GLENVILLE -- Town officials have received dozens of calls and emails since last week when town residents' monthly Spectrum cable bills turned out to be higher than usual.
The company's explanation to customers was that its franchise fee payment to the town had been negotiated higher, from about $3.50 to $7 per month. But that was news to town officials: They have had no negotations with the cable company in years.
Spectrum now admits there was a billing error, and says it will be making amends to its 5,800 Glenville customers.
"My office has been getting multiple calls over the last week," said Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle. "I went back and looked more closely at my bill, and low and behold, my franchise fee went up too."
Koetzle said he contacted a Spectrum government relations official, who said the company is aware of the situation and refunds will be issued.
"Supervisor Koetzle was assured that it was a mistake on Spectrum's side and that it is being addressed and refunds will be issued," the town said in an email notice sent to town residents on Monday.
The town does indeed receive cable franchise fee payments that amount to about $370,000 annually, but federal laws have largely pre-empted the kinds of town-level franchise negotiations towns used to engage in. Koetzle said there have been no negotiations between the town and Spectrum in years.
Koetzle said some callers are asking him if they should pay the bill. He said the town's advice is to pay it and let the cable company adjust it later.
"We apologize for the billing error on our part," said Spectrum spokesman Andrew Russell. "We’ve corrected it and we will be crediting affected customers."
The situation reminded Koetzle of a complaint about franchise fees the town received in 2011, which led to a state attorney general's investigation into franchise fee overcharges by Time Warner Cable, a predecessor to Spectrum. In 2013, the state investigation resulted in a settlement in which Glenville residents received $1.4 million in refunds for overcharges that went on for a number of years.