CenturyLink opens Seattle customer service center

Seattle residents now have a local place to visit to pay their bill, discuss account issues or test new CenturyLink cable products. On April 1, 2016, CenturyLink opened its Seattle customer service center/retail store in north Seattle, in the Greenwood area. The location has customer parking and is also accessible by Metro bus routes 5, 48, 82, 355 and 994.

The service center is located in ‘Piper Village’, 8528 Palatine Ave N, Seattle, 98103. It has a local phone number customers can call to talk with a local CenturyLink representative: (206) 789-1132. Service Center hours are:

Monday-Friday: 9:00 am – 7:00 p.m.

Saturday:  9:00 am – 5:00 p.m.

Sunday: Closed

Note that CenturyLink does not accept equipment at their local centers, and is not able to exchange equipment, either. All equipment for CenturyLink customers is handled through mail service. Call them at (206) 789-1132 or (877) 837-5738.

If you’re a Seattle cable customer, be sure you know your rights under the City’s Cable Customer Bill of Rights. If you ever have an issue you can’t resolve with your cable operator, you can contact Seattle’s Office of Cable Communications for assistance at (206) 684-8498 or file an on-line request here: City Service Request Form: Cable Issue.

CenturyLink announces Prism TV price increases

CenturyLink announced that, effective March 18, 2016, the price of Prism TV video service will increase by $7.00. Except for customers who are on Prism ‘Price Lock,’ the increase is for all service packages and promotional offers. The new standard service rates will be:

Prism TV Package New Pricing
Basic $29.99
Essential $81.99
Complete $96.99
Preferred $111.99
Premium $141.99

The price of CenturyLink’s High Speed Internet modem will also be increased by $1.00.

If you are currently a CenturyLink Prism TV customer receiving a promotional discount on your service, but didn’t not sign up for ‘Price Lock’ when you subscribed, then your monthly service rate will increase by $7.00. But you will also continue to receive the discount applied to the new rate for the remainder of your promotional period. Your rate and any discount will be clearly indicated on your billing statements.

CenturyLink has sent customers a notice alerting them to these upcoming price increases. If you have questions on how this increase will impact your individual bill, contact CenturyLink Customer Care at (866) 755-7435.

If you are a low income CenturyLink customer and would like information on whether you are eligible for CenturyLink’s service discount programs, call (877) 837-5738 or visit CenturyLink Low Income Assistance Programs.

Seattle cable customers needing help resolving an issue with CenturyLink or other cable companies can contact Seattle’s Office of Cable Communications at (206) 684-8498 or submit a request through our on-line Cable Issue Service Request Form.

Cable Set Top Boxes

We wanted to alert readers to two important developments related to cable and satellite set top boxes.

The Cable Office received notice from Comcast that beginning on April 1, 2016 some customers will need to exchange their set top boxes in order to continue receiving all of their HD channels.  This action is required because Comcast is implementing a new standard for video compression. Specifically, they are moving from what is called MPEG2 to MPEG4 compression (MPEG is an acronym for Moving Pictures Expert Group). Digital video delivered to subscribers is compressed, otherwise it would consume very large amounts of bandwidth. Some set top boxes will be unable to process MPEG4 signals.  Comcast is now informing its customers through letters and messages to customer set top boxes.  There will be no cost for exchanging the set top boxes.

Comcast states that they will provide customers with the instructions on how to replace their set top boxes:

  • Customers should tune to channel 1995 on each of their set top boxes and follow the onscreen instructions to see if it needs to be replaced.
  • If the set top box needs replacement customers can order a Self-Installation Kit from their TV, online or they can visit a Comcast service center.

For more information customers should call Comcast at 1-800-XFINITY or the Cable Office hotline at 206-684-8498.

In a related matter, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) titled “Expanding Consumers’ Video Navigation Choices.” If implemented, the new rules would bring much needed competition to the cable set top box market and allow consumers to purchase their own devices for navigating video channels instead of having to rent a set top box from their cable operator or satellite provider.  Among other things the rules would require cable, phone and satellite companies to provide other manufacturers of set top boxes with video content, channel guides and on demand content.  In effect, the rules would allow Seattle pay TV subscribers to obtain Comcast, Wave or satellite TV content over a Roku, Apple TV, Xbox or other similar devices.

