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Office Of The Public Advocate Releases Free 24-Page Ratewatcher Telecom Guide

Mon, 02 Dec 2013 15:38:15 EST

Augusta, Maine - The Ratewatcher is back! The new 24-page Ratewatcher Telecom Guide is now online and the printed edition will be mailed to tens of thousands of subscribers this week. "The Ratewatcher makes it easier for Maine consumers to find the best services and latest prices for Internet, telephone, and cell phone services in our State" said Tim Schneider, the State's new Public Advocate. "Our primary focus is on saving money for Maine consumers and businesses, but the Ratewatcher also tries to make the increasingly complex tangle of retail communications services understandable to the consumer" said Wayne Jortner, Senior Counsel to the Public Advocate. The latest edition is heavily focused on broadband services, reflecting the growing importance of broadband for our State's economy and in our daily lives.

The services described in the Ratewatcher are used by virtually every household in Maine. "Whether you use plain old telephone service, cellular voice or data service, a prepaid wireless phone, Voice over Internet (VOIP) or any of five types of broadband service, the Ratewatcher provides much information about those services that are available in Maine" said Jortner. The latest issue also reports on several opportunities for affordable connectivity for low-income households, and some newer products such as wireless home phone services and hotspot services.

The 24-page, full-color Ratewatcher Telecom Guide, is available free of charge to all Maine residents. To request a copy, call 287-2445, send an email message to: or write to the Public Advocate at, SHS 112, Augusta, Maine 04333. If you have Internet access, simply click on the pdf version of the Ratewatcher at and print it out in full color. An ADA-compliant online version is also available there.

Download">">Download the Ratewatcher Telecom Guide (PDF)

If you experience intereference with home wireless networks or household appliances after the installation of a Central Maine Power "smart meter," contact CMP

Thu, 17 Nov 2011 21:28:26 EST

​The smart meters that Central Maine Power Company is installing throughout its territory pursuant to Commission approval are causing radio frequency interference with some customers' electrical appliances, personal computers, and communications devices. To date, over 200 customers have contacted CMP about problems with a variety of appliances and devices including phones (cell, cordless, and landline), answering machines, Internet routers and wifi, personal computers, TVs, garage doors, fire alarms, clocks and even electric pet fences. The most common problem is interference with wireless internet routers, because they use similar radio frequencies. The problems can often be resolved by simply changing a setting on the device. Other concerns include malfunctioning phones, Internet routers crashing or freezing, damage to computer hard drives, static and clicking sounds on communication and computer gear, inability to stream Netflix, failure of TV remote, and other appliance malfunctions.

Public Advocate Richard Davies said, "We believe that these 200 plus customers are only a subset of those affected. CMP has already installed nearly 425,000 meters, so there may be many more customers who are having problems with devices and appliances, but don't know that the problems may be caused by the smart meter. We have asked CMP to do a better job informing customers about these potential problems, and while CMP's website does refer to the issue, we don't think it goes far enough. My agency is troubled by the possibility that people may be spending their time and money fixing a problem that may be caused by CMP's meters, and that can and should be fixed by CMP."

​CMP received the first calls about interference problems shortly after they began installing the meters last fall, and they continue to receive calls as meters are installed in more communities. "If customers notice that some appliances began malfunctioning soon after their smart meter was installed, they should contact CMP," said Davies. "Customers can find information to correct common radio frequency interference problems on the CMP website, or they should call the company and ask for assistance." According to the CMP website, the number to call is 1-800-750-4000. Or, there is an electronic form customers can fill out that is found at the bottom of CMP's smart meter webpage:


E4 Group - Request for Proposals - Transmission Planning and Cost Allocation Advocate

Thu, 09 Jun 2011 11:06:04 EDT

The Maine Public Advocate (OPA), GridSolar, LLC, the Industrial Energy Consumers Group, the Conservation Law Foundation and ENE (Environment Northeast) (collectively, the E4 Group) seek a consultant/advocate (the Contractor) to assist with efforts to improve the methods by which electric transmission planning and transmission cost allocation are conducted at the regional level in New England. View">">View the RFP (PDF).

