Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is anybody home? FairPoint finally responds — but not to customers

Published in the Portland Phoenix

As the Portland Phoenix went to press, FairPoint Communications was supposed to submit to state regulators its plan for fixing the problems that have plagued the company — and brought in legions of customer complaints about service interruptions, billing, and even about the process for resolving customer complaints — since it took control of the northern New England telephone lines it bought from Verizon for $2.3 billion last year.

Suggesting that regulators' demands — not customers' feelings — are the best means to force the company to provide proper service, customer dissatisfaction deteriorated to the point where, at the end of last week, the Maine Public Utilities Commission gave the company less than three business days to finish making its "stabilization plan." FairPoint spokesman Jeff Nevins has limited his public comments on the matter to promises that the company would respond by the commission's deadline.

The commission asked FairPoint to describe how it would deal with long-delayed service orders from residential and business telephone customers, as well as with backlogged service requests from phone- and Internet-service resellers such as Biddeford-based GWI.

On top of that, the company was asked to explain what it is doing to "improve its customer call-center performance" (a reference to the high numbers of complaints from FairPoint customers seeking help with their service), as well as "resolve billing errors and related customer confusion" (a reference to, well, billing errors and related customer confusion).

As of press time, the plan had not yet been filed with state regulators, but there is no penalty — apart from additional public embarrassment — if FairPoint meets the deadline.