Mon, 02 Dec 2013 15:38:15 ESTAugusta, 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.
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: www.cmpco.com/smartmeter/">http://www.cmpco.com/smartmeter/">www.cmpco.com/smartmeter/
Thu, 09 Jun 2011 11:06:04 EDTThe 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">http://www.maine.gov/meopa/docs/E4%20Group%20expert%20advocate%20RFP.pdf">View the RFP (PDF).
Tue, 30 Nov 2010 09:06:23 ESTSince 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.
Wed, 30 Jan 2013 09:58:21 EST##Published Copies to Subscribers to Be in the Mail by December 1, 2010
Wed, 28 Jan 2009 12:18:07 ESTThe 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).
Tue, 30 Nov 2010 09:06:43 ESTMaine 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.
Tue, 26 Aug 2008 15:59:52 EDTAs 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.
Tue, 29 Jul 2008 08:57:58 EDTFrequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about current proposals to build electric transmission lines in Maine have been added to the Public Advocate website. View">http://www.maine.gov/meopa/electric/transmission.html">View the Electric Transmission FAQ.
Tue, 03 Jun 2008 11:36:09 EDTFor 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.
Wed, 09 Jan 2008 10:33:48 ESTWhile 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 www.speakeasy.net/speedtest 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.
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:
“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.
Mon, 15 Oct 2007 11:32:22 EDTAfter 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.
Thu, 11 Oct 2007 15:29:39 EDTAt 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[...]
Tue, 02 Oct 2007 11:50:02 EDTFree 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 http://www.mcdmaine.org/tep.htm.The 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 (http://www.hamiltonrelay.com/states/me.htm) 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: http://www.hamiltonrelay.com/states/me.htm.About 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[...]