The Cable Office supports this action by the FCC. Currently about 99% of subscribers rent a set top box from their cable or satellite company. Set top box rental fees continue to increase faster than the rate of inflation even as the costs of all other consumer electronics have declined in conformance with Moore’s Law.  The FCC is currently in the public comment period. A vote on any new rules will likely not occur until late this year. Stay tuned.

Comcast cable franchise agreement approved

SPIN Network teaching Lao Women's Association students at Comcast cable modem recipient Filipino Community in Seattle

SPIN Network teaching Lao Women’s Association students at Comcast cable modem recipient Filipino Community in Seattle

On December 17, 2015, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to approve the renewal of Comcast’s cable-television franchise agreement. The 10-year agreement between Comcast and the City of Seattle includes significant benefits intended to improve Internet access in Seattle.

“The approval of this revised and improved franchise agreement reflects my administration’s commitment to digital equity, with more residents gaining access to discounted Internet service and resources to further close the digital divide,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “We are a city known for our technology and innovation, yet even in our connected city, digital opportunity is lacking for far too many. The benefits included in this agreement will have a meaningful impact on digital equity in Seattle, helping new populations gain access to the Internet and learn the skills necessary to be part of our digital society.”

The vote follows efforts by Mayor Murray and City Councilmember Bruce Harrell to get Comcast to increase its commitment to digital equity in Seattle, and ensure that any benefit commitments by Comcast were made in a legally enforceable manner.

“We demand the best customer service for our residents,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology committee. “We focused on expanding low-income discounts and ensuring all residents get the best service.”

“In addition to providing cable television service to Seattle residents, the revised agreement includes many important community benefits, including discounted Internet service to low-income seniors, a $500,000 digital equity grant, and a partnership to provide devices such as laptop computers for housing-insecure youth,” said Michael Mattmiller, the City’s Chief Technology Officer.

The 10-year agreement between Comcast and the City of Seattle includes significant benefits intended to improve digital equity and access to information in Seattle. Benefits of the agreement include:

  • 600 free cable modem Internet connections to non-profit organizations serving Seattle residents, valued at approximately $10 million. These connections help increase digital equity by increasing the number of sites where the public can access the Internet.
  • Approximately $8 million to support public, education, and government television cable channels, including the Emmy Award-winning Seattle Channel.
  • Free cable television service to government and school facilities, valued at more than $2 million.
  • Discounted basic cable television service for low-income households.
  • Discounted Internet access through the Comcast Internet Essentials program for low-income seniors and households with a child enrolled in the free or reduced price school lunch program.
  • $500,000 in funding to support the City’s digital equity initiatives, with grants of $100,000 per year for five years.
  • A new partnership between the City and Comcast through which housing-insecure youth will be able to obtain devices, such as laptop computers, for accessing the Internet.

“I am thrilled to know we have leaders willing and ready to fight for digital equity in our City. CTAB heard from Seattle residents that providing affordable access for seniors and youth is a priority,” said Amy Hirotaka, chair of CTAB. “With this new Comcast franchise agreement, we can tell our community that we heard them, fought for them, and delivered. CTAB and the Broadband committee should be proud of the work done throughout this process.

Nourisha Wells, the outgoing chair of the City of Seattle’s Community Technology Advisory Board (CTAB) noted the revised Comcast agreement is a step forward for the community. “Seattle is such a technologically advanced city it is easy to overlook the digital disparities in certain communities. This new Comcast agreement places our commitment to digital equity front and center and increases the ability of our seniors, youth, and low-income residents to benefit from, and help drive technical innovations for years to come.”

The approved Comcast franchise agreement will take effect on Jan. 21, 2016 and last a decade.

