01.21.15

New England Lawmakers Call for Assessment of FairPoint Emergency Network Capabilities

Call follows outages of both New Hampshire and Vermont emergency communication networks

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and Annie Kuster (D-NH) are calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to assess the ability of FairPoint Communications to operate emergency communications networks in New Hampshire and Vermont. In a letter to Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC, the lawmakers specifically cited concerns about outages in both New Hampshire and Vermont that have caused lapses in emergency communications services, including a six-hour outage of Vermont’s E-911 system and a four-hour outage of Portsmouth, New Hampshire 911 services. A majority of Fairpoint Communications workers have been on strike since October 17, 2014.

“Since this labor impasse began, FairPoint’s networks and equipment have failed with increasing frequency and complaints from the company’s customers have soared,” the lawmakers wrote. “We are particularly alarmed that problems with FairPoint’s network have caused service outages for police departments, fire departments, and other critical public safety agencies across both New Hampshire and Vermont.”

“Any 911 call that is not connected to emergency responders is a matter of significant concern and potentially serious consequence, which is why we very much appreciate the FCC’s recent focus on addressing vulnerabilities in critical emergency communications networks to reduce 911 outages,” they continued.

“We urge you to immediately request that FairPoint provide the Federal Communications Commission with a full assessment of the causes of the recent system outages in Vermont and New Hampshire and to identify remedies to prevent similar problems in the future,” they concluded.

The ongoing strike by nearly 2000 FairPoint employees across New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont has been accompanied by disrupted service for a number of public safety agencies as well as hundreds of customers throughout the region, potentially jeopardizing emergency communications and police and fire services.

The full text of the lawmaker’s letter is included below:

January 21, 2015

 

The Honorable Tom Wheeler

Chairman

Federal Communications Commission

445 12th Street, SW

Washington, DC 20536

Dear Chairman Wheeler:

We write regarding recent FairPoint Communications service outages that have impacted the Vermont E911 system and public safety agencies in both Vermont and New Hampshire.

As you may be aware, the majority of FairPoint’s workforce in Vermont and New Hampshire has been on strike since October 17, 2014. Since this labor impasse began, FairPoint’s networks and equipment have failed with increasing frequency and complaints from the company’s customers have soared. We are particularly alarmed that problems with FairPoint’s network have caused service outages for police departments, fire departments, and other critical public safety agencies across both New Hampshire and Vermont.

For example, a November 28 hardware failure – that was unrelated to weather events – caused an almost six-hour outage of Vermont’s E-911 system. FairPoint’s failure to report, respond and repair the equipment failure in a timely manner resulted in more than 80 missed calls from Vermonters to emergency dispatchers at the State Police, Montpelier City Police, and Vermont Gas, potentially endangering lives and property across the state.  As a result of this outage, the Vermont Department of Public Service has initiated a service quality investigation.  In New Hampshire, a December 3 service failure resulted in a four-hour outage in 911 service in Portsmouth.

Any 911 call that is not connected to emergency responders is a matter of significant concern and potentially serious consequence, which is why we very much appreciate the FCC’s recent focus on addressing vulnerabilities in critical emergency communications networks to reduce 911 outages. Consistent with that effort, and given FairPoint’s critical role supporting emergency communications throughout Vermont and New Hampshire, we respectfully request that the FCC evaluate whether FairPoint remains capable of providing emergency communications services that our citizens and first responders can depend on in times of crisis. We hope that the FCC will act swiftly in this regard, particularly considering the frequent inclement weather in Northern New England during winter and the potential for both further damage to FairPoint’s network and weather-related public safety emergencies.

We urge you to immediately request that FairPoint provide the Federal Communications Commission with a full assessment of the causes of the recent system outages in Vermont and New Hampshire and to identify remedies to prevent similar problems in the future. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

 

______________________________                        ______________________________

Jeanne Shaheen                                                                              Patrick Leahy

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

______________________________                        ______________________________

Bernard Sanders                                                                              Peter Welch

United States Senator                                                                   United States Representative

______________________________                       

Ann McLane Kuster                                                       

United States Representative                                                                   

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