News Feature

The Island
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, September 20, 2012
FairPoint upgrades cable lines, expects improved service

by Jessica Brophy

Nearly a month after a series of Internet service outages hampered businesses and individuals served by FairPoint in Stonington, relief is on the way.

According to Jeff Nevins, FairPoint spokesperson for Maine and New Hampshire, two problems for Deer Isle and Stonington are currently being addressed through equipment upgrades.

First, the issue of slow Internet service is the result of congestion, said Nevins.

“What you have is people watching more video, and really stretching the capacity of the Internet,” said Nevins. “More and more data is passing through the Internet.”

The Island had been served by a “digital signal 3” (DS 3) cable, also known as a T3 line. That line is currently being replaced with an “optical cable 3” (OC3) line. The OC line is able to handle much more data than the DS line.

Sections of that line have already been replaced, Nevins expects that project to be complete very soon. Some data traffic is also being re-routed to further relieve congestion.

“We would hope that users will experience relief by the end of the week, or already be experiencing relief,” said Nevins about the congestion problem.

Nevins used the analogy of a highway to describe how data moves across the Internet. “There are a number of ways to relieve congestion,” he said. “You can build an extra lane or you can redirect traffic.”

The second problem, one perhaps more worrisome than congestion, is that of interrupted service, or outages.

“We had some equipment issues in Blue Hill,” said Nevins. “When data comes into Blue Hill there is a piece of equipment that directs traffic, that piece was having some intermittent problems.”

Nevins said the intermittent nature of the problem made it difficult to diagnose. “We would get a call that there was a problem, we would look at it and it would be fine,” he said. “And it went back and forth for awhile. We gotta see the problem before we can diagnose it.”

Nevins said congestion is a problem in many areas of the state as Internet use continues to expand. “Maine has a lot of islands and peninsulas,” said Nevins. “A lot of the times there’s only one way on and off.”

Several people have been working for weeks on the problems in Blue Hill, in what Nevins called an “expedited project.” Currently, FairPoint is working on 11 such congestion problems across the state, said Nevins. FairPoint has also worked extensively on upgrading the infrastructure of its Internet service over the past four years, he continued.

While FairPoint has made efforts to improve service since it declared bankruptcy in 2009, some Mainers have expressed frustration with the company.

The Better Business Bureau rates the Maine office of FairPoint Communications with an F, and more than 170 complaints about FairPoint have been filed with the BBB since 2009. According to the BBB website, two of the factors that lowered the rating for FairPoint Communications are the number of complaints and the corporation’s failure to respond to some of those complaints.

Linda Conti, chief of the division of consumer protection at the Maine Attorney General’s office, said her office had received 81 calls about FairPoint since January of 2011. Three have come from Stonington.

Conti said there have been no investigations this year by the AG office into FairPoint. “We may not be able to do anything about bad service,” said Conti, who said the office does look at advertising claims and consumer contracts.

“If [a consumer] wants to cancel and get a refund, we can help with that. If they want us to make [FairPoint] give better service, we probably can’t,” said Conti.

Nevins said consumers who had outages during August or earlier this month should contact the call center and talk to the representatives about what happened. Nevins said refunds aren’t guaranteed, but customers who experienced problems should call.