Thursday July 5, 2012

Public utility! Does anyone still remember what that means? These were companies that served the public, and were given franchises to do just that, and make a reasonable profit for the people who invested their money into these companies. Thus, electric utilities and phone companies thrived, and grew, while presumably serving the public good. What has happened to this concept? It certainly does not exist in southern Berkshire County!

My wife and I were recently on a trip to Israel. There in the Negev desert which sprawled on as far as the eye can see, beautiful in its vast splendor but totally barren, our friends were able to connect via Skype to a friend in Shanghai! And we in New Marlborough cannot even get any wireless service, leave alone high speed connectivity that would support advanced communication possibilities.

Some of us have been lucky enough to get DSL connectivity, so far behind in modern technologies as to be laughable. But, we are thankful for that because there are so many still having only dial up service. This is a total outrage!

Even the DSL works only irregularly because service is often lost. Trying to report the problem to Verizon subjects us to unconscionable delays while having to listen to their outrageous announcements of how important this call is to them. When we are finally connected to an out-of-country service center, the "customer service representative" (another use of words which begs the question!) can hardly speak the language, let alone help with the problem!

Isn’t it about time that we stopped accepting this as our norm? What do we have to do to wake up those in charge, presumably the local PUC, whose members appear to be in the pockets of the same public utilities they are supposed to monitor and regulate for the public good? Someone has to be there to take responsibility for providing what should be standard service in 2012, hardly the beginning of either the wireless age or the Internet age. Who can we turn to? Do the state legislators have any sway at all? Who is the public ombudsman?

We keep reading about new towers that will soon be installed, but it never happens. Years have gone by, and still we wait. Now we hear that inter-company squabbles may further delay implementation of the projects. Is providing service only about the money to be made by the companies installing the necessary hardware? Don’t the citizens, who are supposed to be served by the utilities figure in the calculus at all? The situation is a disgrace for the citizens and taxpayers of southern Berkshire County. Something must be done about it soon!

EGON FROMM

New Marlborough