FairPoint issues finally ease up

Personal Web pages, dial-up accounts, e-mail systems – the list of problems resulting from FairPoint’s takeover of Verizon’s Internet service finally seems to be shrinking, but only after reams of complaints over nearly two weeks.

“Since Monday (Feb. 2) we have received 248 calls about what I call ‘cutover issues’. . . . To give a comparison, that’s equal to about an average month’s volume of calls (about all issues),” said Amanda Noonan, director of the consumer affairs division of the state Public Utilities Commission.FairPoint itself has handled tens of thousands of phone calls and online help queries since the transition took place two weeks ago Friday, with wait times as long as eight hours reported by customers.

The volume of calls has fallen greatly this week, FairPoint spokeswoman Jill Wurm said Wednesday.

She said system-wide issues, such as bad addresses for thousands of customers trying to switch their e-mail from verizon.net to myfairpoint.net, have been fixed, but individual problems making the transition remain.

Stephen Yanco, who owns At-Home P/C Escape PC Problems in Nashua, has gotten some business from that confusion, since a couple of people have hired him to come to their house and get their e-mail working again.

“One of them didn’t set up their POP and SMTPs right,” said Yanco, dropping into the terminology that shows why many customers had difficulty figuring out the transition.

“We had to call up FairPoint to get passwords – and I’ve got to say it really didn’t take that long. We were on hold maybe 10 minutes,” said Yanco, relating his experience from late last week. “From what I had read, I thought it would be a lot worse.”

>>Fairpoint Watch<< FairPoint took over all of Verizon's systems in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine as of midnight Friday, Jan. 30, including about 285,000 e-mail addresses. This was the culmination of its $2.4 billion purchase of the region's phone system. Problems began cropping up soon afterward. These presumably hit a minority of customers, although no exact numbers are available, and many people have had no problems adjusting their Internet experience. "Just to let you know, the cutover has been seamless for me. I changed my Verizon e-mail address to myfairpoint on Jan. 31 and everything went as advertised," wrote Joseph Wozniak of Nashua in an e-mail to The Telegraph. For many others, however, the situation was worse. "I still can't use my e-mail through Outlook Express," said Donna Szydlowski of Nashua on Wednesday, one of dozens of people who have contacted the paper about problems over the past 10 days. Szydlowski noted that she worked for Hewlett-Packard and its various corporate predecessors in Nashua and understands computers. "I just got off the phone - I finally got through with that new 888 number they have - and they promised me they will fix it in 24 hours. The man was very nice and seemed to know what he was doing," she said, explaining why she is optimistic even though other FairPoint representatives have made similar promises in the past week, without success. "It's been frustrating," she said. "I sit waiting on chat for an hour, hour and a half, but eventually you have to get off." Although e-mail accounts are by far the most frequently cited issue, they weren't the only ones. For example, personal Web pages hosted by Verizon didn't transition to FairPoint. At least part of the problem, it turned out after more than a week of confusion, was that the company told customers the pages were hosted at http://www.myfairpoint.net, but they were actually hosted at http://home.myfairpoint.net. Another problem occurred with dial-up accounts, a relatively small part of a business dominated by DSL and fiber-optic broadband. "That was one of these overlooked groups," said Wurm, FairPoint spokeswoman. "We had to establish a new telephone number for them to call into. The new number, which is toll free, is 1-500-699-9900. It's unclear what, if any, action could be taken by the state in response to the problems. The takeover of Verizon's telephone system by FairPoint was carefully overseen by regulators in all three states, but under federal, Internet connection is not regulated. For example, the settlement agreed to by New Hampshire regulators a year ago includes what are called "metrics" that must be met by FairPoint, including the requirement that eventually, "85% of repair service calls, calls to the business office and other calls shall be answered within 20 seconds." However, this metric concerns repair calls about telephone service, and it's not clear if it would apply to calls concerning Internet service, which is not regulated.