FairPoint’s Wrong Number

[Update #3: Day 15, still no action from FairPoint beyond a couple of phone calls. I had contacted the Vermont Dept. of Public Service again on Friday to make sure our repair ticket and lack-of-service-complaint had not been closed out since we do have a dial tone. I was assured that it would not be closed until the line was fixed, although Christine Peterson at DPS said she could not really push FairPoint too hard because folks without dial tone service were a priority. Within a couple of hours, “Carrie” who identified herself as calling from FairPoint (Maine area code) left a message inviting me to call back to let her know “if they’ve fixed that line yet.” It was not a toll-free number. I called, left a message (“No, Carrie, of course ‘they’ haven’t fixed the line, as I’m sure you know. And I note this is not a toll-free call, so I want you to remove the charge for this call from my bill.”

At least the guy who plows my driveway will be able to get under the wire now that I’ve propped it up with my jury-rig. That could be important in the next couple of days.

[Update #2:  On Day 9 of the downed-wire-across-the driveway FairPoint non-response, my firewood supplier had called to say he was bringing 3 cords. With wood being in short supply, I didn’t turn him down. Instead, I jury-rigged my own pole out of stuff I had on hand: plastic conduit and a broomstick anchored to a metal fence post I hammered into the side of the driveway (not to worry, phone lines this old are all low-voltage and coated) to lift the wire. It was high enough for the truck to get through, and it survived the windy, snowy, sleety night, and may last long enough for the second load of firewood to be delivered tomorrow, which will be Day 11. Crossing my fingers … oh, that’s what FairPoint’s plan is, too, I guess. But they’re getting paid for less and less service.]

[Update #1: Response from Public Service Department; robocall from FairPoint; live person call from Fairpoint. See comments for details.]

It’s been a week since a big section of a neighbor’s pine tree blew down across my driveway, taking out the power and phone lines. I walked down to the also power-and-phone-less neighbor’s to borrow a car so I could drive up to Town Hall to phone in the report to Green Mountain Power.

Now, I’m not particularly thrilled with Gaz Metro’s near-monopoly ownership of Vermont’s electric (GMP, acquired in 2007; Central Vermont Public Service, 2012) and gas (Vermont Gas, 1986) companies in Vermont. Not to mention the company’s (ahem) absorption of a rate-payer-financed loan without repayment, a deal okayed by the Shumlin Administration and the Public Service Board.

But I admit to being impressed when a GMP truck, complete with bucket lift, rolled into the lower third of my driveway an hour after the call, and disgorged two guys with a chainsaw. The driveway was cleared and electric power restored in about another hour.

Contrast that with FairPoint’s total lack of response. The GMP/Gaz Metro guys had told us that they could not – were not allowed to – restring the phone line. They tied a couple pieces of orange surveyor’s tape onto the wire where it draped obliquely across the driveway, and that was that. I was not surprised.

So, my wife filed a wire-down repair request that day via FairPoint’s website. The next day, Tuesday the 25th, I filed another. On Friday (late Thursday night) I sent another. Having the wire draped low over the driveway means no deliveries from FedEx or UPS. Getting the tenth-of-a-mile-long driveway plowed is problematic. I have now also filed a complaint with the Public Service Department.

I’ve now heard from a mutual friend that a gentleman, a double-amputee who lives with his wife on a dirt road just a couple of miles from the middle of town, can’t get FairPoint to fix his phone line either.*

[Update 12/8/14: Spoke to the man’s wife today. She said their line was repaired, took about a week. I said we were still waiting; her response: “well, you have two legs.” Yeah, there’s that.]

At best, FairPoint management’s pre-snowstorm confidence seems entirely misplaced:

Expressing confidence, a FairPoint spokesperson stressed the fill-in techs are experienced and well trained.

In a statement, FairPoint said despite the strike, network reliability hasn’t  been interrupted and emergency 911 service has been fully operational, though there have been a small number of customers who’ve been “inconvenienced” by the strike.

Especially given the post-storm Saturday disclosure of a nearly 6-hour outage* affecting 9-1-1 emergency reporting and dispatch services in “many communities” on Friday afternoon and evening. Guess who three weeks ago took over the contract for that?

[*corrected from 4]

So, between the company’s casual and negative response to its striking workers, the total lack of action or even communication regarding repairs, the inept handling of Vermont’s 9-1-1 service, and the increasing number of consumer complaints, it looks like calling FairPoint is a wrong number.  

