Dunwoody residents and officials were quick to praise AT&T and its high-speed internet service when the announcement was made last year that the service was coming to Dunwoody. That excitement, however, has slowed in recent months as complaints from homeowners continue to pile up in City Council members emails.
At the Oct. 24 City Council meeting, AT&T’s Delores Crowell, Regional Director of AT&T External and Regulatory Affairs, tried to calm concerns raised by the council about the company’s contractors digging up yards, not informing people when they will be digging, and the regular accidental cutting of utility lines.
“I personally apologize,” Crowell said. “We’ve been doing this for a while and are learning as we go. We are aware we have some concerns with our contractor.”
Councilmember Jim Riticher was the most vocal with his dissatisfaction with AT&T’s contractors, the companies installing the fiber optic cables that will provide high-speed internet service to the city.
“You have real problems with your contractors. There are a lot of cut utilities. When you first came to my neighborhood, a water main was hit,” Riticher said. “There are no supervisors on site that speak English. Water, gas, electric, cable lines are being cut. From my perspective, this is way out of control.
“You are hurting the AT&T brand with what your people in the field are doing,” he said.
Councilmember Lynn Deutsch said in her neighborhood, contractors left debris when they finished with their work.
“We’re excited about the product, but it’s a painful process,” she said.
AT&T announced in August 2015 it was coming to Dunwoody offering internet speeds up to 1 gigabit per second. This speed provides improved streaming of videos and online video games, for example.
Councilmember John Heneghan, who praised AT&T when it announced it was coming to town last year, said at the Oct. 24 meeting that the company does deserve some credit for its services.
“I just want to say thank you, thank you,” he told Crowell. “AT&T is the only real provider … and I am a gigapower customer. The service is wonderful. And for only $70 a month, you get the only real provider of high-speed service in Dunwoody.”
Crowell gave the council a presentation on how installing AT&T fiber is supposed to work and acknowledged it is not a perfect system. She said homeowner associations are supposed to get notice of upcoming work three months in advance and will spread the word to area residents.
One month before work and digging is to begin, residents receive construction notification and contact information. A week before construction begins, contractors are supposed to put door hangers on residents’ front doors to again let them know digging is set to take place.
Yard signs and flyers also are set up and distributed in areas where construction is taking place so people can know what is happening and that include contact information for people to voice any concerns and ask questions.
The digging process utilizes pneumatic piercing tools, like a boring pipe, that is supposed to cause minimal damage to property. If the contractor is able to use the same grass it cuts out to dig the pit, then it is reused; if not, the company is to buy new sod and grass to cover the hole.
Last month, Sandy Springs cracked down on fiber-optic cable installations that were drawing complaints, and launched an online map to show active fiber work in the city.