Cable Operators

Worst and Best of Times in Los Angeles

1/20/2006 7:00 PM Eastern

Since 2002, Adelphia Communications Corp.’s Los Angeles operation has ticked off some major tasks on its “to do” list. It revamped management; upgraded more than 19,000 miles of plant serving 1.1 million customers; went from 70 headends and 70 lineups to six headends and 14 lineups; upgraded its high-speed data product; added new advanced-video products; and improved relations with the city.

And it was all accomplished while Adelphia was riding out the storm of controversy after its controlling family, the Rigases, were accused of defrauding shareholders and the company filed for bankruptcy protection.

“It was like Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities,” Adelphia senior vice president of the California region Lee Perron says. “The worst of the times has been well-documented. But the best of times is when Ron Cooper [Adelphia’s chief operating officer] and Bill Schleyer [CEO] came on board. They made sure we had the money and the resources to turn the system around.”

Adelphia has aggressively marketed the launch of its new products even as it has deemphasized the company’s name. The Rigas scandal, coupled with past service problems made it clear to vice president of marketing Karl Ossentjuk that the Adelphia name was not an advantage with consumers. But if all goes as planned, Time Warner Cable will take control of Adelphia’s Los Angeles properties later this year.

“Knowing Adelphia’s unique given state,” Ossenentjuk says, “we felt it better to promote our products than invest in the Adelphia brand.”

Perron has made customer service a top priority. The company and its predecessors have not shared the best of relations with the city of Los Angeles or its customers. Indeed, Century Communications, which Adelphia purchased in 1999, made headlines in 1990 when it was fined a record $12 million for customer-service violations in Los Angeles.

It’ a different story today. Stacy Burnette, telecommunications regulatory officer with the city’s Board of Information Technology, says that while her office and Adelphia’s local management have always had an open and respectful relationship, things are better than ever today.

“There have definitely been some positive changes since the new management took over,” she says. “They are behind in their upgrade in some areas, but things appear to be well underway now.” Customer complaints have plummeted since 2002 when the city logged over 4,000 complaints against Adelphia. The complaints had dropped to 1,000 in 2005.

Customers Carole and Jim Shakley-Parkman are happy video and high-speed data customers, although they have had problems with local customer service reps in the past.

“Jim and I are very, very happy with the Internet connection and fairly happy with the thousands of TV channels we never watch,” Carole Shakley-Parkman wrote in an email. “When we call they are always on the ball and know how to tell us what we need to do to fix the problem.”

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