12 thoughts on “FairPoint’s Wrong Number

  1. First thing this morning I received an email from the Public Service Department’s Consumer Affairs and Public Information Division:

    I have been assigned your complaint and I have contacted FairPoint to inquire on the status of your repair ticket.

    Within minutes, there was a robocall from FairPoint, somewhat garbled, but essentially:

    Due to unfortunate (unforeseen?) circumstances, we are unable to respond immediately. We will give you a call when we can schedule your repair.

    An hour and a half later, I got a live person calling from FairPoint to check in. Still no guesstimate on when the line over the driveway will be restrung.

    Nice work, Vt DPS!

    NanuqFC

    There once was a time in history when the limitation of governmental power meant increasing liberty for the people. In the present day, the limitation … of governmental action, means the enslavement of the people by the great corporations, who can only be held in check through the extension of governmental power. ~ Theodore Roosevelt, 1912  

  2. Remember the Friedman Unit from the Iraq War?

    Well Vermont PSB needs to set a clear deadline for performance improvement-fixed period of time: The FairPoint Unit or F.U.  This will be a regulatory unit of time allowing a utility two months to correct service problems. To show flexibility and so as not to over burden business with regulations – at the end of the two month period the F.U. period  will be automatically restarted by the Vermont PSB.

    Happily Vermont’s PSB and FairPoint can just reissue this press release from 2009 their first F.U. to the state :

    FairPoint said that it would be at least two more months before it has a clear plan to resolve its continued problems with customer service and billing.

    http://www.vermontbiz.com/news

    Freidman Unit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F

  3. Maybe we should face the fact that land-line phone service in much of Vermont has been a money losing proposition for decades. There’s too much wire mileage for too few people. Fairpoint management was engaging in wishful thinking when they bought out Verizon. Either they are doomed or we are.

    The state should take it over and make it public infrastructure, like the state highways or the interstate. Add fiber internet service. See if we can break even, but if we can’t it’s still a net winner with the economic development benefits.

    Think about how many high tech businesses and telecommuters would come here if we could advertise, “Vermont, the land of universal gigaherz bandwidth.”

  4. This was on Front Porch Forum:

    Greetings. Law enforcement asked FPF to post the following this evening…

    The 911 emergency call system is not working in many parts of Vermont at this time. In some case, local police landlines are not working either.

    In case of emergency, either use the text-911 system or phone your local law enforcement directly.

  5. I’ve had problems with getting effective response from Fairpoint for years. Their DSL service goes out pretty much every time we have serious rainfall – accompanied by very audible static on the voice line as well. Their solution has been basically to wait till the lines dry out, then close the trouble ticket.

  6. Not sure who has the 911 contract here, but the problem appears to be on the phone carrier side, just as it was in Vermont.

    Fairpoint, now that it has snookered the regulatory agencies into deregulation, is now primarily focused on expanding into other markets while milking the last few dollars out of a decaying residential infrastructure.

    —————————–

    Dear Members of the Community,  

    The Town of Durham and Strafford County Dispatch have become aware of widespread rolling, intermittent telephone outages in Durham and other communities within Strafford County this evening.  

    If residents experience an emergency and their land lines are not operational, please utilize a cell phone to call 911.    

    Because of these ongoing rolling outages, if residents/businesses have their fire alarms connected via telephone land lines and an alarm activates, they should not assume this evening that the Fire Department will be automatically informed as is typically the case because alert signals may be interrupted.  During this rolling outage, please use a cell phone to call in the alarm as well by dialing 911.  

    Todd  

    Todd I. Selig, Administrator  

    Town of Durham, NH  

     

  7. and you had to act as your own lineman…frontier style!

    Fairpoint ought to be paying you for service for the month of December!

  8. I don’t see the PSB able or willing to connect the sudden and massive drop in service to Fairpoint’s unfair labor practices. Fairpoint could easily redeem itself to the PSB by putting their linemen back to work.  But, being a Southern Company, they are trying to crush the union into poverty in order to free up money to increase their executive compensation.

    If only Vermont were a Liberal-controlled state…

    As Nanuc quoted TR from 1912, “the enslavement of the people by the great corporations … can only be held in check through the extension of governmental power.”  And I don’t see any supposed Democrats lifting a finger to do anything about our decaying wire-line phone system.

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