FairPoint disputes Web story

If you didn’t think there would be confusion about FairPoint taking over Verizon’s phone lines, a process that will wind up by the end of January, then you don’t read the geeky Web site Slashdot.

“FairPoint Pledges to Violate Net Neutrality” read the headline Saturday at the influential Web site, above a short post linking to a Rutland Herald story concerning the takeover.

Net neutrality is a policy under which Internet providers give the same priority to all traffic. It is regarded by many folks online with the same fervor that the National Rifle Association regards the Second Amendment, so the headline was provocative, drawing condemnation in blogs near and far.

However, it turns out the headline was wrong, based on a misreading of FairPoint’s description of changes coming to Web-based e-mail by Jan. 31.”No, that’s not right,” said Jill Wurm, FairPoint spokeswoman. “If you want to set up your home page at AOL, MSN, whatever, you can still do that. You can still read e-mail through an Outlook account as you always have.”

This is unlikely to be the last time that questions arise about details of the transition, which is scheduled to be complete by Jan. 31.

When the cutover takes place Jan. 31, people will lose their “Verizon.net” e-mail address; they will change to “myfairpoint.net” addresses – that is, “johnsmith@verizon.net” will become “johnsmith@myfairpoint.net.”

FairPoint guarantees that you can keep the same prefix, the part of the address before the @ sign; that username and passwords won’t change; and that your past mail will remain accessible.

Mail sent to your “verizon.net” address will be forwarded until April 30; after that, it will disappear into the Internet ether.

The process of changing addresses requires some tweaking of settings, depending on details such as whether you use dial-up or DSL, or whether you have a customized domain e-mail address – and any time there’s tweaking there is room for confusion.

This particular confusion came up because one service offered by Verizon will disappear with the transition.

Many people read their e-mail through Web sites rather than through e-mail programs like Microsoft’s Outlook. This allows you to read your e-mail from anywhere with an Internet connection.

The usual process is that you go to the Web site of your Internet provider, whether it’s a local firm like MV Communications or a national firm like Gmail, and check your mail there.

Verizon, however, has a deal with MSN, Yahoo and AOL that allows people to read their “verizon.net” e-mail at those companies’ Web sites – that is, rather than going to Verizon’s page to see their mail, they can load MSN and still read it.

FairPoint will not have those deals, however.

Once the cutover takes place, the only way to read “myfairpoint.net” e-mail on the Web will be at FairPoint’s site.