We’re back online at home. After three days offline, Fairpoint finally fixed their problem and ours. Which is the good news. Actually, we have good news, bad news, and good/bad news.
The good: around dinner time Monday night our routers flipped from red to green, and we reconnected home, family, and business with the 21st century.
The good/bad news: a Fairpoint technician actually drove to our home. (I was away, so what follows is based on my wife’s recollection) He wasn’t there to fix anything, as he explained that the problem wasn’t our house line, and house tech was his speciality. Instead, he’d been sent to share information and answer questions.
The cause of the outage was actually a problem blade device in a switch located along North Branch Road, the next road west of us and (I guess) along which run internet cables. This outage impacted many people on the road and nearby, and not just our house. Those folks apparently complained en masse to this visiting Fairpoint fellow. Which was his assignment, along with busily visiting people to reassure them of progress.
Sending the technician around to talk with us is very nice of Fairpoint, and unusual (see below), but also weird, because of what else he said. We’re not sure how much of his comments were official communications. We have to suppose so. And this is the bad news.
Apparently “the switch’s blade just plain needed to be replaced,” but workers couldn’t get permission from Fairpoint management. The technician speculated that the refusal to approve the replacement was because the switch was costly.
Additionally, the tech thought the state Public Service Board didn’t see internet connection as a priority. PSB considers phone service urgent, but not the internet, in his view.
If either or both of these are true, they bode ill for broadband access in Vermont. Either the state or our lone internet provider is blowing us off.
Remember that “us” means a good number of people, including at least several internet-dependent businesses.
The bad news, part 2: we haven’t heard anything from Fairpoint by email, Twitter, or Facebook, where I’ve reached out to them. There’s no sign of Fairpoint posted to, or reading, the Reddit Vermont board or any relevant FrontPorchForum (a Vermont community email list/BBS hybrid). For an ISP, bringing digital communication to consumers, they seem to shun digital communication.
EDITED TO ADD: Fairpoint called me yesterday (Tuesday). The representative (Megan) more or less repeated what the technician said, reporting that an Occam blade (example) failed at a “central office” or a remote terminal. I asked if they could be easily replaced, especially if it’s a device deployed widely throughout the Fairpoint domain; the rep didn’t know. The rep also doesn’t know if there were other reasons for the delay, but said we should contact… the main help line, which didn’t help us before. The rep ultimately referred me to her manager; one of them will reconnect with me later on, hopefully.
EDITED TO ADD, 2: That manager called. A very interesting conversation. He’s only been in the position a month and a half. He assured me repeatedly that he is committed to maintaining service, which is good. He also explained that Fairpoint was struggling to keep up with problems from a storm several weeks ago, which is not good. He didn’t know why Fairpoint wasn’t responding to digital communication, which is also not good. The manager’s a technician by background, which reassured me. He also gave me his number to call, which was a nice gesture.
So, what next?
We reached out to numerous sources, including members of the community, Reddit’s Vermont board, Facebook, FrontPorchForum, and, of course, this blog. We’ve received a lot of feedback, the supermajority of which expresses strong dislike of and dissatisfaction with Fairpoint (check the Redditors for a sample). That’s been useful for us emotionally and informationally.
Here’s what we’re considering doing now:
- Contacting our state legislators. I’ve emailed our representative and senator, along with one candidate for this week’s primaries; haven’t heard back yet.
- Contacting gubernatorial candidates, since this is an election year. That’s Sue Minter (Dem) and Phil Scott (GOP). Let’s see who has a better position on rural broadband
- Complaining to the Public Service Board. I hope they can address the technician’s comments.
- Contacting the FCC.
- Asking Google for their blazing-fast fiber (Alan’s suggestion). (Too bad an ex-Googler lost his run for governor this week)
- Reconnect with our old community broadband provider. Short version: they connected the town more than a decade ago, as a co-op. This success inspired Fairpoint to move in and provide the service for less money, so the co-op suspended itself. North Branch Networks continues to exist, so we’ll look into reconnecting.
- Keeping in touch with that Fairpoint manager.
In short, we’d like to understand what the problem was. We’d like to determine if Fairpoint and/or the state are actually committed to providing broadband. We’d like to know how reliable service will be in the future. We’d like to improve communication. And we’ll see about NBN as a backup.
Because we’re seriously considering setting up an office in a town with better internet, which would cost a great deal for our little business. And when our youngest moves away to college, this is giving us a reason to move house away from town, or even Vermont.