FairPoint fixing e-mail one by one

Posted Feb. 12, 2009, at 8:36 p.m.

FairPoint Communications customers still are having problems with e-mail nearly two weeks after the telecommunications company began to take over phone and Internet service from Verizon Communications in northern New England.

“There still are people who are calling in and we’re helping them through the process,” FairPoint spokesman Jeff Nevins said Thursday. “We’re helping them [through their problems] on a one-by-one basis.”

FairPoint has approximately 1.6 million customers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, and around 285,000 of those have e-mail accounts.

The company has been bombarded with thousands of calls from customers since the nine-day switch was started Jan. 31 and has bogged down lines making it hard to get through, he said.

“One of the issues has been the wait times when they call the help center,” Nevins said.

Once customers get through to the help line, they usually have to wait to speak to a customer service representative, but sometimes they get a message that states: “Due to high call volumes, we are not taking any calls.”

“The wait was around 15 minutes” in a test Nevins ran around noon Thursday, he said. “It varies. There are some times when the call volumes are high. There are times when they get that recording.”

One customer, Josh Saucier of Winterport, said on Thursday that he made it through the e-mail transition just fine, but when he called the customer support line about his e-mail address header being wrong, “it was always busy.”

After being kicked off the live chat, he called the help line again and after about 30 minutes of being on hold, he finally did get through.

“They acknowledged the problem but were unable to help and said it would be fixed ‘soon,’” Saucier said, adding that, “They were unable to define ‘soon.’”

And now he has noticed that “If you send a picture, even a logo, it shows up as a red blob.”

FairPoint has switched from leased Verizon equipment to FairPoint-owned equipment — the final step in the $2.3 billion sale — that involved shutting down Verizon’s 600 computer systems that served northern New England and transferring the data to FairPoint’s new network of 60 computer systems.

The new system was turned on Monday, Nevins said.

“We’re been operating this week with the new systems,” he said. “There are still issues we have to address. This is the biggest transition that has ever been done in the industry. It’s a historical transition.

“Having said that, largely everything is going fairly well at this point,” Nevins said. “We’re pleased with the transition, aside from the issues we’ve had with the e-mail mitigation.”

With the system change also came new equipment for employees to use, he said.

“Everyone employed at FairPoint is using new systems, so there is a learning curve there,” Nevins said. “Every day it’s getting better, [but] the new systems are not without their issues.”

As more time passes, the number of customers asking for help is dropping, Nevins said, adding that “the volume has dropped about 40 percent since yesterday. They’ve gone down consistently in the last few days. We’re hoping that’s a sign we’re through the major part of this problem.”

Most of the problems customers are experiencing have to do with changing e-mails from Verizon.net to Myfairpoint.net, but other technical issues have arisen since the switch began, Nevins said.

“We have to take them through a step-by-step process,” he said. “It’s not a quick fix. Some of the call times … can be 20 minutes” to figure out what the problem is. “That creates some problems too. It’s not an easy fix.”

FairPoint has nearly 300 technicians staffing help lines at 800-240-5019, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and has created an additional call center with 30 people, accessible by calling 888-740-0506, specifically for those with e-mail mitigation problems, Nevins said. Information about the switchover is also available at myfairpoint.net, he said.

“It’s not an easy fix [because] problems are different for everybody,” Nevins said. “In most cases, once we get someone connected with a tech, we can solve their problem.”

nricker@bangordailynews.net

990-8190

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