Vermont regulators say there’s been no improvement in telephone service repair delays since FairPoint Communications’ unionized workers went on strike nearly three months ago.
“There continues to be a large backlog of service orders that FairPoint can’t seem to bring down to an acceptable level,” says State Telecommunications Director Jim Porter.
Porter says FairPoint appears to be following a set of protocols that require it to prioritize telephone repairs to assure that problems affecting public safety are dealt with first. Telephone users who have health issues are also supposed to be given priority.
Since the strike began, Porter’s department has received more than 1,200 complaints about Internet and telephone service.
Porter says Vermont regulators have received more complaints than their counterparts in New Hampshire and Maine combined, yet there are fewer FairPoint customers in Vermont.
He says it’s difficult to tell whether the company’s problem are more severe in Vermont or if the state’s FairPoint customers have been more forthcoming with complaints.
At the request of the Public Service Department, the Vermont Public Service Board has opened an inquiry into FairPoint’s service problems.
The board has the ability to penalize or fine the company, and, in the most extreme case, withdraw the Certificate of Public Good that gives it permission to operate in the state. But the board process will take months to play out and the company’s service problems could continue.
Efforts also continue to resolve the strike.
Last week the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) brought the parties together in Washington, D.C.
The FMCS has instructed the company and the unions to refrain from issuing any comments on negotiations and a spokesman for the service declined to say whether talks are continuing for a second week.
However a Facebook post by the unions said the two sides are continuing to meet with federal mediators this week.