Thursday, March 19, 2015

Residents of county in rural Alabama upset about poor Internet service from Windstream

Nearly 500 Alabama customers of rural telecommunications giant Windstream have added their names to a petition complaining about its Internet service in their area, reports WBRC-TV in Birmingham.

Windstream confirmed to the Fox affiliate that there was a known problem for about 700 customers in St. Clair County (Encyclopedia of Alabama map), between Birmingham and Anniston. The largest city in the county is Pell City, population about 12,700.

“I’m told customers are tired of paying for service they’re just not getting,” WBRC “On Your Side” reporter Ronda Robinson reported. Her report includes excerpts from the petition, including comments such as “Slowest Internet ever,” “We currently have no Internet,” and “My Internet service is not high speed at all.” Signatories to the petition also claim that the service has been problematic for “several years” but Windstream has not addressed the problems.

A company spokesman told WBRC that Windstream is aware of the connectivity issues and encouraged customers to report problems to its customer service department. But residents told Robinson they have tried dealing with that department for years, to no avail. And Robinson reported on the alleged problems about six months earlier.

Argo City Council Member Betty Bradley said on camera that the problem is long standing. “After 3 in the afternoon, it’s almost nonexistent,” she said. “It knocks you off. You can’t download anything. It’s just impossible to get on.” Another local resident, Billy Reynolds, claimed he has had problems with Windstream’s Internet service for several years.

This comes about a year after the Georgia Office of Consumer Protection reached a $600,000 settlement with Windstream for alleged false advertising. The office had argued that Windstream advertised Internet speeds that it could not provide or guarantee and that Windstream customer service “misrepresented the time frame within which the customers’ Internet speed issues would be resolved.” The settlement included $250,000 in restitution to the state, which redirected the funds to purchase computers for the Technical College System of Georgia.

Meanwhile, the former CEO of Arkansas-based Windstream, Jeff Gardner, was allegedly ousted in December due to problems of “financial performance and operational performance,” according to a March 17 report in Arkansas Business. In late February, Windstream’s chief financial officer, Bob Gunderman, announced plans to improve broadband speeds in rural areas as part of the “Connect America Fund” program of the Federal Communication Commission, according to a report in Fierce Telecom dated Feb. 24. Gardner’s compensation in 2014 was reportedly $7.4 million, up almost a half a million dollars from the previous year, Arkansas Business reports.

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