More Fairpoint failure follies, phone edition

Fairpoint logoRecently I’ve been writing about how local internet service provider Fairpoint has been fouling up our home and business broadband.  Things haven’t gotten better.  Indeed, they’ve gotten worse, as Fairpoint now messed up our phone line.

A little context: we have two landlines at home, one for the family, the other for business.  There’s no cell phone coverage in our area.

Sometime on Wednesday morning our business phone went offline.  We took a call at 9 am; people tried and failed to get through by 1 pm, as a I learned through concerned emails.

With exhausted familiarity I called Fairpoint on the still-working, family line.   The helpful representative guided me for 40 minutes on a tour of our house’s phone ecosystem.  I plugged and unplugged, moved and tested wires, inspected ports and covers.  There was a fun moment when the rep told me I was wrong about two switches (I was vindicated the next day).

Nothing wrong turned up.  No bad weather had occurred.  So Fairpoint had no idea why my business’ main line was down, but would send a tech.  Eventually.

On Thursday a technician came to the house and set to work, arriving as I was splitting wood (always a dramatic moment).  Excellent, enthusiastic, knowledgeable fellow, he drove my dog nuts by wandering all over the land.  He checked the outside phone box, the line up to the street, the lines on the street, connections on two floors of our house.  He drove away to check on connections further down the mountain.

The technician returned that afternoon, having solved the problem.  He wasn’t sure what caused it.  Either an unknown factor broke our connection (um) or last week’s internet work somehow damaged the phone line (er).

When I checked the line, five (5) voicemails awaited.  Luckily none were urgent or unaddressed by email.

So, the good news: Fairpoint fixed the problem, and I don’t think I lost any business as a result of the outage.

The bad: they’re not sure what went wrong (a common theme, it seems), and took them a day to get to it.  Once more we learned that Fairpoint’s service is like the rain, something distant and sometimes unhelpful, which we mere mortals can neither understand nor influence, but only pay for.

Fairpoint caller is Verizon, or voice versa

Fairpoint caller is Verizon, or voice versa

Coda: that concluded yesterday.  This morning, I received a call.  Caller-ID identified the account as Verizon (see photo), but the caller identified herself as a Fairpoint representative.  She laughingly explained the Verizon tag as a leftover… something, I’m not sure what.

She was calling because she’s heard our phone line was having issues.  And she identified the wrong phone line.

So not only does Fairpoint have a hard time maintaining its basic services, but within the company people don’t talk to each other.  Fairpoint’s failure to do basic knowledge and document management helps confuse their service.

What is wrong with that company?  Is Vermont’s policy failure to sufficiently regulate Fairpoint the main issue?

More importantly, what is to be done?

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7 Responses to More Fairpoint failure follies, phone edition

  1. Anthony E Ortolani says:

    Hi Bryan – I have been reading about your dilemma with interest recently. As you may recall, telecom infrastructure is what I do. Mostly wireless but I do front and back haul fiber as well, inter alia. For what is it worth, here is my two cents. The fact that you are a futurist that homesteads, is fascinating to me. Aside from mutual friends, it is why I follow your blog. I would hate to see you give that up. It is unique. A modern Thoreau if you will. Unfortunately, infrastructure projects are slow. I am just starting a project that has a implementation date of Q1 2018. Yes there are exceptions, but they are simply that. And given Vermont’s reputation in the industry, I would not expect a quick resolution to your problem. This new project is the reason I am writing you. It is a CAM WLL Project or Connect America Wireless Local Loop. It is funded by the Universal Service Fund ( you pay for it , check your wireless invoice). Just last week the FCC approved a few billion for CAM. I suggest you reach out to your US Senator or Congressman and ask where Vermont fits in with these funds/plans with the national carriers. In the mean time, don’t give up the homestead. If it were me, I would sublet or let a small office in a nearby town with reliable broadband until you can sort it out. I know you will. There are other federal programs for rural broadband. It is an FCC priority now. Your representative can give you all of them. I recently sent you a link about a fed funded local broadband co-op. I am happy to network friends if needed. Don’t give up the fight. All the best – Anthony

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  2. jtabron says:

    Essentially the same answer but worded differently, because some of your readers might not like it and I want to highlight it: the answer is that competition does not solve all problems with corporations, and sometimes governments (local, state, federal) need to step in to provide basic services even in places where there might be no profit motive for doing this. You’re one of the few people I know reporting on the lack of physical infrastructure where you live, but that’s only because you were very technically savvy before you got there. Many Americans still live in places without reliable service, just like many Americans still don’t have smartphones (or any cell phone at all). We Americans are extremely bad at remembering that not everyone is “just like us”. Or perhaps all humans are!

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  3. Malcolm says:

    @jtabron Maybe the issue is that there is no real competition! What alternative does Bryan really have?

    About Fairpoint: I live and work in Durham NH and for a time had a Fairpoint landline, mostly as a backup. But during the strike, I noticed my fees going up and later noticed that my line had gone dead. I too had to play the game of hide-and-seek with reps on the phone and I also had “techs” come out, wander the landscape, and say they would fix it. They never did fix it.

    My coda: cancelling Fairpoint service is also a Great Adventure. Just try, on their website, to find the place to cancel your service. I spent many minutes either awaiting for a rep on the phone (‘all of our representatives are assisting others…’) and then getting directed to other numbers, all extremely Kafka-esque.

    It’s too bad; normally I look to support smaller and more local companies, but Fairpoint pretty much failed on all fronts.

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  4. Pingback: Next steps for our rural broadband | Bryan Alexander

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