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Altice Called Out For 'Wholly Inadequate' Storm Response After Some Customers Spend 2 Weeks Without Internet

FLORAL PARK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- New York state has warned Altice -- the company that provides cable, internet and phone service to 2 million local Optimum customers -- that its storm response was "wholly inadequate."

Eighteen days after Tropical Storm Isaias, some are still without service.

Millie Bonagura, 96, sews masks for first responders by day, and by night, she's kept company by the TV.

But for more than two weeks, she's been staring at something else.

"I got nice walls, but enough already with the walls," Bonagura said.

After a tree fell on her Floral Park house, power was restored, but not cable or her closed captioning phone.

RELATED STORY: Customers Fume Over PSEG Long Island's Response To Tropical Storm Isaias In Day-Long Hearing

Relatives say communication with Altice, the provider, has been infuriating -- disconnected calls and no-show appointments.

"Horrible, horrible. I mean, you call and they have you on hold for hours," said Ginny Bonagura, Millie's daughter-in-law.

Across Long Island, there's anger over customer service some call "non-existent."

"You get a prerecorded apology, and then it literally hangs up on you," said Kara Reifert, of West Islip. "It takes three hours before you finally get a human, and then they give you the runaround."

Reifert has been calling for help for 18 days.

"I need to make some money, and I can't do it because I don't have internet. I have no phone, no cable TV. I feel so disconnected, especially with what's going on in the world. I'm isolated. It's just awful," she said.

During the storm, 400,000 Altice customers lost service.

A scathing letter by the Department of Public Service calls out Altice's "wholly inadequate response," citing failures in its resiliency plan, customer service and communications, government coordination, and orders corrective action.

Business leaders say the state must hold Altice accountable.

"We have heard from hundreds of businesses that are desperately trying to survive through this pandemic that can no longer process payments because their internet and phone are disconnected," said Kyle Strober, executive director of the Association for a Better Long Island.

RELATED STORY: Gov. Cuomo Says Utility Companies Face Steep Fines For Apparent Violations After Tropical Storm Isaias Response

Altice told lawmakers Thursday a surge in calls was the reason it's been so hard to reach them.

"We fully understand the frustrations felt by our customers. We apologize for the inconvenience, as this is certainly not the experience we desire for our customers," said Hakim Boubazine, Altice's president of telecommunications and COO.

Altice sent CBS2 the following statement:

"Tropical Storm Isaias was one of the worst storms to hit the Northeast in recent years, and our teams were deployed immediately to address the widespread impact of the storm.

"The vast majority of service restorations are attributed to commercial power returning. On the morning of August 18th, we declared network operations to be back to normal, with remaining issues being primarily customer-premise related and needing follow up service visits.

"We thank our customers for their patience, and we will be providing credits proactively to customers whose Optimum services were not available when power was restored. Customers do not need to request the credit - we will be applying it to their accounts in the coming weeks."

The company will be providing credits to customers whose Optimum service was still out even after power was resorted.

Customers like Millie Bonagura, who on day 18 finally got service back, only after family contacted elected officials.

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