Update -- Fairpoint Customer Service Problems

Tue, 30 Nov 2010 09:06:23 EST

Since the recent cut-over from Verizon’s systems to the systems built for FairPoint, there have been widespread problems relating to customer service. It appears that the new systems are not performing as expected, causing delays in order processing for FairPoint’s customers and for customers of competitive telephone and DSL providers. It has also resulted in many instances of inaccurate billing. These problems have resulted in large increases in the volume of calls to FairPoint, causing an overload on FairPoint’s customer service lines and affecting its ability to answer calls within a reasonable time. The Public Advocate and the Public Utilities Commission are working to ensure that FairPoint resolves these issues as quickly as possible, and such plans are already in place. We expect to see continual improvement at this time but some continued problems for the next few months.

**Our Advice** – If your issue involves inaccurate billing, it is best not to worry about it immediately and wait for the next billing cycle to see if it has been corrected. FairPoint has assured us that current billing issues will not result in inaccurate reports to credit bureaus and that it will ensure that no customer is over-charged. If you are waiting for repair or new installation of service, and are not getting adequate service from FairPoint, we suggest that you bring the matter to the attention of the Public Utilities Commission by calling 1800 452-4699. If they do not satisfy your concerns, or if you have questions, you may also contact us, the Public Advocate, by calling 287-2445.

New Edition of the Ratewatcher Telecom Guide Online Now

Wed, 30 Jan 2013 09:58:21 EST

##Published Copies to Subscribers to Be in the Mail by December 1, 2010

Check the new">">new Ratewatcher Telecom Guide (PDF) for the latest prices and information about telephone, Internet, and cellular services available in Maine, as well as many money-saving tips.

FairPoint cutover January 23, 2009 through February 9, 2009

Wed, 28 Jan 2009 12:18:07 EST

The Company will not be processing orders for new telephone service, transfer of service or adding new options to existing services during this cutover period.  Contact information for FairPoint: residential (800-984-2001) & business (800-983-3001).

$20 Credit Available to New Customers of Pioneer Telephone

Tue, 30 Nov 2010 09:06:43 EST

Maine residents who sign up for a long-distance phone plan with long-distance rates that are among the lowest available can get a $20 incentive to do so, the Maine Public Advocate Office said Friday. This is an unexpected bonus associated with the consumer advocacy group's campaign to help people trim their phone bills. However, Pioneer is recommended only for customers of “New FairPoint”, in the former Verizon territory.

Pioneer Telephone, a small long-distance carrier based in Portland, Maine, informed the Maine Public Advocate Office that it was eligible for sales commissions. "We said that we couldn't take money for advising consumers through our Ratewatcher Telecom Guide," said Richard Davies, Public Advocate, "but we did negotiate a deal to pass along more savings to consumers."

Maine customers who dial 1-877-492-6878 to get Pioneer's service should ask for the OPA discount, which is a $20 credit. Changing long-distance carriers will trigger a $5 charge from local phone carrier FairPoint, which the $20 more than compensates for, Davies said.

“Moving to a low price long-distance carrier like Pioneer is one of the many money-saving recommendations of the Public Advocate that may be found in our 20-page Ratewatcher Telecom Guide”, said Wayne Jortner, Senior Counsel to the Public Advocate. The guide is available by calling 287-2445 or by visiting

Contact Information: Wayne R. Jortner Richard Davies Office of Public Advocate (TEL) 207-287-2445 (TTY) 888-577-6690

Fairpoint Telephone Rate Reduction Delayed - But Customers Will Get Retroactive Credit

Tue, 26 Aug 2008 15:59:52 EDT

As a result of delays associated with transferring FairPoint's billing and operational systems from Verizon's old systems, FairPoint was unable to comply with our agreement to reduce basic telephone rates as of August 1, 2008.  Currently, we expect the rate reduction to occur beginning December, 2008, at which time, customers will receive a bill credit representing the agreed upon rate reduction retroactive to August 1.  The Public Utilities Commission approved this unfortunate, but necessary delay.  We expect that most customers with premium basic service will see a rate reduction of approximately $4.60 per month. 

