Altice will have tjo pay nearly $72 million following the company’s failure to adequately prepare for and restore broadband and cable television service after the August 2020 Tropical Storm Isaias left more than 400,000 Altice customers without service.
Some residents were out of service for as long as 14 days, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said, in announcing the settlement.
In response, Altice said, “Altice USA has been working with the NY PSC since Storm Isaias last summer to jointly examine opportunities for enhancements in how we communicate and engage with our customers, communities, and public officials during severe weather events. We appreciate the dialogue with the NY PSC as we look to ensure that the long-term service investments we’re making continue to improve the customer experience and benefit all our tri-state area customers.”
The $72 million settlement is the largest ever in New York State for any company under Public Service Commission jurisdiction for failing to follow procedures related to an emergency response.
As part of the settlement agreement, approved last week by the Public Service Commission, Altice will be required to develop a better storm-response program and improve communication and coordination with municipal and county governments.
“It is beyond unacceptable to leave hundreds of thousands of customers without the ability to access the Internet, especially during a time when so many people rely on broadband for work and school,” Governor Cuomo said. “This settlement makes it clear that telecommunication companies in New York have an obligation to prepare for severe weather and to develop robust storm-response programs, and if they fail to adequately do that job we will hold them accountable and force them to change the way they do business.
Tropical Storm Isaias struck New York on Aug.4, bringing strong winds and heavy rain that hit the Mid-Hudson Valley, New York City, and Long Island regions especially hard. The storm caused extensive damage to electric distribution and telecommunication infrastructures that, in turn, led to lengthy outages for a substantial number of New York utility customers, including more than 400,000 Altice customers.
A Public Service Commission report highlighted the need for modification to existing statutes or regulations to require the filing and annual updating of more robust emergency contingency plans, similar to those required of electric utilities, in order to improve the preparedness and response to future storms and other emergencies by major telephone and cable television companies.
An investigation found Altice had apparently failed to adhere to many significant aspects of its response plan and associated severe weather preparedness plan, which contributed to Altice‘s inability to timely restore service and effectively communicate to customers experiencing outages. The apparent violations involved include failure to make sufficient readiness plans and post-storm restoration, poor customer service and communications, and inadequate communication and coordination with government officials and electric utilities.