With workers for FairPoint Communications still on strike, frustration is growing among customers who’ve been forced to wait for phone or Internet repairs.
Brian Allen of South Pomfret says he and his wife lost phone and Internet service Oct. 29. He says they didn’t get their phone back until this week but he says it’ll be another five to ten days before their Internet is restored.
"It’s a long time to not have phone or Internet. We live in a very rural area - we're up in the sticks here - and not being able to get quick phone call out could mean the difference between life and death," Allen said. "We heat our house with wood; we could have a chimney fire. There’s all kind of stuff that can happen and we really rely on that phone line."
FairPoint officials announced last week that they and union representatives will meet Nov. 18 with a federal mediator in Boston. Allen says he hopes the two sides can reach a compromise. But he says from a consumer’s point of view, he’s frustrated and angry the state hasn’t done more to regulate FairPoint.
James Porter, director of telecommunications with the Vermont Department of Public Service, says the state has no jurisdiction over broadband complaints. But he says FairPoint is trying to prioritize repairs for phone service.
"If someone has a medical emergency, they’re getting first priority. So, yes, it is a problem right now that we’re well aware of and we are monitoring the situation. We have daily calls with FairPoint, and we do understand that it’s a very frustrating time for customers," he says.
Porter says the state has received 232 complaints about FairPoint in the four weeks since the strike began. Because of that, he expects the state will launch a formal investigation into their service practices next month.
"For years and years, the phone company has been subject to automatic penalties for failure to make service quality metrics. And at this point we’re more interested in actually having an expert go in and find the root cause of a problem - more so than a penalty for providing sub-par service, which at times almost seems like companies have used it as a cost of doing business," he says.
Porter said he hopes this approach will help FairPoint fix its problems and satisfy angry customers.