FAIRMONT - Few details are available yet on what Midcontinent Communication's purchase of Charter's local cable system could mean for Fairmont customers.
Midcontinent's senior vice president of public policy, Tom Simmons, gave an extensive look into the company's history while addressing the City Council on Monday evening. However, he had only vague assurances when it came to transitioning services.
"Of course, we can't do anything without your approval," Simmons said to the council.
A public hearing was set for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 27 before the city can transfer the franchise agreement from Charter to Midcontinent. The sale between companies is expected to close Nov. 25.
Within the next few weeks, more information will be available as Midcontinent staff research what changes will be necessary in the transition. Simmons wants to make the process as smooth as possible.
Customers may experience some channel changes, possibly with more high-definition options available. The rate structure will most likely change as well to put Fairmont on the same system as the rest of the communities Midcontinent serves.
"Midcontinent's rates are very close or slightly less than Charter's," Simmons said.
Mayor Randy Quiring wondered if e-mail addresses would change for Charter customers, which also would require people to change their business cards and letterheads.
"That's a very good question. In all likelihood, yes," Simmons said. "I'm very aware of any problems that may cause. Midcontinent is very willing to work with ... customers to make that as transparent as possible."
The company isn't seeking any changes in the franchise agreement with the city, except to extend the contract terms, since it's currently reviewed on a month-by-month basis.
Midcontinent also plans to keep the Fairmont office as is, but customers could anticipate a difference in customer service. With two call centers, in Sioux Falls and Aberdeen, S.D., Simmons said customer service representatives "speak upper Midwestern."
Midcontinent Communications is the primary cable and telecommunications provider in North and South Dakota, serving nearly 200 communities and close to 250,000 customers. The company also is branching out into Minnesota.
Expanding fiber optics throughout its greater service area and rebuilding local systems have enabled Midcontinent to provide its customers with bundled packages for advanced digital television, broadband Internet and often telephone services, according to information presented to the City Council. Simmons boasted that even the smallest communities - like the 12 residents of Barlow, N.D. - experience the same high-quality service as residents in its largest city, Sioux Falls.
For more information on Midcontinent, its Web site is www.midcocomm.com