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Bright House Networks subscribers vent over service after outage

One day after a widespread outage Tuesday, a spokesman for Bright House Networks said it had largely restored TV, Internet and telephone service to its more than 1 million customers in the Tampa Bay area.

But some people weren't buying it.

Ken Cunningham spent much of Tuesday and Wednesday calling Bright House customer service by cell phone, trying to get his online access and telephone service restored. Though a technician repaired the problems Wednesday evening, he was still determined to switch to rival Verizon FiOS.

"It seems that they don't always know what's going on," Cunningham said about the company's customer service representatives; his service was eventually restored after connecting with customer service late Wednesday afternoon. "It's frustrating because when there's problems, you lose everything."

The cable provider struggled Tuesday with widespread service outages that affected customers throughout the Tampa Bay area, cutting off telephone services (including credit card verification machines), Internet access and cable TV, including transmissions of its in-house cable news channel, Bay News 9.

Spokesman Joe Durkin blamed the problems on a "software bug" that began affecting systems, including Bright House's own phone lines, about 10:40 a.m. Tuesday. He declined to provide details on how the outage occurred and could not say how many of its customers were eventually affected, though the company said full service was restored about 5 p.m. Tuesday.

But on Wednesday, customers were still complaining of service problems and difficulties getting through to operators on customer service telephone lines.

George Harper said his 81-year-old mother lacked phone service into Wednesday evening at her home in Sun City Center, where other residents have similar complaints. Eventually, Harper gave her a cell phone so she could reach someone in an emergency when repeated calls to Bright House customer service would not go through.

"These people don't have any instructions on how to fix things and you can't get through to ask questions," said an exasperated Harper, who went to a Bright House office on Falkenburg Road in Riverview on Wednesday morning, but left because the line of customers waiting for help was too long.

At the Dolins Garden Center in St. Petersburg, owner Donald Prahl e-mailed the St. Petersburg Times in frustration Wednesday when he was unable to reach a Bright House representative by telephone or e-mail.

Prahl, who lives across the street from his business at 62nd Avenue N, had telephone service at home but no phones at his business. By 3 p.m. Wednesday, he had gotten a call from Bright House after a Times reporter alerted the company.

Prahl's problem: He hadn't rebooted the modem in his business when service was restored Tuesday.

"We probably could have had service yesterday afternoon if someone would have just told us how to fix it," said Prahl, who received a week of free service from Bright House for the inconvenience.

Bob Elek, a spokesman for rival Verizon FiOS, said its call volume had jumped 10 percent since Tuesday. "We're definitely hearing from people that they're having problems getting through to Bright House customer service, even today," Elek added. "They couldn't get a real sense of what was going on."

Durkin said Bright House was focused on taking care of its customers, not the competition.

"Our customers were inconvenienced and disrupted, and for that we apologize," he said. "We've also heard from customers who applauded our efforts. … Many were understanding and patient with us, because of their history with us."

Bright House Networks subscribers vent over service after outage 09/07/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 7, 2011 10:48pm]
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