Local Letters to the Editor

Modern phone
companies lack
customer service

To the Editor:
    From what I read on the Internet the Maine Public Utilities Commission is powerless to deal with irregularities perpetrated by out of state communications businesses, even though their business activities might verge on fraudulent and/or life threatening to Maine citizens?

    Verizon Wireless anxiously collects its fees with a robotic system, which, without warning, will interrupt both incoming and outgoing home and family communications with a voice message declaring “Don’t hang up! You are being transferred to financial services.” As far as I know it does this for all collection calls except 9-1-1. The call being attempted is preempted. Permanently I suspect.
    Poor little Verizon, probably doesn’t know where its next meal is coming from.
    I am an 85-year-old Korean War combat veteran on fixed income, mostly Social Security, who carefully surveyed the financial requirements for services provided by Verizon Wireless during a personal visit to a building in Bangor bearing the signage of that company. Because of my limited income and savings I need to budget my expenses. Assuming because of signage that I was talking with a Verizon Wireless employee [I was not] I asked about costs. I was told “$30 for “X”, $30 of “Y” and another $10 if you run over on your Megabytes.” Gibberish of new words, more every day. But it totaled $70 and I could swing that.
    Since during the spring I had fallen while hiking a shortcut in the woods, injuring my shoulder, I might fall again in the future and not being able to regain my feet, a portable cell phone seemed wise, thus my impetuous.
    “And if I didn’t find it worthwhile?,” I asked. “You have 15 days to return it and get out of the contract,” so said the “salesman.” (The first bill does not come for another two weeks after the grace period has expired, and cost, it turned out, was a problem.)
    My costs were about three times what I had been told. They were direct pay from my bank account which was badly overdrawn, with penalty fees of $185. I had that account for perhaps 20 years or so, but now in embarrassment felt compelled to close it.
    I am a type 2 diabetic and working with my doctor to find a level of medication to control my blood sugar. My doctor has advised me that should my blood sugar drop below 70 I was to call him as there had been occasions when it had fallen to 50 or 55 where unconsciousness could begin. I [later] checked and found that 9-1-1 was not shut off by Verizon’s robotics, but the 9-1-1 operator could not advise me about glyburide pills I might take, nor could my doctor, since the Verizon Collection Coercion Robot would not allow him to call in to me either.
    At the same time, the Robot took away all my e-mails I had exchanged with Mainer’s who share my anxiety with a threat to Industrialize the Maine Woods and end upland Vacationland. I help out with campaign buttons and badges and all those designs and orders had vanished from my laptop, and where held hostage, pending my “pay-up.” Their lawyers seem to have come up with never-before encountered special conditions. I am required to agree-to verbally? What is that all about?
    I don’t know about the unorganized territories in Maine or how they use phones for fire alarm, but Verizon seems careless of life in general in their young corporate lust for profits. Are there any Maine places that don’t have 9-1-1? Firefighters are probably more distant in the hinterlands.
    Fairpoint also seems to share a casual disregard too. I received a deceptive mailing piece from them and inquired this morning about their terms, in hopes of switching to something more trustable. Turns out that 15 megabytes for $24.99 is only 1 megabyte, and there are other costs or fees. but I would get a small “discount.” Discouraged by their “unadvertised specials” I did not pursue this further, but perhaps the Better Business Bureau or some similar organization could look into it for us?
    Where can we turn? As far as I know these two companies are all that is left of Alexander Graham Bell’s noble communicator. That and the satirical, sarcastic Lilly Tomlin, the telephone operator on the former “Laugh-In” program.
    If the Maine PUC has no jurisdiction over Maine and its Communications, I would like the Legislature to look vigorously into how Ali Babba and the 40 Thieves came to own our phone lines. Can they casually strike us deaf and dumb on a whim?
    I have a Smith Corona portable typewriter I bought in 1946 new while at Bates, and if I can find a good ribbon, as long as the Post Office lasts, there is faint hope. Good old Post Office!
    Whatever happened to conscience in business. Didn’t it used to be voluntary?

