Phone, cable providers offer credits for outages in wake of tornadoes

Phone, cable providers offer credits for outages in wake of tornadoes

June 1st, 2011 in Business Around the Region

Consumers who lost telephone, cable TV or Internet service following the April 27 tornadoes across the South may qualify for a break on their utility bills for last month.

But to get such credits on your bill, users will need to contact their telecom provider, in most instances, company representatives said Tuesday.

And the most costly utility outages from the storm - the loss of power and related food losses - cannot be recovered from local power companies, officials said.

EPB, which supplies electricity to more than 160,000 homes and businesses and provides high-speed Internet and TV connections for more than 24,000 area customers, was unable to serve more than half of its customers at one point during the worst of the storms.

With more than 500 utility poles toppled or damaged when a series of tornadoes ripped through the region, EPB estimates its storm-related losses totaled nearly $30 million and took crews more than a week to restore service throughout the area.

"We realize that the storms took out not only power lines and equipment, but caused some customers to be without EPB Fiber Optics services for a few days," EPB spokeswoman Lacie Newton said. "For EPB Fiber Optics customers who were without service for more than 24 hours, we are issuing a credit to their account for anything after that time."

With power out for as many as 119,000 EPB customers, the April 27 storms left thousands of power customers without electricity for days. Refrigerated food is usually compromised after 48 hours or more of power outages during the summer.

Newton said power bills will be reduced because of less electricity consumption, but EPB is not liable for damage because of power outages.

"We certainly regret any losses our customers may have experienced but we are not able to reimburse for spoiled food," she said.

Representatives for AT&T and Comcast urge consumers to contact the company if their service was out for an extended period in order not to be charged for days without service.

Cathy Lewandowski, senior public relations manager for AT&T in Tennessee, said the phone company urges consumers with any storm-related problems or questions to call 1-888-757-6500 or visit AT&T retail store locations at 1853 Gunbarrel Road in Chattanooga, 4494 Frontage Road NW in Cleveland, Tenn., and 5681 Highway 153 in Hixson.

"AT&T will work with each customer affected by the storm damage to reach a solution that addresses their specific situation and the impact the storm may have had on their services from AT&T," she said.

Similarly, Comcast spokeswoman Laurie Shipley said the cable provider is offering credits to customers for outages occurred during the April storms and tornadoes.

Comcast customers who lost cable service should use the words "Chattanooga storm damage" and may call 1-800-XFINITY or come by a Comcast office for a credit on their bill.

"Due to the fact that there is 'no one-fix credit' since our subscribers have a variety of subscription opportunities and outages varied in length, we will take their monthly bill, divide by 30 [30 days/month] and based upon the number of days that they were without service, we credit their account," Shipley said.