State agencies seek experts to investigate FairPoint network
FairPoint Communications is under scrutiny from Vermont's two state agencies charged with regulating telephone lines and running the 911 system.
The Public Service Department, whose job is to advocate for the public interest, is asking the Public Service Board to open a formal investigation over a piece of network equipment that failed Jan. 5, causing a 40-minute phone system outage.
The department said in documents filed Sept. 26 that the outage stopped calls from getting through to the state's 911 emergency system — also run by FairPoint. The department said it has been conducting an "informal investigation" into the matter since February.
Once a formal investigation is opened, the department is seeking to retain an independent expert to review FairPoint's network design to see if any changes need to be made, according to Jim Porter, the director of telecommunications and connectivity for the Public Service Department.
Angelynne Beaudry, the spokesperson for FairPoint, said in a statement that the company has shared with the Public Service Department both a root-cause analysis of the Jan. 5 issue and the steps the company has taken to remedy it.
"Since then, FairPoint has worked to answer the state's questions and concerns about this event and will continue to do so as needed during any formal proceeding initiated at the Public Service Board," Beaudry said.
Additionally, the Enhanced 911 Board has been investigating two outages in FairPoint's proprietary 911 system that happened in June and August, which caused the system to miss 44 phone calls and have to shut down text-to-911 services.
"The 911 board itself is considering hiring an expert consultant to come in and provide an independent review and assessment of the 911 system to confirm that it's designed and working the way we expect it to be," said Barb Neal, the executive director of the E-911 Board.
Neal said her staff thinks the issues from June and August have been resolved, but she wants independent confirmation. Neal also said the E-911 Board supports the department's petition to open an investigation.
Beaudry said in a statement that the June and August outages happened because of work to improve the network. "We worked hard with the E-911 Board to resolve them, and will continue to work with E-911 Board and their representatives to make sure that our customer is fully satisfied," she said.
FairPoint was awarded a five-year, $11.2 million contract to build a new 911 system for Vermont in May 2014. The company took over for Intrado in July 2015, while FairPoint was under investigation for a phone system outage from 2014.
The company settled that investigation when it agreed to fix problems in its network, give refunds to thousands of landline phone customers who experienced outages, and accept millions of dollars in federal subsidies to expand its broadband network.
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