Electric Transmission Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Tue, 29 Jul 2008 08:57:58 EDT

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about current proposals to build electric transmission lines in Maine have been added to the Public Advocate website. View">">View the Electric Transmission FAQ.

June 2008 Ratewatcher Telecom Guide Now Available

Tue, 03 Jun 2008 11:36:09 EDT

For a free hard copy subscription, call 287-2445. The Ratewatcher provides detailed information about telephone, wireless, and Internet services available to the people of Maine.

You can also download a printable PDF copy of the Ratewatcher">">Ratewatcher Guide (PDF, 1.5mb).

Are You Getting the Internet Speed That You Are Paying For?

Wed, 09 Jan 2008 10:33:48 EST

While telephone and cable companies promise particular connection speeds, those speeds vary quite a bit in the real world.  Cable speeds may vary based on the number of nearby customers on-line in your neighborhood and DSL speeds may vary by the condition and length of your copper telephone line.  It's easy to test your speed - just go to and see how fast you can surf.  If the speed varies substantially from the speed promised by your service provider, you can ask them what can be done about that.  

DSL customers typically have a choice of 768 Kbs, 1.5 Mbs, or 3 Mbs, depending on price.  Cable tends to be one-size fits all, but the speeds may vary from around 1 Mbs to 5 Mbs or more.  For speed ranges for all types on Internet service, see "Speed Matters" at .

Maine Public Advocate Reaches Agreement With Fairpoint and Verizon on Sale of Verizon's Operations in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont

Thu, 13 Dec 2007 17:13:06 EST

An agreement was reached early Thursday morning between the Maine Office of the Public Advocate and representatives of FairPoint and Verizon concerning a proposed sale of Verizon’s operations in Maine, NH and Vermont to FairPoint Communications.

The Public Advocate is charged with representing the interests of Maine consumers in utility regulatory matters.

In early November, the Public Advocate released an analysis of the proposed FairPoint-Verizon transaction that recommended approval of the transaction by the Maine Public Utilities Commission but only if the Commission imposed a list of 24 conditions on the transaction.

“Our goal all along has been to ensure the financial viability of the post-merger company and to make sure that Maine telephone customers receive high quality and expanded services,” said Public Advocate Richard Davies. “The settlement agreement will ensure better service, more broadband availability and lower rates.”

In the agreement reached today, FairPoint and Verizon agreed to major changes in their proposal that has earned the merger the endorsement of the Public Advocate.

The terms include:

  • reducing the debt burden on FairPoint, Verizon will be contributing up to $235.5 million in additional working capital
  • FairPoint will further reduce its debt by cutting its dividend payments by 35 percent (freeing up $49.7 million annually) and requiring the greater of $35 million or 90 percent of free cash flow be used to pay down debt
  • restricting dividends and further acquisitions should FairPoint's debt to cash flow ratio exceed certain pre-determined levels
  • requiring capital investments in Maine by FairPoint of no less than $47-48 million annually in the first three years
  • greatly expanding FairPoint's commitment to broadband expansion in Maine through the investment of $57.5 million in the first five years, with a promise to reach 90 percent of all lines even if it costs more money
  • FairPoint will adopt Verizon's current $15 per month DSL price with a two year contract, or $18 with a one year contract
  • in resolution of a pending rate case, basic telephone rates will be reduced by $18 million annually, and with no rate increases for at least five years
  • stepped up penalties if FairPoint fails to meet customer service quality standards
  • protections for consumers by not allowing FairPoint to pass along higher capital costs because it is riskier or has higher debt cost than Verizon

“Verizon and FairPoint have come a long way during negotiations over their proposed transaction, and they deserve credit for being responsive to the needs of Maine telephone customers,” Public Advocate attorneys Bill Black and Wayne Jortner said. “Now we recommend that the PUC determine that they have moved far enough.”

The PUC was scheduled to deliberate on the case today. The hearing was postponed until Dec. 20 to give interested parties additional time to examine and comment on the settlement agreement.

