After years of declining quality in their services FairPoint has come up with a bold action plan they think will remedy their ongoing failure to meet a required standard of service. They want Vermont Public Service Board to do away with quality standards they are required to meet.
Brilliantly simple, no quality standards, then no problem.
“The very fact that we answer to the Public Service Department for service quality issues, or, in fact, there’s a proceeding at the Public Service Board; none of our competitors are subject to any of that regulation,” says Mike Reed, who is president of FairPoint in Maine and speaks for the company on regulatory issues.
Reed says regulation of FairPoint is rooted in the past, when phone companies were monopolies and consumers had no choices.
While smaller Vermont phone companies also have to meet standards for billing, repairs and installations for telephone service, Reed says FairPoint’s competitors don’t. These are providers like Comcast, Verizon and Sovernet. By law, the state doesn’t have regulatory power over their voice services.
FairPoint came to Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire and acquired Verizon’s landline services well aware of the competition landline services faced with regard to new internet-based services. Early on they promised to maintain existing landline services and even to hire hundreds in the Burlington area. However almost immediately they cut back on jobs, and poor service has been an ongoing issue.
Considering that history and the fact the state has made some one or two favorable regulatory accommodations for them I have to admit to no small bit of admiration at the level of moxie FairPoint had to muster for this new tactic.
Yet FairPoint must believe in the magic of the competitive market place:
FairPoint’s Reed continues […] in today’s environment, it's competition – not regulation – that assures quality. “If customers are not satisfied with our service, they leave us.”
Leave them and go to … ah Comcast. Comcast – unburdened by public service quality rules – is the subject of 50,000 complaints to the FTC in 2014 and the only two-time winner of Consumer Reports’ Consumerist Worst Company in the world award (2010 and 2014). Now there’s a fine example of the level of quality the competitive marketplace assures.
Should we assume Comcast set the bar low enough for FairPoint to be competitive?