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As FairPoint Service Problems Mount, State Asks PSB To Investigate

Steve Zind
With long repair delays and outages reported from FairPoint customers, the state is calling for an investigation into the increasing number of complaints.

The state is calling for an investigation into an increasing number of customer service complaints about FairPoint Communications. 

Officials also want a review of anemergency 911 outage Friday they say endangered public safety.

For the past year, the Vermont Department of Public Service says it’s been working with FairPoint to resolve issues involving long repair delays for the company’s home telephone customers.

But state telecommunications director Jim Porter says the situation went from bad to worsewhen FairPoint’s unionized employees, including repair people, went on strike in mid-October.

“After the work stoppage the numbers have really spiked precipitously and they’ve really reached a point where they’re not acceptable from our perspective," says Porter.

Porter says between Sept. 4 and Nov. 30, the department received 388 complaints from FairPoint customers. That’s an approximately five-fold increase from the same period last year.

Porter has petitioned the quasi-judicial Public Service Board to investigate both the repair delays and the outage Friday that affected the state’s E-911 system.  

FairPoint says the nearly six hour outage was due to equipment failure and a fiber optic line that was damaged by a fallen tree.  

The state says the company’s response to the failure was inadequate; Porter says the petition seeks a board order that would force FairPoint to take specific actions.

“What I suspect we will do is hire an expert to go in and look at the FairPoint systems and see how they work and hopefully come up with a solution for how they can be fixed,” he says.

Porter says FairPoint would have to pay for the expert. It’s also possible the company could be fined for both poor customer service and the public safety issues that arose from the 911 outage.  

The Public Service Board litigation is a formal process that will take time, although Porter says he hopes it will be expedited.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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