The much anticipated "Big Switch" that occurred June 12 was not successful for many Ash Flat residents who subscribe to Almega Cable.
Ash Flat City Council members addressed many resident's concerns related to the company's failure to complete the digital transfer during the June 15 city council meeting. Almega's failure to comply with the transfer is preventing many Ash Flat customers from viewing the local weather on KAIT-8 out of Jonesboro. To many residents, this is their only television source for both weather and news.
Other than losing the primary local channel, many residents have also been without several channels that were initially included in their package when they first subscribed to the service. One resident said, "The service has been bad since day one." Charlotte Goodwin, Ash Flat recorder/treasurer, says that she has been in contact with both the Federal Communications Commission and the Attorney General's Office in regard to a possible solution to the issue. Due to deregulation, she said they were advised to contact Senator Blanche Lincoln with letters.
City Attorney Larry Kissee said he would review the contract and send a letter to Almega about the problems and request a representative to be present at the next council meeting.
Almega Cable of Bedford, Texas, owns and maintains the cable lines in the Ash Flat area and the city receives a franchise fee of 5 percent of the gross revenues from the company as compensation for the use of public property. The fact that the city has a contract with the company seemed to be the main issue to overcome in regard to potentially getting another company to come into the Ash Flat area. Mayor Danny Traw suggested contacting other companies, but Kissee said he first must send a letter to Almega and review the specifics of the franchise ordinance.
Members also discussed the company's taking away eight primary cable channels and had not replaced the channels or offered any type of credit on their monthly bills.
When contacted, Almega Cable Supervisor Charles Wesley, assured the customers that they are going to prorate bills since the time of the channel losses and "replace the missing channels with similar channels within 15 business days of today (June 10)."
When asked the reason for the company's not completing the digital conversion, Wesley said, "We had the set up and equipment ready to go and the local technician, Kevin, quit." He said they had trouble getting a technician, but did say the current technician was working in the area and the switch to digital that would put KAIT-8 back on the screens would be completed by June 19.
Local residents had the channel back in service on June 18 but the other channels have yet to be replaced.