A month after trees and power poles fell like dominoes, Julianne Dickelman is tired of waiting for CenturyLink to restore her Internet service.
Dickelman said she waited patiently at first, knowing the devastation the windstorm caused on Nov. 17. She was told her service would be restored by Dec. 4. The date changed to Dec. 7 and then to Dec. 20.
“They’re just saying they’ve got lines down and it’s going to take them time to get to all of them,” she said. “I kind of get it, but I have some expectation of a basic level of customer service. I figure if the other companies can get moving, why can’t they?”
Sue Anderson, CenturyLink vice president of operations for Washington, said in a statement Monday that 600 customers in the Spokane area are still without service. That number had dropped to 400 on Dec. 7, then rose again after a less severe windstorm on Dec. 9.
The company has brought in 11 contract crews, Anderson said.
“Once the infrastructure has been repaired, our technicians and contractors then have to splice each neighborhood back into service,” she said. “Given the complexity, these jobs take some time.”
Judy Cohen has been without her landline phone for a month. She was given the same estimated repair dates as Dickelman. She’s been getting by with her cellphone, but said one CenturyLink worker who came to her door used her access to a cellphone as an excuse for not repairing her service right away.
“I have it for a reason,” she said of her landline.
She, too, was patient at first, but said recent experiences with CenturyLink have tested that patience.
“I understand that there were obviously a lot of problems in the city,” Cohen said. “I wasn’t faulting them for not having phone service, but I am faulting them now because of how they’ve handled it.”
Cohen is also upset that she got a bill and is expected to pay it even though she still doesn’t have service. She said CenturyLink told her that she has to wait until her service is restored, then call in to get a credit applied to a future bill.
“It doesn’t happen automatically,” she said. “It’s incumbent on you, the homeowner, to apprise them of the fact.”
Dickelman said she was told that a credit cannot be applied until it is known how many days she was without service. She paid her most recent bill.
Anderson, the CenturyLink vice president, said the company will work with affected customers on a case-by-case basis to apply bill credits.
“We always welcome calls from our customers to discuss their accounts,” she said.
Dickelman acknowledges that being without Internet isn’t critical for her.
“I do know that there are folks who are dependent on their landline,” she said.
She said she thinks CenturyLink is all too aware that they have limited competition.
“They kind of have us,” she said. “I don’t think they feel too obligated to go the extra mile for their customers.”
Barry Jones lives in Florida, but his elderly mother lives near the Indian Canyon Golf Course. She’s been without her landline for a month.
Jones said his mother has a part-time caregiver in her home but doesn’t have 24-hour-a-day help. He’s worried about what might happen if there is a fire or other emergency at her home and she can’t call for help.
“If she’s alone, she can hardly get out of the house,” he said. “It’s just totally unreasonable for them to be out of service for that long.”
He said he’s told CenturyLink that his mother is elderly and disabled. The customer service representative simply repeated her scripted responses, Jones said.
“I’m sure it fell on deaf ears,” he said.
Jones and his sister, who lives in Spokane, have been calling CenturyLink regularly. They’ve also been told the lines should be repaired by Dec. 20 but Jones said he has no faith in that promise.
“I know they’re not going to get it done by the 20th,” he said.
CenturyLink customer service can be reached at (800) 244-1111.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.