Wallowa County’s only television cable system has a new owner.

Crystal Broadband Networks (CBN) started providing cable service in the county July 1, taking over from Almega Cable.

According to two service representatives contacted by the Chieftain, CBN has purchased Almega’s technical support and call center services that service Wallowa County, as well the cable system, which covers Enterprise, Joseph, Wallowa and Lostine. They said that this is CBN’s first and so far only operation in Oregon.

According to a letter sent to cable customers, dated June 22, CBN planned to add six channels to the existing line-up – CNN, TLC, TNT, CN Cartoon Network, TBS, TV Land, Discovery Channel, The Weather Channel, and Animal Planet. Most of those channels are now operating.

The company also plans to raise rates, as of Aug. 1, by $3.95 a month.

“CBN has been working with over 25 rural towns in Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia. We have been very successful in building internet and cable systems for all our communities,” the company said in its letter, signed by general manager Ron Page.

Both service representatives who responded to an inquiry for information said that the company’s headquarters are in Chicago, Ill., though the address on the letter is in Kentucky, and the website identifies the company as being Kentucky-based. One representative gave the mailing address for payments, which was the same as Almega’s in Lewisville, Texas.

Neither representative knew whether CBN plans to reopen the Enterprise office, which Almega closed last year.

“We are glad to be a part of the community and as good start we put back all the major channels … And we will be looking to bring high speed Internet and long distance phone service very soon,” said Shawn Smith, programming manager for CBN, in a July 13 email to the Chieftain.

In 2008 Almega purchased the local cable system from Crestview Cable, which had been in business in Wallowa County since 1982.

Almega’s tenure here has been controversial, partly since it has been consistently in arrears with franchise fees with local cities. The company’s removal of such TV channels as CNN and Nickelodeon, and the closure of the Enterprise office were also not popular with cable-users.

At one time the city of Enterprise was considering a suit to obtain late franchise fees, but Almega made a payment, though has still been continuously behind.

Almega again made substantial payments that caught Amega partially up with cities last fall.

However, “They’re still so far behind, I’m not sure exactly how much they owe,” Joseph City Recorder Donna Warnock said. She is not sure how the money owed by Almega affects CBN, which has not yet approached the city about a franchise agreement.

“We don’t know how much they owe because we don’t know their revenue,” Enterprise City administrator Michele Young said. “We haven’t had any contact yet with the new company about setting up a franchise agreement.” Young said the past due fees will still be Almega’s responsibility, not the new owners’.

To contact CBN’s customer care support, call 877-319-0328 or e-mail ; for more information visit www.crystalbn.com.

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