White Plains, NY — Members of the Board of Legislators spent nearly two hours Wednesday morning probing the response by local internet and telecommunications service providers to outages last month resulting from Tropical Storm Isaias.

At a Committee of the Whole meeting on September 23, legislators questioned John Dullaghan, Director of Government Affairs for Altice – which owns Optimum -- about the company’s storm preparations, storm hardening programs, communications with customers and with local municipal officials, cooperation with power utilities, and plan for customer reimbursements for the service outages.

Representatives from Verizon were also invited, but declined to appear, citing the ongoing investigation by the Public Service Commission into the utilities’ storm response. Although the company said representatives would be willing to appear before the Board after the PSC investigation was complete, Board Chairman Ben Boykin noted his disappointment, saying, “even with an ongoing PSC investigation, Altice is here today, and representatives of both Con Ed and NYSEG came before us earlier this month.”

Boykin said, “During the COVID-19 pandemic, telecommunications access, especially internet access, has become an essential lifeline for Westchesters families and working people. Our new reality, which includes more frequent and more strenuous storms, as well as the need for social distancing and remote work and learning, have placed our internet service providers in a new position, and they must step up. You failed us when we needed you the most.”

At the meeting, legislators insisted that Altice improve communications with customers, municipal officials and power companies whose poles they share. Legislators also requested that the company assign more personnel to Westchester, assign municipal liaisons to work with local departments of public works, improve its provision for backup power generation, and make sure that when there are storm emergencies the company has personnel on hand at the County's Emergency Operations Center.

Dullaghan said the company would be exploring several of the recommended changes. In addition, Dullaghan said that in the past the company’s restoration plan has prioritized commercial customers, but it would consider treating home customers as commercial customers now, given the new realities of people relying on home internet service for working, learning, shopping and socializing.

Dullaghan noted that under state regulations Altice is only required to refund the cable TV portion of a bill when there is an outage. However, he said, the company has agreed to give full credit to all customers who experience outages from the date of the storm through service restoration. Credits will begin appearing on bills at different times depending on a customer’s billing cycle.

To view the video visit: https://westchestercountyny.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=384