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Bright House customers feel burned by spotty service

If you're a Bright House Networks customer, you're not going crazy.

The audio and video hiccups on cable TV, the silence when you pick up your phone, the problems connecting to the Internet — this stuff has happened to other people, too.

How many of the million-plus customers in Bright House's seven-county service area were having problems? Spokesman Joe Durkin wouldn't share.

Yes, he said, a piece of router equipment affected customers throughout the area for about six hours Wednesday. But unlike utility and power companies, which typically release information about outages, Bright House was mum.

Engineers fixed the network problem as soon as they could, and by 6 p.m. Wednesday "everything was up and working like it should," Durkin said.

But the complaints were still rolling in Thursday.

Alfred Thomas of St. Petersburg said he was still having problems with his cable shows freezing up Thursday afternoon. Penny Geiger of Tampa said she was watching HGTV on Wednesday night when the TV went black. Mike Keough of Tarpon Springs finally disconnected his cable box, calling his cable channels unwatchable.

The St. Petersburg Times on Thursday solicited readers on its Web site, tampabay.com, to share their recent Bright House woes, and more than 60 people e-mailed or called in the first five hours.

So Durkin went back and checked with Bright House engineers again. They were unaware of any further problems related to Wednesday's equipment glitch, he said.

"These folks might be having unrelated issues and their service may need attention," Durkin said. "I would direct those people to contact customer service."

Several customers wondered if the problems, which seemed mostly cable TV-related on Thursday, were related to cable companies' digital conversion, which will take place today.

No, Durkin said, Bright House expects a smooth transition.

Competitors at Verizon had another theory: The fiber-coaxial cable network that Bright House uses has its limitations. Verizon uses a fiber-optic communications network, which can handle much larger amounts of data at quick speeds, spokesman Bob Elek said.

"As far as I know, they're trying to get more and more customers and more data on their network, and it can only handle so much," Elek said.

"Bottom line is, our network is far more reliable. Do we have outages? Yes. But we've never had anything like what Bright House is experiencing."

Durkin denied that theory, calling it spin. The issues that customers have been experiencing before or after Wednesday could be anything, he said.

"Bright House has an incredible, state-of-the-art network that consists of highly advanced equipment, and we all know equipment from time to time has issues," he said. "You'll be amazed at the number of calls we get, and a good number of those problems have nothing to do with Bright House services."

As for the legitimate complaints, he said, they'll be addressed on a case-by-case basis. The company had not made any decision about refunds for customers with problems Wednesday, or what, if any, action to take.

"The focus has been on identifying and correcting the problem, which they (engineers) have done in a timely fashion," Durkin said.

Emily Nipps can be reached at nipps@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8452.

Bright House customers feel burned by spotty service 06/11/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 13, 2009 11:37am]
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