Richard Davies
Public Advocate
(207) 287-2445

Fairpoint’s Request to Acquire Verizon in Maine, New Hampshire And Vermont – a Decision is Near

Mon, 15 Oct 2007 11:32:22 EDT

After months of litigation, the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC), along with its counterparts in New Hampshire and Vermont, will soon decide whether Fairpoint Communications will be allowed to own and operate Verizon’s network and become the major regional provider of telephone and broadband services in those three states.  The Public Advocate, on behalf of Maine’s consumers, has been one of the most active parties in the case, which is undoubtedly one of the most important cases ever decided by the Maine PUC.

Last October, just after the last day of formal hearings, the Public Advocate announced that we would not oppose the acquisition if the Commission adopted over twenty separate conditions that would serve to protect Maine customers and the public interest.  Because Fairpoint is a much smaller company than Verizon, and because it is financing this acquisition with a lot of debt that is rated below investment grade level (sometimes called junk bonds), many of the conditions we recommend are aimed at Fairpoint’s financial viability, including our condition that Verizon accept a lower purchase price.

Other recommended conditions address Fairpoint’s obligation to provide high quality service to customers,  its future prices for telephone and broadband services, its technical ability to successfully create and implement new operational systems, its ability and commitment to deliver DSL broadband service throughout Maine, its continued delivery of all necessary wholesale network services to competitive carriers, and its obligations to maximize federal support to keep telephone rates as low as possible.  Other intervenors in the case are focusing on service to competitive carriers, employment issues, and Fairpoint’s obligations to ensure the privacy of customer information and phone calls. In our view, the paramount concern is the risk that the State’s major telephone and broadband carrier will encounter serious financial difficulties, perform poorly, and demand rates higher than those of Verizon.

Fairpoint already operates 6 rural telephone companies in Maine.  However, if Fairpoint is approved, the operations and prices of those companies will not change at the outset, but Fairpoint indicates that it would eventually try to unify its operations in Maine. 

One potential benefit of the acquisition is the possibility that Fairpoint will offer video service (IPTV) over its network in competition with Time Warner’s television packages.  However, even if such plans move ahead without delay, Fairpoint’s planned TV service will be rolled out incrementally (town by town) and its earliest availability in limited areas is not likely to occur before sometime in 2009.  It could also be much later.

A final decision by the Public Utilities Commission is expected in January, 2008.

Public Advocate Announces Recommendations to PUC in Fairpoint’s Proposed Acquisition of Verizon-Maine

Thu, 11 Oct 2007 15:29:39 EDT

At the conclusion of formal hearings before the Maine Public Utilities Commission on the proposed Fairpoint acquisition of Verizon’s northern New England landline business, the Public Advocate has proposed a list of 23 conditions on the proposed deal -- all of which are designed to protect ratepayers and the public interest against otherwise likely adverse consequences from this historic telephone utility acquisition. These 23 conditions were developed based on the examination by Public Advocate attorneys and its four expert witnesses of thousands of pages of documents and testimony in the case. During the just-concluded hearings, Public Advocate attorneys cross-examined Verizon and Fairpoint witnesses, including Fairpoint’s top management, and introduced substantial evidence that paints a clear picture of the implications of the proposal from the viewpoint of telephone customers. Under Maine law, the acquisition may be approved by the Commission only if it is proved to be consistent with the interests of ratepayers and investors. “The conditions that we recommend are essential if this proposal is to serve the interests of Maine people” said Public Advocate Dick Davies. The Public Advocate will recommend that the Commission not approve this acquisition unless it adopts all 23 specific conditions to offset the likely adverse consequences for consumers. The recommended conditions fall into seven general categories. Those include Fairpoint’s financial viability, Fairpoint’s obligation to provide high quality service to customers, prices for telephone and broadband services, Fairpoint’s technical ability to successfully create and implement new operational systems, Fairpoint’s ability and commitment to deliver DSL broadband service throughout Maine, Fairpoint’s continued delivery of all necessary wholesale network services to competitive carriers, and Fairpoint’s obligations to maximize federal support to keep telephone rates as low as possible.A key element of the Public Advocate’s recommendations requires a restructuring of the agreement between Fairpoint and Verizon so that Verizon, in effect, is paid a lower price. That change would allow Fairpoint to operate with less debt. “Because, under Maine law, Verizon does not have the right to abandon service without the Commission’s approval, the Public Advocate believes that it is appropriate for the Commission to require Verizon to lower its price in order to ensure Fairpoint’s long-term financial viability. Without a significant reduction in the price, this proposal will not work for Maine’s residential and small business customers”, Davies emphasized.If Fairpoint and Verizon are unable or unwilling to perform on all of these recommended conditions, the Public Advocate will recommend that the transaction be rejected by the PUC. “The risks presented by this case are enormous, and all potential adverse impacts must be addressed now. Otherwise the Commission should reject this deal”, said William Black and Wayne Jortner, the attorneys who represent the Public Advocate in the proceedings before the PUC.Fairpoint currently serves about 300,000 lines in 18 states and seeks to acquire another 1.6 million lines now served by Verizon in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Fairpoint’s and Verizon’s request for approval is pending before a utilities commission in each of those three states. A copy of the 23-item list of proposed conditions is attached below.Press Release Date: October 11, 2007 Contact Information: Wayne R. Jortner William C. Black Richard Davies Office of Public Advocate, 207-287-2445 NOTICE[...]

