‘We do have a very good line of communications with CenturyLink and Verizon now’
After years of landline telephone service issues in Rappahannock County, where it could literally take months for repairmen to show up, problems appear to be dissipating thanks to humans interacting with humans instead of automated call centers.
Or as Rappahannock County Administrator Garrey Curry creatively describes automated black holes: “A big amorphous blob offshore service center massive database computer system.”
“We do have a very good line of communications with CenturyLink and Verizon now,” says Curry. “And we’ve used that over the last several months. We brought to them a page of their customers who reported their issues to us after we asked for them through social media and the newspaper, etcetera.
“There were probably thirty or forty different citizens on that list at that time that had long standing issues, and now we’re at a spot where three to four people a month will reach out to us.”
Curry gives credit to Rappahannock Supervisor Christine Smith for taking the bull by the horns while attending her first ever county public safety meeting.
“Coming out of that meeting were several recommendations, including letters sent to the telephone companies, as well as to the SEC, as well as to our elected representatives, delegate and senator,” says the administrator.
“It took a few months, but through that process we were able to obtain fresh new contacts with the telcos, Verizon and CenturyLink. And when we met with Verizon and CenturyLink we sat down and laid it out, and said your service is suffering and we’re really concerned because in a community like ours there are pockets that have no cell phone communication. So that landline is the last resort and only resort for communication, for 911.
“It’s really a public safety issue,” Curry says the phone reps were told.
The administrator says it reached a point not long ago where the lives of a few Rappahannock citizens were actually placed in jeopardy because of persistent delays in getting landline service restored.
“We’ve had some close calls with medically sensitive [residents] not having their service restored, and then having a medical event and having issues calling 911,” Curry confirms. “And we rehashed that with the telcos.”
Representatives from both Verizon and CenturyLink came to the administrator’s office on separate days to meet with Curry and other county officials.
“And we reiterated . . . that what we really wanted out of the meetings was to know who are the right people in the companies to engage with to help resolve some of these issues, to make sure they are aware of what the issues are that we are experiencing on the ground. And we definitely succeeded in that area,” he continues.
Now, instead of the administrator and his small staff contacting Verizon or CenturyLink on behalf of county residents and reaching an automated call center they now speak to a real person. Better yet, that phone rep isn’t in California or Texas or offshore.
“It’s the man in Front Royal who’s in charge of the CenturyLink group, and the man in Culpeper who’s in charge of the Verizon group who really have the ability to create change here,” he says, describing the administrator’s office in this case as “the conduit to the humans.”
Curry says residents should continue to call the phone companies to report issues, and still be prepared to dive deep into the respective automated systems.
“But don’t hesitate to call the [county] administration if the issue doesn’t seem to be resolved, or they’re not following through on promises of a service date, because we do have an open line of communication now. What it gets down to is talking to that human that’s located in Culpeper or Front Royal to get things done.
“They can then reach into the system, see the ticket we are talking about, and assign another human to resolve it. You’re not guaranteed a speedy fix . . . it may take ten days . . . but they can help escalate that and get it resolved quicker.”
Most importantly, Curry stresses that medically-sensitive residents need to explain their health situations to the telephone carriers whenever phoning in service requests, which should further expedite a response.
“Those telcos have told us they will escalate those service calls themselves. If there are concerns that the calls aren’t escalated call us, email us, reach out to us and we will make sure the telcos know that it is a sensitive situation,” he says. “Tell the service centers and tell us.”
Curry says even with far fewer residents having phone issues compared to only a few months ago, those who still do have problems are not being forgotten by his office.
“Just like any other issue that happens in local government, if it affects one person it’s a big deal to that one person,” the administrator says. “Just because our overall numbers are down we don’t want to imply that it’s . . . any less important. Yes, it’s a big deal when your phone doesn’t work, we get it. We want to help.”