A settlement between Altice, operator of the Optimum brand of cable television and data services, and 14 municipalities across New Jersey, appears to have been ironed out before the state Board of Public Utilities.
Seaside Heights, one of the municipalities that initiated the administrative litigation, unanimously voted in favor of approving the settlement last week. Seaside Park also was among the 14 communities, with Altice providing cable service to all barrier island communities between South Seaside Park and Toms River’s border with Brick Township. From Brick Township north, Comcast provides cable service.
Altice faced complaints from attorneys representing the communities alleging the company’s service was unreliable, internet speeds were lower than advertised, customer service was poor, and infrastructure was not property maintained. Additionally, residents were said to have gone uncompensated for outage periods. The settlement, embedded below this story, addresses all of the areas of concern.
What’s in the Settlement?
The settlement calls for Altice to to invest a minimum of $11 million in the performance of its New Jersey hybrid fiber optic-coaxial cable, or “HFC,” network serving Optimum NJ customers. The company, based in France, will submit a report on its investments in March 2024.
In terms of direct customer service, Altice field service and outside plant maintenance personnel resources, including contracted personnel, will be required to receive the same training. The company will be required to maintain a publicly-available outage map beginning no later than 90 days after final approval of the settlement, and Altice will implement a text message option for subscribers to receive updates on outages affecting their services and the status of the company’s repairs.
Altice committed to provide credits for outages of cable television service in accordance with state administrative codes, and will have to account for those credits each year in a report submitted to the state. The company will also improve its customer service lines.
“Altice will ensure that, under normal operating conditions, telephone answer time by an Altice customer service representative, including wait time, will not exceed 30 seconds from when the connection is made,” the settlement states. “If the call needs to be transferred, the transfer time shall not exceed 30 seconds. Altice will ensure that these standards are met no less than 90 percent of the time under normal operating conditions, measured on a quarterly basis.”
Regarding trouble with service: “Altice will not charge any subscriber for services that the subscriber has not requested, and Altice will not charge any subscriber for the resolution of technical issues reasonably attributable to actions or omissions by Altice.”
Additionally, “all households and small businesses passed by the Optimum NJ network” will have access to the full suite of Optimum Internet Service tiers currently offered, including the Company’s 1 gigabyte per second (1 Gb/s) Internet product.
The agreement also contains some instructions for the company to launch initiatives to engage low-income communities, and also requires the company to sponsor at least one community event or initiative with each of the 14 towns in the settlement, upon request. The agreement calls for the provider to provide up to $120,000 in total across all communities – approximately $5,000 for communities with fewer than 10,000 households passed and $10,000 for larger communities.
Read the Settlement Document: