Special meeting called Friday at state legislature to question Suddenlink on Hurricane Laura response

Special meeting called Friday at state legislature to question Suddenlink on Hurricane Laura response

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Southwest Louisiana legislators are dissatisfied with Suddenlink’s response to outages from Hurricane Laura.

State Sen. Ronnie Johns has called a special joint meeting of the Senate and House Commerce Committees to get a response from the company.

Power restoration crews can be seen everywhere in the hurricane-stricken areas of Southwest Louisiana. But some people say they’ve yet to see a single Suddenlink crew.

Johns says the company’s response is unacceptable. Though Suddenlink provides cable TV, Johns says the problem is lack of internet service, which so many depend on for business, school and disaster relief.

“Without internet service these students have no educational opportunities,” Johns said. “On top of that, you have a lot of businesses here in Southwest Louisiana that are so dependent on Suddenlink for their business connectivity.”

Johns is not the only Southwest Louisiana legislator to address the issue.

State Rep. Phillip Tarver appeared on KPLC Sunrise Wednesday morning and spoke about Suddenlink’s response.

Sunrise Interview: State Rep. Phillip Tarver - Sept. 16, 2020

He and State Sen. Mark Abraham also posted the same information to Facebook about a conference call with Suddenlink.

Johns says he thinks the company never planned for a disaster of the magnitude of Hurricane Laura.

“Personally, I think it’s a lack of manpower,” Johns said. “I don’t think their planning for this hurricane recovery was well planned. I think they’re overwhelmed at the enormity of this.”

The Special Legislative Commmitee Meeting at 1 p.m. Friday will be in Baton Rouge, where Johns hopes to get answers from top Suddenlink officials.

“It’s an opportunity for us to have a very frank, a very candid conversation with the administration of Suddenlink,” Johns said. “The parent company is Altice and we have asked them to bring people of authority to that meeting and we have been assured that they will attend.”

He also wants consumers to receive refunds on their bills.

“If I don’t use electric services I don’t get charged. If I don’t use natural gas services, I don’t get charged. If I don’t use other services, utilities, I don’t get charged,” Johns said. “And we think it’s only fair the constituents here in the State of Louisiana are not charged for the services while their system is completely down.”

Johns says he’s also interested in possibly getting Suddenlink under the jurisdiction of the Louisiana Public Service Commission. His staff is researching whether that would be done at a state or federal level.

But for now, Johns hopes Suddenlink will have some answers and solutions for what many consider to be an epic fail, so far, in recovery from Hurricane Laura.

A representative of Suddenlink was at today’s Calcasieu briefing.

Regional Vice President Robbie Lee says much of their infrastructure was severely damaged and that a lot of rebuilding is needed. He says they are working hard but that it will be a slow process.

Lee says so far 9 percent of customer service, or 4,000 people, have been restored.

He says customers can get a reimbursement credit on their bill if they go online and request it.

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