Mediacom, Cherokee's Cable TV supplier which also offers Internet and telephone service in the area, has recently dispatched six technicians to Cherokee to conduct a "line sweeping" exercise reportedly to target trouble spots and/or faulty equipment causing various TV, Internet, and telephone outages and interference plaguing Cherokee for past several years.
According to a Mediacom spokesman, the national company's techs started "sweeping" Cherokee on June 6, and as of Friday, June 10, they have about half the town swept, including everything west of U.S. Highway 59.
Beginning Monday, June 13, the techs returned to Cherokee and will be working east of Highway 59. If all goes well, they say they should be able to finish up the east side of town by the end of next week. If not, it would only be a couple days into the week of June 20 and would not affect many customers.
Mediacom cautions that while this is going on, the video, internet and phone service may be interrupted, "but not for a long time. All customers should be back on at the end of each day."
Mediacom representatives were in Cherokee in May for a public meeting after being asked to attend the meeting by the City of Cherokee to hear concerns from citizens regarding quality and service issues of the large, national Cable TV provider.
Mediacom representative Steve Purcell began that meeting by making a few comments about the company, and its facilities and services provided. He said since they took over the Cherokee cable system from AT&T in 2001, Mediacom has brought fiber optics into town in order to provide Internet and phone service, and increased the number of TV channels from 31 to 68.
Purcell pointed out in May that they have had eight outages in Cherokee since April 2010. He said their system is up 99% of the time and that they can't guarantee 100%. He explained that cable outages aren't always caused by their system failure, but are also caused by power outages, construction mishaps where somebody accidentally severs a cable, etc.
Comments were then received from the approximately 30 citizens in attendance. Complaints included phone service outages when the cable is out; poor quality cable and phone service; very slow Internet speed; frequent TV picture tiling (pixilating); rude and arumentative customer service representatives; the amount of time it takes to get connected to a service representative; citizens having to take time off work to meet a service technician who doesn't show up at the scheduled time; a business who was without phone service for three weeks, who finally dropped Mediacom and now has Qwest; long-time customers who pay continually increasing rates while new customers receive much lower rates; and the inability to get digital because of inadequate wiring.
It was also brought up that there is just one Mediacom technician in Cherokee and he simply can't answer multiple service calls in a timely fashion. They also questioned why there is just one local technician, and why the Mediacom office in Cherokee was closed several years ago, foring subscribers with issues to travel to Storm Lake to see a "live person."
Eikmeier indicated that the dependency on the system because of bundling of services (Internet, telephone) is greater now than in the past. He asked if there are any plans for a backup if the cable is cut between here and Emmetsburg, the central area feeding the Cherokee system. Purcell reiterated that their plant is up 99% of the time and outages are normally repaired in less than an hour.
The Administrator told the Mediacom group that the City has researched other options for providing cable service to Cherokee. Because Mediacom has pursued a State franchise, the City or another provider would have to build their own system at an estimated cost of $9 - $11 million. Federal subsidies are available to communities that don't currently have a provider, so those subsidies wouldn't be available to Cherokee. Eikmeier maintained that it is difficult to get another provider to come into town because of the expense.
The six Mediacom representatives attending that May meeting offered to stay after the meeting and visit with citizens, and take their names, addresses, and phone numbers to follow up on their complaints and issues. Those who did so were told they would be high priority when the technicians came to do the sweeping.
Purcell reiterated that he would do all in his power to help Cherokee Mediacom subscribers solve their problems with cable TV, Internet, or phone service.
Purcell at that time pledged to further investigate and follow up on the Cherokee complaints. "We're understanding what you're saying," said Purcell, "and we'll investigate and keep trying to resolve your problems."
Purcell also said that Mediacom nationwide fields an average of five million telephone calls each month. He did not say what percentage of that staggering number was for Cable TV outages and other problems.