FairPoint takes over Vermont's enhanced 911 system, begins 5-year, $11 million contract

FairPoint Communications has taken over Vermont's enhanced 911 telephone system.

The new technology went live July 29, kicking off a five-year, $11.2 million contract with the telecommunications company.

Barb Neal, interim executive director of the Vermont Enhanced 9-1-1 Board, said she is happy with FairPoint's performance under the new contract, which she says has been on budget and on time. The new FairPoint system is better at handling 911 requests that come through text message, she said. Additionally, call takers will use mapping features that more efficiently locate emergencies.

Jim Porter, director of telecommunications at the state Department of Public Service, agrees.

"So far, so good," he said.

Vermont regulators are investigating the quality of FairPoint telephone service after an outage prevented callers from accessing 911 services for several hours last Thanksgiving weekend.

On Nov. 28, heavy snow caused a tree to fall on a fiber optic line in New Hampshire that linked to the Vermont system, knocking it out of service. Normally, calls would be routed to a backup line, but a power surge had caused the failure of a key piece of equipment linked to that line, David Tucker, former executive director of the board, told the board last year. Tucker stepped down in April, months after he said he had no regrets about signing the contract weeks before there were problems on FairPoint's network.

John Lunny, FairPoint chief technology officer, told regulators the system's backup circuits would now prevent the problems from happening again.

"Therefore, in the unlikely event of a future statewide SS7 outage ... calls will still be delivered to the Vermont 911 system," Lunny stated in written testimony.