Cheaper cable television with more and better channels and superior repair service may be in the offing when the parish’s contract with Cox Cable expires in 2007.
That’s when big-player competitors like Time-Warner and BellSouth will get a chance to bid for the job that a lot of officials and residents say could be done better.
Tim Vial, chief administrative officer of the St. Charles Parish Council, says the Cox contract now in effect expires next year, opening the door to other cable providers to take it over.
"We didn’t have an exclusive contract with Cox, so we are inviting other cable companies to come in and provide cable service," Vial says.
According to Vial, cable customers throughout the parish have been expressing concerns about poor cable services since before Hurricane Katrina.
"Complaints to our office, come in on regular basis," Vial says.
"Oftentimes customers were unable to get Cox representatives on the telephone, appointments to schedule for new services took as long as two weeks, the religious broadcast channels were cancelled, and the television guide channel was cancelled."
At a parish council meeting, council members got an opportunity to express their concerns to a representative from Cox Cable.
"In that meeting we asked the Cox representative about getting assistance and providing better services for our residents and we voted to have the television guide channel put back in the television line up," Vial says.
During the meeting, Vial states the Cox representative told the parish council that the television guide channel was not available anymore and that no one in the state could receive it.
"One of our parish council members made a phone call to Cox's main office and found out that the channel was still available, but was not an option for Orleans, or St. Charles Parish residents.
“This was an important concern of our residents who depended on this channel to see what was coming on television." Parish councilmen were outraged at the time.
"What is the motive of Cox Communications to respond with such blatant disrespect for the truth?" they asked in a letter to Cox, stating ‘… we deserve and demand the truth when we request information from our cable TV franchisee.’”
Vial hopes that by inviting other cable franchises to provide service for our area, it will be an opportunity for people of St. Charles parish to "get the rates and services they deserve."
"The only cable alternative available to our community at this point is Direct TV (via satellite), but they do not provide the local parish channels for the residents. These channels are important and assist us in keeping our residents informed about parish meetings, events and necessary emergency information." Vial says he looks forward to receiving proposals from all cable service providers in effort to accommodate residents in St. Charles Parish.
Vial plans to meet with council members in the early part of next year to begin the planning phase of looking at other cable service providers. "We will probably set up committees and hold public hearings as part of this process. At this point the council will decide whether or not to continue to use Cox or to select another cable company."