proof of MetroCast’s agreement with Comcast for the fiber optic cable.
“The initial answer to the request for this proof was no, but I don’t have a problem bringing it up again,” Ferrall said.
Ferrall said he would get back to the mayor and council before the next scheduled meeting on August 1.