Charles MacArthur


Maine should act morally and sensibly

To the Editor:
    I am a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. My wife was a practicing physician, and I am also an M.D., and practiced orthopedic surgery for more than 30 years. After she died, I entered the seminary and was ordained a priest in 1998.
    So, I speak to you as both a priest and a physician when I say that we in Maine must accept the federal funding that has been set aside to provide health insurance for approximately 69,500 low-income people. These people are our neighbors, our friends, our fellow Americans.
    We all are created in God’s image. We all — each of us — possess a basic human dignity. Catholic tradition affirms that health care is a basic right flowing from this sanctity and dignity of human life. Millions of Americans continue to go without coverage for health care. More than 48 million people do not have health insurance.
    For low-income people, high premiums and out of pocket expenses can keep them from obtaining coverage or seeing a doctor when they should. It was common for me as a physician to see patients who waited too long to come for medical care, and even delayed bringing their children until they were desperately ill. They were terrified at how much medical care would cost.
    Catholic teaching is that health care is a basic right, and there should be adequate and affordable health care for all, for all. Far too many hard-working Maine people go without access to quality affordable health care and as a result suffer unnecessarily. Maine has a truly once in a lifetime opportunity to answer this unmet need for 69,500 Mainers and to accept the federal funding which is available under the Affordable Care Act.
    Affordable and accessible health care for them is a good thing morally, ethically, medically, and fiscally. That is why the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland has joined The Cover Maine Now! coalition, which supporting expanding access to healthcare for these 69,500 Mainers. You can learn more about the benefits of accepting federal funds and take action to support a bill in the legislature by visiting www.covermainenow.com.
    To quote Pope Benedict XVI in his Encyclical, God is Love: “Politics is more than a mere mechanism for defining the rules of public life: its origin and its goal are found in justice, which by its very nature has to do with ethics. The State must inevitably face the question of how justice can be achieved here and now.”
    We are asking for that justice, here and now.

Fr. Richard Senghas


Sucker punch

To the Editor:
    The Maine people were lulled to sleep and then awakened to a startling barrage of attacks, which now has proven to be a distraction. We the people of Maine watched the Democrats in Augusta with perplexed looks of consternation. We scratched our heads in confusion as they passed bills on beer, tanning and sent bills to ban flea collars to committee. It seemed for a while that Justin Alfond was content with political tiddly winks and spinning his fiscal wheels deeper into ruin.
    Then tragedy, horror at the Boston Marathon, a crisis to be exploited and suddenly we as Maine residents were awakened from our Alfond-induced stupor to the heavy artillery of Democrats, a bevy of legislative bills to limit and rescind our 2nd Amendment rights. Bi-partisan uproar has ensued, with Republican and Democrat voters up in arms over this assault. But was this the true intent of the Democrat Party?
    While Maine voters have been busily defending the 2nd Amendment, Maine Democrats have introduced tax increases that are across the board, and especially hurtful to the middle class. Yes, it is a collective sucker punch into the gut of a Maine economy that was struggling to recover and now has hit a stall, threatening a freefall.
    To further compound the impending fiscal doom, the Alfond Democrats have enacted LD 405, which will increase motor vehicle registration costs by 50 to 67 percent costing Maine taxpayers an additional $3 million every year. Obviously Justin Alfond and his merry band of “Demotaxers” feel that you have too much extra cash lying around and they want it, to stimulate their economies by devastating yours.
    Perhaps it is time to ask Maine Democrats what they have against the residents of Maine? How can an economy grow if it has less and less private capital to invest in it? When did the security of political interests start to supersede the security of people they purport to represent?
    Governor Lepage will now have to draw a line in the sand in order to protect the interests of Maine people. And Maine people should line up in support of him now and then at voting booth.

Andy Torbett

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