Not much city can do about poor Suddenlink service, says Magnolia mayorby J.D. Bailey on 08/27/21
Magnolia Mayor Parnell Vann has heard the public’s outcry over the city’s sole cable television provider, but he says he can’t do much about it without significant outside investment.
Suddenlink Communications, which operates Magnolia’s only cable tv and cable broadband service, is the cause of numerous headaches for the city government. The St. Louis-based provider from 2006 to 2016 bought Cox Communications, the former cable provider in Magnolia, and now operates without direct local competition.
Complaints about the company commonly refer to poor service and lack of communication. The cable provider also has no physical office in Magnolia. According to the mayor, these issues have been ongoing and there isn’t much he can do about it.
“My phone has rung for more than a year,” he said. “I know that Suddenlink service is bad. … I don’t have the answer for it.”
One issue that particularly affects Magnolia, is the trouble for local organizations, churches, and nonprofits to directly communicate with Suddenlink to post upcoming events and announcements on channel 13. The station serves as a community bulletin board of sorts for those without internet or smartphones, and often sometimes broadcasts local events.
When a customer does call Suddenlink to complain, they are often transferred to someone in another country, according to social media posts. And since the former N. Jackson Street Suddenlink office in Magnolia closed a few years ago, the mayor said contacting anyone in the company with any real answers is beyond difficult.
"I was once sent to (a call center) in New Jersey, then I went to Nigeria," he said. "...Suddenlink is a hard group to talk to. They’re hard for you as customers to talk to, and they’re hard for us at city hall to talk to.”
On Thursday, the mayor experienced more of Suddenlink’s issues first-hand.
"Today, I tried to watch the news on what happened to our military in Afghanistan, and I couldn’t watch it next door in the fire department," he said during a meeting at City Hall complex. “I wish I could, but there's not much I can do about it."
The problems are not just local. Commenters from around the nation via Suddenlink’s official Facebook page echo similar problems to those in Magnolia.
“Worst Company ever,” said one Texas commenter.
A West Virginia customer was a little more specific in her complaint, but the remarks were still negative.
“Day nine without phone or internet and can’t get any answers,” the commenter said. “I find it unbelievable that not one person can give an update and we are paying for services we are not getting.”
The mayor explained to the people of Magnolia that the city government has zero involvement with Suddenlink as a business, and has virtually no control over their competition.
“We do not, and I do not run Suddenlink,” he added.
Suddenlink is one of the largest cable, phone, and internet providers in the United States. Besides Arkansas, the company operates in markets in Arizona, California, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia. And although the provider pays the City of Magnolia a franchise fee to use its cable lines on public property, the city has no ownership or control over the private business.
Suddenlink is also the owner of the only major cable line network in the city, having acquired the infrastructure after its buyout of Cox Communications. This means the only way for another cable-based ISP (Internet Service Provider) or cable tv entity to enter Magnolia and compete, requires either buying out Suddenlink’s local share or installing an all-new network of cable or fiber-optic lines throughout the city. And with a customer base as small as Magnolia’s, the prospect of such an investment is expensive and somewhat unlikely.
The mayor said Thursday that he wishes another company would enter the market, but he doesn’t know if that will happen. He also noted that many small cable companies have been bought out or absorbed by larger conglomerates, which presents even fewer competitive options to Suddenlink.
“The only way to get away from Suddenlink is if (the city) buys them out and we start providing service -- or another cable company has got to come in a buy Suddenlink,” said Vann.
The mayor also had some harsh words for the cable provider and openly invited in competitors.
“Let me go ahead and upset Suddenlink,” he added. “If you’re out there and you would like to be in the cable business in Magnolia, Arkansas, please give them a call so my phone will quit ringing.”