Spring Grove village president files FCC complaint following Mediacom internet outages

Company’s talks with Comcast on leasing dark fiber to add backup for sole cable line on slow track

After experiencing more outages of his home internet connection in recent weeks, Spring Grove Village President Mark Eisenberg filed a complaint to the Federal Communications Commission about the service provided by Mediacom.

He encouraged other residents to do the same in the village’s newsletter this month.

Eisenberg’s move to try to bring regulatory focus to Mediacom’s local operation is an escalation from his stance earlier this year.

“We’re frustrated; the people are frustrated,” Eisenberg said. “I’m hoping the FCC will see that there is an issue. And I hope Mediacom gets the point and invests some money in trying to fix this issue.”

Mediacom still is negotiating with other internet service providers in the area in an effort to build in redundancy, so that when its system encounters an issue, service can move onto a secondary line, a company spokeswoman said.

During the April election campaign between Eisenberg and challenger Brandel Wicinski, Eisenberg said he felt Spring Grove had gained traction with Mediacom after the village, along with Hebron and Ringwood, which experience similar issues with web outages, sent the company a joint letter that was shared with state legislators.

Wicinski campaigned on renewing attempts to pique another internet provider’s interest in installing communications infrastructure in Spring Grove.

But Eisenberg has said the village has not been able to attract companies such as Comcast because Spring Grove’s zoning has kept housing density too low for their liking, as the providers would have to install more cable between customers than in less sparsely populated areas.

Local officials were hopeful a solution was on the horizon when Mediacom this spring told them the company was in talks with Comcast about leasing some dark fiber in the area to add redundancy to the Mediacom network, so that when Mediacom’s sole service line into the area experienced trouble, local internet traffic could be switched onto a secondary route.

But talks between Comcast and Mediacom have so far proven unfruitful as Mediacom said in communications with the village that it has taken longer than expected to gain Comcast’s attention.

“The first option we pursued to achieve the redundancy has proven to be much more costly than we had hoped and therefore not a viable option. Our engineering team is researching other potential pathways but this process may move slowly,” Katelyn Hotle, Mediacom’s senior manager of government relations, said in an email to Eisenberg, the text of which he shared with the Northwest Herald.

Negotiations between Mediacom and other internet service providers in the area have not stopped or come to an impasse, said Phyllis Peters, the company’s senior director of communications, without naming which networks Mediacom is in talks with.

The three villages intend to keep pressing the company.

“I think we need to continue to keep the pressure on,” Ringwood Village President Rick Mack said. “With more people working from home moving forward, they need to rely on this service. It’s not just entertainment and watching TV and working on the computer once in a while. It’s our livelihood.”

Mediacom’s area customers have experienced two internet outages in the last two weeks, said Peters, who was unable to confirm how long each lasted nor their causes.

“It’s been quite noticeable over the last few weeks,” said Hebron Village President Robert Shelton, who is not a Mediacom user but has seen lots of social media gripes about the blackouts.

Peters said Mediacom’s network has performed well during the COVID-19 pandemic because of excess capacity built into its network, which allowed it to handle increased use. She also pointed to a a rise in the number of area residents and businesses who left other providers and connected to Mediacom’s network to gain access to faster upload and download speeds.

“We’re persistent and trying to be even louder,” Peters said about Mediacom’s effort to lease existing infrastructure to add a backup internet traffic route. “We regret [the outages]. We don’t know when a construction project will dig into the ground where it shouldn’t and cause one. Even so, we want our customers to not even be slowed down for a second when that happens.”

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry covers local government, business, K-12 education and all other aspects of life in McHenry County, in particular in the communities of Woodstock, McHenry, Richmond, Spring Grove, Wonder Lake and Johnsburg.