– See more at: http://murray.seattle.gov/seattle-approves-revised-cable-franchise-agreement-with-comcast/#sthash.2gTgZ2QU.HkLG8Iiy.dpuf

More rights for Seattle’s cable customers

Spread the word! Cable customers in Seattle have additional rights under the City’s Cable Customer Bill of Rights (CCBOR). The Office of Cable Communications (OCC) has a new leaflet to help alert cable customers to their rights, and it is available in the following 13 languages:

  • Amharic
  • Cambodian
  • Chinese
  • Korean
  • Laotian
  • Oromo
  • Russian
  • Somali
  • Spanish
  • Tagalog
  • Thai
  • Tigrinya
  • Vietnamese

If you would like a batch of any of these foreign language leaflets to share with your community group, just contact the OCC at (206) 684-8498 or use our online request system at seattle.gov/cable request form.

Why is the CCBOR important? Because it sets standards for cable providers in the areas of:

  • Courtesy
  • Accessibility
  • Responsiveness
  • Services for Customers with Disabilities
  • Safety, Satisfaction Guarantee
  • Credits to Customers for poor service

A cable television discount is also available to seniors, residents with disabilities, and low income residents. Seattle residents who qualify for the City’s Utility Discount Program also qualify for a cable TV discount. Contact Seattle’s Office of Cable Communications for more information on the CCBOR, the cable discount program, or other cable issues at (206) 684-8498, or use the online request form at seattle.gov/cable request form.

Seattle Is Getting a New Cable Operator!

For as long as most people can remember, Seattle’s had only two cable companies operating in the City: Comcast (formerly AT&T/TCI) and Wave (formerly Broadstripe/Millennium).  Depending upon where you live in the City, you probably had only one of these companies as a cable option, because cable companies traditionally have not built their systems into areas where they would be in competition with another cable operator. But now there is good news for many Seattle neighborhoods. Another company, CenturyLink, has decided to enter the Seattle market and will be a new competitor to existing cable operators.

CenturyLink has been preparing for this business expansion by upgrading its system around the City to make it capable for delivering cable television, high speed internet and phone services.  The upgraded system (which uses high speed fiber optics in many areas) is reported to pass approximately 100,000 households throughout the following neighborhoods:

Ballard, Beacon Hill, Capitol Hill, Central District and Rainier Valley, Delridge, Green Lake, International District, Lake City, Leschi, Montlake, University District, Ravenna, and West Seattle.

If you live in an area where CenturyLink has upgraded its system and is capable of offering its television service (called PRISM TV), you’re likely going to receive a door hanger or other message from CenturyLink to alert you to the new service option. Another way to see whether your address is able to have CenturyLink as a cable option is to visit their web site and click on Check for Prism TV in My Area.

While CenturyLink has already been operating as a phone and internet service provider in Seattle, offering cable television services requires the company to have a cable franchise agreement with the City. The franchise agreement commits the company to operating under certain customer service and safety standards, and to pay a franchise fee to the City as ‘rent’ for using the public rights-of-way for the cable system. This required franchise agreement was recently approved by the City Council and Mayor (see it here: Ordinance 124810). It allows CenturyLink to begin offering its PRISM television service to Seattleites beginning August 17, 2015.

For more information on the City’s process of approving CenturyLink’s new cable franchise, go here. For more information on the customer service standards required of all Seattle cable operators, see the Office of Cable Communication’s Customer Service Bill of Rights.

Wave Cable Customers – Save the Date June 8

The City’s Office of Cable and Broadband invites Wave cable customers to a community meeting to give your input on Wave’s performance as a cable service provider.  Wave’s current franchise with the City expires in 2017.

Event details:

Monday, June 8, 2015, 6:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

Douglas Truth Library, 23rd and Yelser

For more information on this meeting, franchise renewal, or to share your thoughts on Wave’s performance, email cableoffice@seattle.gov or call (206) 684-8498.

Seattle Community Media: LIVE Programming!

Beginning Monday, June 8, 2015, Seattle Community Media (SCM) public access TV will offer a special live showcase, Seattle Community Media LIVE!, where producer-members can bring their program to a live audience.

The showcase program will be a one (1) hour long, beginning at 6:00 p.m.  SCM staff will take care of many of the technical aspects of the program and will work with producers during pre-production for your live show.

