City officials air frustration with Breezeline service

Aug. 18—CUMBERLAND, Md. — City officials aired frustrations Tuesday with the level of customer service the community is receiving from cable provider Breezeline.

Cumberland Mayor Ray Morriss and members of the City Council discussed their concerns at a council work session at City Hall.

"It gets aggravating to try to talk to someone when you call," said Councilman Eugene Frazier. "You end up being on hold for an hour or more."

Atlantic Broadband, the eighth largest cable operator in the U.S., rebranded itself Breezeline earlier this year in an effort to promote a streamlined customer experience. However, city officials are saying the experience with the internet/TV/phone provider has been less than streamlined.

Council members Rock Cioni, Laurie Marchini and Joe George, as well as Morriss, concurred with Frazier.

"It's not just us," Frazier said. "We hear the same thing from people in the community."

Michael Cohen, city attorney, said the city does not have a franchise agreement with Breezeline.

"A cable provider typically has an agreement in place for the use of the lines and infrastructure," Cohen said. "Breezeline does not have a current franchise agreement with the city of Cumberland."

Frazier, who has phone, internet and cable service through Breezeline, said the company closed its local facility at 201 S. Mechanic St. to walk-in customers forcing people to its website or phone for assistance.

"They use COVID to get rid of the local place here," Frazier said. "Before, if you had a problem with any equipment you could take it down and exchange it. Now you have call and it can take hours to get ahold of somebody. In this area, given the age of our people, you need to have someplace where people go in and talk to someone and see somebody.

"They can put up glass or wear masks, but it's just to cut back and save money," Frazier said. "To pay that kind of money and to have go through that frustration when you need help isn't right. Hopefully they can address this issue and make things a little bit better for customers."

Andrew Walton, head of corporate communications for Breezeline, responded to the concerns in an email to the Times-News. He said in-person counter service at the Mechanic Street office was discontinued for safety during COVID and is not likely to return.

"Given the unpredictability of the COVID-19 situation over the last two years, and because we have now developed even better options for our customers that do not require travel and face-to-face contact, we no longer offer front counter transactions at this location. Our office facility from which we offer technical support and call center services remains open," Walton said.

Walton said Breezeline offers 24-hour phone service.

"The COVID impacts of the last two years, without a doubt, have been challenging for nearly every business, not just ours, especially in the area of staffing, which has also affected hold times," Walton wrote. "While long hold times are not the norm, we do regret if some customers in Cumberland have had this experience and are taking steps to further enhance the call experience for all customers."

Walton said Breezeline has hired additional customer care agents, introduced an advanced call center platform with artificial intelligence technology to route calls more efficiently, and introduced self-help options for customers, including a new "My Breezeline" app for convenience.

Walton said Breezeline is following provisions stated under federal law in regard to a franchise agreement.

"We have been in touch with the city on numerous occasions since then to reach a new agreement (our last correspondence with the city occurred in November 2020, to which we are awaiting a reply from the city)," Walton wrote. "We look forward to continuing those discussions at a time convenient for the city. In the meantime, we continue to operate under the existing agreement."

Greg Larry is a reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. To reach him, call 304-639-4951, email and follow him on Twitter.