Captioned Telephone Allows Hard-of-Hearing People in Maine to Hear and Read Telephone Conversations

Tue, 02 Oct 2007 11:50:02 EDT

Free Captioning Service Available to Maine Residents Through Maine Relay Service When a person starts to lose his or her hearing, telephone conversations can become difficult and frustrating—and often lead to avoiding the phone altogether.Thanks to advancements in technology—and a free service provided through the State of Maine—residents of Maine who have a hearing loss can enjoy trouble-free telephone conversations with absolute confidence.It’s called “captioned telephone”—or CapTel®. The captioned telephone looks and works just like a traditional phone, with one important difference: the CapTel phone has a bright, built-in display screen which displays captions of everything the other party says during the conversationThe secret behind captioned telephone service is voice recognition technology, which allows for virtually instantaneous captioning of spoken conversation. The captioned telephone user can listen to the other party—while also reading the captioned conversation on the display screen. “If you miss part of the conversation or aren’t quite sure that you heard correctly, you can simply read the words on the screen—without having to ask the other person to repeat what he or she said,” said Dixie Ziegler, Vice President of Hamilton Relay, the provider of Maine Relay.According to Ziegler, many people who have hearing loss tend to avoid phone conversations because of frustration or embarrassment. In some cases, this leads to isolation from friends and family.“CapTel can help a person with hearing loss stay involved, engaged and connected,” Ziegler said. “Having difficulty hearing is no longer a barrier to enjoying conversations with the people who matter most to you—because you can actually see what people are talking about!”The captioning service is provided at no charge and is available 24 hours a day through Maine Relay Service, the free service that allows people who are hearing, hard of hearing, deaf, deaf-blind or speech disabled to communicate with each other via the telephone.There are several ways to apply for a CapTel phone. The captioned telephone equipment is available at little or no cost to qualified Maine residents through Maine Center on Deafness’ (MCD) Equipment Distribution Program. For more information on the MCD Equipment Program, individuals may call MCD at 207.797.7656 TTY/V or (1.800.639.3884 TTY/V outside the Portland calling area) or visit their website at phone is also available through a self-purchase program. Hamilton Relay has arranged, for a limited time only, to make CapTel phones available for just $99.00 (normally a retail value of $495). This offer comes with a 90-day trial period, which guarantees that if the customer is not entirely happy with CapTel, s/he can return the phone for a full refund within 3 months. To obtain a CapTel phone, customers simply complete an order form which is available on-line ( and through Maine Relay Customer Service.If you or someone you know has difficulty hearing on the telephone, discover more about free captioned telephone service in Maine by calling Maine Relay customer service at (800) 270.9709 or visiting: Maine Public Advocate OfficeWilliam C. Black, Deputy Public Advocate has been member on the Maine Telecommunications Relay Services Advisory Council for a number of years. About Hamilton RelayHamilton Relay offers a variety of services including Internet Relay, Video Relay, Wireless Relay and CapTel. All services are avail[...]