All SCM member-producers will have access to request the live showcase on a first-come, first-served basis two weeks prior to show time.  To be scheduled as a live showcase program, you will be required to have viewers call into the studio during the show with comments or questions.

SCM membership is available to residents living in Seattle/King County. The annual fee for basic membership is only $35, and small additional annual fees give you access to HD video cameras, microphones, light kits, other production gear, as well as access to SCM’s Studio B for use in creating content for broadcast on Comcast cable Channel 77/Wave cable Channel 23.

If you have an expertise to teach, an important message to be heard, or a hobby to share, become a SCM member-producer and share your message! At SCM, you are in control! You control your program’s content.  You get to schedule your programs. You can upload your finished programs from anywhere you have internet access.

It’s easy to join. Just visit SCM’s website, www.seattlecommunitymedia.org, and click on “Membership.”  You’ll have ala carte access to different levels of membership and will pay for your membership online.  When you become a member you become an independent member-producer of SCM!

City increases Seattle Public Access Television support

For many years, Seattle has been a leader in supporting a public access program for City residents.  The program is an important free speech and community building tool by allowing anyone to produce their own TV program for airing on cable TV channel 77 (Comcast) and channel 23 (Wave). The public access program also provides studio space, equipment for producing a video program, training opportunities, and the ability for producers to store and archive their programs for web viewing.

Seattle’s Public Access program manager operates public access television as Seattle Community Media (SCM).  The City provides annual funds to help support the program, and SCM staff independently manage the program.

In November, the Mayor and City Council showed the City’s continued support for a healthy public access program by increasing its operating funds by $105,000 for 2015 and 2016.  They also approved another $51,000 to be used in 2015  to buy new equipment for the program. This will help update and replace the aging video equipment that is currently available for program members to use.

If you or your community group has an expertise to teach, an important message to be heard, or a hobby to share, look into SCM and see how the program can help you.  SCM services include:

  • Access to production tools like cameras, microphones, and editing and studio space.
  • Access to stream video programs on-demand through the Seattle Community Media website and access to a wide variety of easy-to-use online tools.
  • Ability to control the messaging about your programs that television viewers and online viewers will see.
  • Ability to upload your finished programs from anywhere you have access to the web and to schedule when your program will air.

For more information about the program and becoming a member/producer, visit their website at Seattle Community Media.


 

Start 2014 as an informed cable customer!

Cable (and telecommunication) companies are always trying to find ways to get and keep customers. One method they use is having contracted sales agents canvassing neighborhoods or working at mall kiosks, marketing special promotional deals if you will join, change or bundle your service with them.  If you decide to take one of these deals, make sure you get something in writing that confirms the rates, services and period of time the promotion covers.

It’s always wise to get contract details in writing, but it’s especially important if you are accepting a special promotional deal.  It’s not unusual for the City to receive complaints from cable customers who were promised one thing by a sales agent, but then billed something different.  When they call the company to correct their bill, they are told ‘we have no promotion like that’ and are left trying to prove what they were promised.  If you have something in writing, it’s much easier to prove!

As a Seattle cable customer, you’re also wise to be familiar with your rights under the City’s Cable Customer Bill of Rights (CCBOR).  Although the City has limited authority to regulate cable rates, it can enforce the CCBOR to ensure Seattle cable customers get the best service possible.  Have you ever reviewed the CCBOR?  Do you know the rights it provides you?

The CCBOR sets standards for cable providers in these areas:

  • Courtesy
  • Accessibility
  • Responsiveness
  • Services for Customers with Disabilities
  • Customer Information
  • Customer Privacy
  • Safety, Satisfaction Guarantee
  • Complaint Procedures
  • Credits to Customers for poor service

Take time to look it over and be familiar with the service levels you can expect when dealing with your cable operator.

For more information on the CCBOR or to file a cable-related complaint, contact Seattle’s Office of Cable Communications on the 24-hour Cable Line at (206) 684-8498, or use the online comment form at http://www.seattle.gov/cable/comments.htm.