New Marlborough sign

New Marlborough residents are struggling with internet and phone disconnections since Spectrum began its broadband rollout in April.

NEW MARLBOROUGH — Sometimes, the internet kicks out during a Zoom class or telehealth meeting. Other times, it’s the phone that goes dead.

Sometimes, it’s both and, for some residents, it lasts for days.

Technicians also appear to be struggling to fix the connection problems, residents say.

Ever since Spectrum began its rollout of pole-to-house fiber installation for high-speed internet, the conversion period that began in April apparently has scrambled technology for a number of residents who say they can’t get a connection that sticks.

They say it’s a grand step up from previous Verizon DSL, dial-up or satellite — when it’s working.

“When it’s on, it’s great,” said Benjamin Harms, a musician who lives on the New Marlborough Branch Road. “When it’s off, it’s off.”

Harms had contacted The Eagle in hopes that it might help, since he and a number of residents say calls to the company’s 800 number were fruitless; some were told the outages were planned, though none had been notified.

For some residents, the problems are a little different; new wires hung too low or left draped on the ground after installation — at least one was attached to a tree. Harms described other homes teeming with technicians who couldn’t help. One spent three hours at his home waiting on the line with Spectrum to try to fix his connections — still wobbly as of early this month. He also said residents took to the townwide email group, Maggie’s List, to lament this situation in the Zoom era.

Lara Pritchard, a communications manager with Charter Communications, Spectrum’s parent, said engineers say the problem stems from an equipment issue, and she apologized for service interruptions.

“Our corporate teams have been engaged and are working directly with the equipment manufacturer to identify, test and launch a software upgrade to resolve the issue, as quickly as possible,” Pritchard wrote in an email.

The town had inked the $3.1 million deal with Charter in January 2019 that would make broadband available to 96 percent of homes and businesses in town, and charge subscribers for speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second. The agreement with Charter, brokered and paid for, in part, by the state, was a long-awaited solution to slow, expensive internet. The town struggled for at least five years to attract a provider to a rural town with about 1,500 scattered residents, and not hit them with a price tag that would send taxes skyrocketing. Now, the work is set for a July completion. Apparently, not without a hitch.

“The worst part of all of this is that we don’t get a straight answer, and I’m not sure I can blame the 1-800 people,” said Alexandra Eisenschenk, who is trying to run her design business from her home on New Marlborough Hill Road. “They don’t know what’s happening on the ground here. Had I known about these startup issues, I would have kept my hot spot.”

The town’s Cable Advisory Committee is trying to help. Chairman Steven Klein said that while many residents have had seamless connections, about 25 to 30 residents have contacted the committee about problems. That’s out of what he estimates to be several hundred connections made to homes and businesses so far.

A total of 600 to 700 connections likely will be made by July, he added.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or 413-329-6871. On Twitter

@BE_hbellow.