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Cox Communications’ customers in the New Orleans metro area are no strangers to annoying service outages, but two weeks after Hurricane Ida rolled through, some of those still without cable television and internet access have reached new levels of ire.
Anne Timmons-Harris, a jewelry designer with a shop in the French Quarter, said Saturday that she still hasn’t been able to get straight answers about why she hasn’t been reconnected. It has been costing her business, she said, and she’s ready to change service providers.
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“I talked to Cox today and there is still no estimate on return to service,” said Timmons-Harris, who has been trying to do business from her home in the Bywater area. “My best friend who lives on the other side of St. Claude has had her Cox service restored, but I (have) not. Their lame excuses and lack of timeline may drive me to AT&T, whom I do not care for either.”
Cox has been the dominant cable franchise in New Orleans for decades, though telecom competitors like AT&T and T-Mobile have been gaining market share in recent years, especially as television services migrate from traditional cable to internet-delivery.
Cox spokesperson Sharon Truxillo said Saturday that restoration of service had closely mirrored the return to power in the Greater New Orleans area, where about 100 miles of the company’s above-ground infrastructure had been damaged by the storm. Cox had about 500 linemen out repairing the damage over the past 10 days or so, she said.
As of Saturday morning, Truxillo said, close to 80% of customers had been restored in Cox’s four-parish area of Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard and St. Charles parishes.
As with Entergy’s power restoration, more than 90% of those in St. Bernard and Orleans parishes had been restored, but Jefferson Parish was at only about 70% because of more severe damage in the lower part of the parish, such as Jean Lafitte, as well as hard-hit pockets of Metairie and Kenner.
The high level of restoration was cold comfort to those still without service. Some have been making due with their phones for internet access and a digital antenna for television over the airwaves, but not everyone has those options.
Frieda Harris said she lives in an assisted care facility where power has been restored but Cox’s service has not.
“Some of the residents here actually stare at their TV screens and watch the large letters spelling ‘Cox’ go round and round,” she said. “The majority do not have smart phones, or other devices. The staff provides entertainment, but we need our TVs back!”
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John Batson, an 81-year-old retiree, said he had evacuated to Tuscaloosa, Alabama ahead of the storm and returned when he had heard power was restored to his home on Betz Avenue, near the Ochsner Main Campus in Jefferson Parish. It was one of the first areas to get power back after the storm because of its proximity to the hospital.
On Saturday, he said he couldn’t even get someone to talk to at Cox about his service outage.
“I’m not getting any kind of response,” he said. “When I call the number provided I just get a robotic response. It doesn’t say when they expect it to be back on, it doesn’t say where they are working on it.”
Batson said it is not just the inconvenience of not being able to tune into the LSU Tigers vs McNeese State Cowboys game on Saturday night. He also is without the ability to order his medications and pay his bills online.
Truxillo said that the company is working on getting an outage map that will give customers more information in future.
But, she said, the phone service is set up now so that customers get automated responses when it is still a neighborhood outage, adding that it wouldn’t be helpful to reach an agent until that is resolved.
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“A customer is going to get a recording that there is a neighborhood outage and the best course is to sign up to get a text alert to say when the outage is clear,” she said. “There is not much a live agent can help them with during a live outage. They can’t schedule a trouble call or give them tips when the whole neighborhood is not working.”
Cox has said it will automatically credit customers who were out as of Labor Day weekend. It’s not clear what will be its policy for those still out the following weekend and beyond.