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The Victoria City Council wants Suddenlink to understand how dissatisfied the community is about the cable and internet provider.

“It is a disaster,” Victoria resident James Dodson told the council Tuesday night. “It is a disaster of their own making, and we, as customers, should not have to put up with that.”

Four residents expressed their complaints about Suddenlink to council members, including Dodson, who said he’s struggled with poor communication and customer service issues with the company.

Councilman Jeff Bauknight raised the issue at a council meeting in early October, saying he’s been receiving many complaints lately about internet service, call wait times and “everything else” provided by Suddenlink.

No Suddenlink official spoke at Tuesday’s meeting.

Victoria resident Silva Silvano also shared his complaints. He said in the years he’s had service with Suddenlink, his cable bill has increased from $60 to “well over $210, and the service is terrible.”

“We’re between a rock and a hard place,” he said about dealing with the company.

Thomas Gwosdz, the city’s attorney, led the conversation about the city’s connection to Suddenlink and shared what the council and community members can do to address complaints.

First, Suddenlink staff said they recently changed to a new system and are aware that there have been customer service issues, Gwosdz said, and the company is working to resolve those issues.

City Manager Jesús Garza said he has been communicating with higher-ups within the company to see what is going on.

He said the change was in regards to Suddenlink’s billing system and customer service software program, and though the company increased staffing levels to account for challenges, “the challenges were far greater than what they had anticipated.”

Second, Gwosdz explained, there is a misconception by many residents that the city regulates cable or internet services in the city, but it does not. He said while the city used to have a franchise agreement with Suddenlink, it does not anymore.

Cities in Texas are prohibited from regulating cable TV through local franchise agreements because that authority was taken away in 2005.

At that time, the franchise agreement the city had with the cable TV provider was grandfathered and remained in place until 2014.

After the agreement expired in 2014, the city has had no authority over the company.

“And we do not have regulatory authority to influence their business practices in any way,” Gwosdz said.

Gwosdz also said he wanted to dispel the notion that Suddenlink has a monopoly in the city.

“I think it’s important to note that there are multiple internet service providers in Victoria, there are multiple television providers in Victoria, there is multiple ways for customers to get the services they’re looking for,” he said. “Suddenlink is not a monopoly in this community.”

Gwosdz spoke on behalf of Mayor Rawley McCoy, who was not present at Tuesday’s meeting, saying McCoy urged him to ask the council to take a “firm stance” in letting Suddenlink know about residents’ dissatisfaction.

McCoy asked Gwosdz to draft a resolution that the council could adopt that would express the dissatisfaction with the service being provided to the community.

That resolution could then be forwarded to representatives such as State Rep. Geanie Morrison and State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst as well as the Public Utility Commission of Texas, to make sure they are aware of the community’s dissatisfaction.

Also, Gwosdz said that at the next council meeting, he will bring a franchise agreement with Victoria Electric Cooperative to the council members for consideration. The new agreement is for broadband internet services, and would allow the company to provide internet services throughout the city.

The city would be able to enter into a franchise agreement with Victoria Electric Cooperative because the company is an electrical provider, whereas Suddenlink is considered a cable TV provider, which provides internet services as well, Gwosdz said. Cities are able to enter into franchise agreements with electrical providers.

Bauknight said when he originally brought up the issue he wasn’t worried about the customer service side of things as much as having a product he is paying for that is consistent at his house or business.

“I encourage us to keep pushing,” he said.

Also on Tuesday, Victoria City Council heard from Gwosdz about Victoria County’s plans to craft a new ordinance to strictly regulate game rooms in the county.

Victoria County commissioners in October discussed creating an ordinance to regulate game rooms, a conversation that came as a result of new House Bill 892, which repeals a section of the Local Government Code that limited game room regulation to a handful of metro Texas counties.

Victoria City Council in 2015 passed an ordinance regulating game rooms within city limits, and strengthened the ordinance in 2018 by adding permitting requirements. After that happened, the number of game rooms in Victoria dropped by 90% overnight, Gwosdz said.

At the commissioners’ meeting, it was agreed that it would be wise for the county and city to work together when crafting an ordinance to best consider the community at-large.

Gwosdz brought the conversation to council members Tuesday, recommending that the city support the county’s adoption of an ordinance; continue collaboration on an effective county ordinance; adopt a moratorium on new game room permits; and repeal existing city game room regulations once the county enacts an ordinance.

Gwosdz said he has asked the county to act “urgently,” and after receiving the council members’ approval, said he will bring back a moratorium at the next meeting.

Morgan Theophil covers local government for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6511, mtheophil@vicad.com or on Twitter.

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