Charter’s special, secret number

Published 11:21 pm Wednesday, June 24, 2009

When people in the rural and northern parts of Suffolk talk about the downtown area, they often wind up complaining about the perks that downtown businesses and residents get that they don’t share — things like trash pickup multiple times a week, nearby fire and rescue services and the like.

One thing many of those folks probably don’t realize is that they’re a generation or two ahead of downtown in terms of the media that’s available to them. Just 5 percent of the businesses and residents occupying spaces downtown have Charter Communications cable, Internet or telephone service.

That’s not because they all love satellite television, or even because they’re hot on all the new stations they can get with their government-subsidized digital television converter boxes. They don’t eschew fast cable Internet service out of a fondness for the “modem song” played by those old dial-up telephone modems.

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Actually, as it turns out, many of the 95 percent of downtown occupants who go without Charter service do so because they just can’t get it — or at least that’s what company representatives have told them.

When they’ve called the company’s widely publicized toll-free telephone number, many of those folks have been told that the company doesn’t offer service downtown because of the cost or running the lines that would be necessary. “Sometimes you have to bore through parking lots and things of that nature,” Charter business representative Audra Taylor told the Downtown Business Association on Wednesday.

Taylor offered a solution: Call her at 539-0713, and she’ll try to figure a way to set things up for a reasonable cost. Folks downtown could be excused for wondering why they needed a special, semi-secret password to get the same level of service that citizens around Suffolk get with a simple phone call. It would seem sensible for Charter representatives answering the toll-free number to have had access to Taylor’s number and to have shared it with folks downtown.

Charter Communications has long been subject to ridicule by Suffolk citizens from all over the city. The situation with downtown service is one good example of how the company helps to earn its place as the object of that ridicule.