Updated Nov 24 2010, see below
One weekend last year I was hiking with my dog along the Washington Street Extension in Keene, NH. It’s the old Route 9, now an abandoned road that runs alongside Beaver Brook and climbs up to Beaver Brook Falls. The road has been returning to nature since before we came to Keene. It’s lined on both sides, for over a mile, with 25-year trees that now entangle a course of utility cables. On that hike last year, I wondered if the owner of those cables might want to take a look and maybe schedule some pruning.
I tried calling the power company first. Directory services gave me the main number, but I failed repeatedly to find any path through the IVR system that would enable me to report the problem. When I got home I also failed to find the PSNH web page that has number to call: 1-800-662-7764. (Menu path: Residential or Business -> Safety Center -> Tree Trimming. Effective search: tree trimming not report a problem.) When I tweeted my query to Martin Murray (@psnh), though, he got back to me promptly. It turns out these aren’t power cables, they’re telephone cables.
So I tried to report the problem to Fairpoint. Again there was no obvious way to do it online. And I couldn’t find anybody at the phone company who would answer the phone on the weekend. Eventually I got distracted by other things and never followed up.
Fast forward to yesterday. I’m hiking with my dog along the same abandoned road. The 25-year trees are now 26-year trees. And some big 60- and 80-year trees, tilting on banks eroded by spring floods, threaten to bring down the cables.
So I call again. There’s got to be some way to report this, right?
It becomes a game. Every path through the IVR system leads, after much delay — and, infuriatingly, an advertisement — to a message saying that business hours are Monday through Friday, 9 to 5. I might have tried the website again, but:
a) I am not carrying a connected, browser-equipped device.
b) You are the fracking phone company. Answer the phone!
Finally somebody answers. It’s Patrick, in Internet tech support.
Patrick: What’s your phone number for DSL service?
Patrick: And what operating system are you using?
Me: Never mind that, here’s the deal. I’m standing on the old Washington Street Extension, looking at what I suppose is Keene’s Internet trunk. There are 26-year-old trees entangling it for a mile. And right here, at pole 13-T, there are 60- and 80-year old trees leaning at a 45-degree angle over the cables. They’re going to bring those wires down in the next big ice or wind storm, if not before.
Look, I know this isn’t your department, but I’m having a hell of a time finding anybody at Fairpoint who cares about this. There must be some way to report the problem.
Patrick: I totally get what you’re saying. But you’ve reached the lowest guy on the totem pole. And, I hate to say it, but this really isn’t my department.
Me: I know. But you’re several hops closer to the right department than I am. Can you please just take a report, email it to your supervisor, and cc me on the email?
Patrick: OK, hang on…done.
Me: Thanks Patrick! You may have just prevented a whole shitload of Internet technical support calls!
Update: Got these responses from @MyFairPoint on Monday AM:
@judell Hi, Jon – thanks so much for the heads up (just saw your tweet come up in our alerts). I really appreciate you looking out!
@judell Also, our active acct is @MyFairPoint and we’re working to ramp up our social media efforts, so expect to hear more soon! Thx again!
@judell – I’ll see what I can do based on this and your attached article. ^JP
On Aug. 15 I went there again, and saw that no trees had been trimmed but now one was leaning on a wire. I mentioned to the Sentinel that this might warrant a story.
On Oct. 27 a reporter invited me to visit the site along with a photographer, and I tweeted:
@MyFairPoint: Remember http://bit.ly/clVj5L? Now a tree is leaning on a wire. A @sentinelsource reporter will go see it Monday. Join her?
Response the same day:
@judell Hey Jon, thanks for following up. I passed along your blog post previously, let me get an update for you & report back. ^DB
Nov 1 follow-up:
@judell Good morning, Jon! Been told tree trimming should begin along the Washington St. Ext. early this week. Will keep you posted! ^DB
I took my dog up there for a ramble on Weds, saw work in progress.
On Nov 20 @myfairpoint wrote:
@judell I received news that the tree trimming on Washington St. was completed. Just wanted to close the loop with you. Thanks Jon! ^DB
On Nov. 24 Tuck and Luann and I went up for a hike. A lot’s been done! Although most of the stuff near the lines is now clear, though, there are still a number of trees across the stream that are leaning toward the lines. I wonder if, at some point, it would make sense to reroute the Keene trunk away from this abandoned road? That’s not a cost/benefit decision I’d want to make, and I sure don’t envy Fairpoint being responsible for that stretch of infrastructure. In any case, thanks! We in much better shape for the next ice or wind storm than we were before.