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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Customers claim long waits, service interruptions during digital conversion

  • Rocker Tom Petty once sung about how waiting is the hardest part. This sentiment could be true for Allegiance Communications customers as the company has been transitioning them to its upgraded digital telecommunications system.
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  • Rocker Tom Petty once sung about how waiting is the hardest part. This sentiment could be true for Allegiance Communications customers as the company has been transitioning them to its upgraded digital telecommunications system. The transition is part of a push by BCI Broadband (Allegiance's corporate parent) to offer improved cable and Internet services, said Shawn Beqaj, BCI Broadband's vice president of government and regulatory affairs. Beqaj explained that the switch requires all televisions connected to the system use a digital converter or DTA. This will require customers to swap their current cable box for one of the new converters, he added. While the transition officially began on Nov. 19, this week has seen an increase in customer complaints. The Shawnee News-Star received reports that some customers experienced delays of up to four hours when they went to get a DTA in person. As a result, The News-Star went to Allegiance's corporate office at 707 W. Saratoga Street in Shawnee to find out more. Although attempts to reach anyone who had experienced a four-hour wait were unsuccessful, there was a line out of the door at 4:45 p.m. Thursday. Among those waiting outside the Allegiance Communications corporate office was Maxine Davis. Davis said she waited about 20 minutes in the line before getting inside. It wasn't her first attempt to get in line. “Every time I pass by it's like this,” Davis said as she pointed to the other people standing just outside the door. “I'm just trying to get inside the door.” Davis said she found out about the service change through the mail. “I already got my box,” she said. “But when I hooked it up it said to contact the cable company to get it activated.” In a statement, Beqaj said, “BCI has been communicating extensively with our customers in advance of this transition, including sending everyone a letter, in addition to messages in their bills, we committed channel 7 to a video presentation describing the transition and how to install the new boxes. We ran extensive cross channel advertising, made outbound reminder calls and sent representatives into the field in advance of the transition to deliver boxes and to talk about the upcoming changes. “The good news is all our new services, including digital, All HD television and new super-fast internet have been launched and we expect any remaining issues with getting our remaining customers their new equipment will be resolved quickly in the coming days. There has been greater than expected demand, especially for the new Digital Video Recorders which has added to the delays and in anticipation we have doubled both the number of representatives at our walk in center and our call center facilities. In anticipation that some customers would wait until after the transition we have also expanded the hours at the walk-in center so that it is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and we also are now open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 pm. BCI has deployed technical support teams from other markets and added hundreds of new field technicians who have been delivering and installing devices in our customers' homes as well. Beyond all these efforts, we brought trailers and set up tents in communities to get the word out as we bring all of the latest, next-generation broadband services that Shawnee has been without for so many years.” However, some customers like Julia Terpening, do not believe they received any notification from BCI/Allegiance. “I didn't get anything,” she said. “I was watching TV this morning and my TV just went blank. So I started flipping channels and they were all blank. And I was like, what is going on? So I get on Facebook and everybody's griping about Allegiance. So I go in there and hear everybody griping. So I thought maybe I should have stayed with DISH [Network].” Terpening was also upset because she spent another two hours on the phone with Allegiance. “I've spent three hours dealing with this today and I haven't even gone home and tried to hook this in yet,” she said. Regarding the long lines, Beqaj said there are a finite number of computers at Allegiance's corporate headquarters that can assign digital boxes to the network. “We added more computers to do that and we thought that would be enough to handle the demand,” he said. “But clearly it wasn't.” Joseph Broyles was another customer who experienced a longer-than-usual wait. On Wednesday, Broyles went to Allegiance's corporate office and waited about 30-40 minutes. “On Wednesday, it was backed up,” he said. “It's a small space and it was elbow to elbow.” Broyles found out about the digital conversion two different ways. First, he saw a broadcast about the change on a local channel. Then, Broyles had a disruption in service. Despite the time it took to resolve his issues, Broyles remained upbeat. “I just want to get it home so I can watch some TV,” he said. For more information, customers can contact Allegiance's 24-hour call center at 1-800-937-1397. Customers can also visit Allegiance's corporate office at 707 W. Saratoga Street in Shawnee. The office is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and is closed on Sunday.
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