Time Warner Cable's newly named Los Angeles executive vice president, Barry Rosenblum, already received a Southern California invitation: a request from Los Angeles' Board of Information Technology Commissioners to appear in person to explain how the operator so poorly executed its system takeover in the city from Adelphia Communications and Comcast.
In a letter from the commission dated March 19, president Dean Hansell wrote that Time Warner has gone from a "model cable-franchise operator" to providing a level of service that is unacceptable.
Prior to the transition, Time Warner had the lowest rate of complaints per thousand consumers in the city. But in an interview, Hansell said complaints have more than doubled. City statistics provided by Hansell showed that Time Warner generated 984 complaints to the city from August 2005-February 2006. The complaint level for the same months in 2006 into 2007 was 1997.
"That's quite an enormous spike," he said, adding that he was especially concerned about a ninefold increase in the number of complaints of busy signals or unanswered calls. As a result, Time Warner lost about 10,000 customers, Hansell said, which is of concern to the city because defections to direct-broadcast satellite services costs the city franchise fees.
The city commission gave Time Warner until April 13 to provide a detailed written explanation of what went wrong the transition, resulting in Internet outages and long hold times, and details on exactly what the operator is doing to rectify the service level in the city.
Hansell also wants Rosenblum to appear in person to address customer-service issues and assure the city that a New York-based executive will be responsive to regulators and consumers.
California is one of the states that are moving franchising authority away from cities, but Hansell said Los Angeles will retain jurisdiction over customer-service issues even after franchise authority over incumbent cable operators moves to the state Public Utilities Commission in 2008.
The city of Los Angeles has its own customer-service regulations with penalties that could be assessed if Time Warner does not improve service.