In the absence of a crowd of angry cable subscribers at a public hearing Tuesday, Buffalo lawmakers took the lead in grilling a local Time Warner Cable executive about the quality of the company's service.
Gordon Harp, Buffalo Division president of Time Warner, sought to dispel concerns voiced by members of the Common Council that the cable franchise is indifferent to its customers, seeking to downgrade service and egregiously raising rates.
Tuesday's public hearing was prompted by a resolution sponsored by Michael P. Kearns of the South District and Michael J. LoCurto of the Delaware District. Both said lawmakers had received complaints from Time Warner customers, some of whom say they have waited as long as 30 minutes to talk to cable representatives. Others accused the company of failing to reimburse them for loss of cable service from the October snowstorm.
Harp insisted Time Warner was unaware of any unresolved service issues related to the storm and that the company had effectively responded to every known service issue.
"I actually think we did a fairly reasonable job. The storm happened on [Oct. 13], and everybody was restored by Nov. 3. I think, overall, if I had to redo it, I think it was probably five days too late. I think, operationally, we could have done things five days better," Harp said.
Art Robinson, president of the Seneca Babcock Community Block Club, was the only member of the public to address Harp during Tuesday's hearing, though several other cable subscribers, apparently, had also signed up to speak.
Robinson raised concerns about plans by Time Warner to make the NFL Network an extra-cost premium channel.
"When you took the NFL station off . . . let me tell you, a lot of people were very upset, because we are a sports city," Robinson said. "Provide the service that you're supposed to."
Harp said the NFL Network sought to increase by over 200 percent the fees it charges Time Warner.
Ellicott Council Member Brian C. Davis chided the company for planning to raise its rates in Western New York by about 5 percent, while Lovejoy Council Member Richard A. Fontana and Council President David A. Franczyk expressed concerns about Time Warner's long-term commitment to being headquartered in the city. "One of the reasons why jobs are always mentioned is if 1,000 jobs were to leave this community tomorrow, it would be a major hit. This is not the kind of community that could absorb a 1,000 job loss," said Fontana.
Harp responded: "Time Warner is not reducing its work force in Western New York and has not been since we acquired it."
Time Warner took over the city franchise last year after acquiring Adelphia Communications. The franchise expired more than a year ago, but state regulators have extended the pact through July, giving negotiators more time to finalize an agreement.