Monday, September 7, 2009

Follow-Up: Why You Need a Second (and Better) E-Mail Address

The following article is from Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter and is copyright by Richard W. Eastman. It is re-published here with the permission of the author. Information about the newsletter is available at

On February 6 of this year, I posted an article telling why you don't want to use the e-mail service from your Internet provider. Instead, you should be using an e-mail service provided by an independent e-mail provider (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, Fastmail, etc.).

I described a recent nightmare for 234,000 former Verizon customers in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont who suddenly found their Internet service was being changed to a smaller company, FairPoint Communications. The former Verizon customers all had assigned e-mail addresses ending in "" and were suddenly told that their e-mail addresses had been changed.

Now the problem is getting worse.

The changes in February were made with little or no advance notice. In some cases, the former Verizon customers were told of the switch AFTER the changes had already been made. Such an abrupt change causes great turmoil for business and personal users. As one example, a former Verizon customer was selling many items on eBay, and notices of the completion of sales and shipping notifications were all being sent to his former Verizon e-mail address that was now defunct. His e-mail address was changed with no advance notice, and he soon found he had no method of receiving new orders. There were thousands of other, similar stories.

Those who had hundreds or thousands of old email messages saved on Verizon's mail servers found those messages were all deleted with no advance notice. Business messages, family photographs, and more all disappeared instantly.

Even worse, the limited number of mail servers at tiny FairPoint Communications croaked under the newly-imposed load. Mail servers crashed, thousands of new e-mail messages were lost, and 234,000 people were unable to even check their e-mail for days at a time.

FairPoint Communications was so unprepared for the huge increase in workload that the company reportedly faked a switchover demonstration that was shown to an outside auditor, Liberty. If true, this constitutes fraud, and company executives might be prosecuted and even serve jail time. (I doubt that will happen; FairPoint has plenty of lawyers who probably can keep the executives out of jail. However, the charge of fraud is serious.)

Whether or not the test was faked, the network has proved so unready that FairPoint reportedly is close to bankruptcy and may have its licenses to operate revoked in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Of course, that will create even more turmoil for FairPoint's customers, who are now using e-mail addresses ending in "" Those who had their e-mail service abruptly changed last February are now facing another abrupt change or may even lose all e-mail service.

Anyone who took my advice in February to obtain e-mail service from an independent provider will be unaffected.

You can read my earlier article at and a new article that describes Fairpoint's latest woes and legal problems at

I will repeat the advice I offered last February 6:

Why be held hostage by your Internet provider? It's YOUR e-mail! You have a right to receive e-mail messages and to not be "jerked around" by corporate buy-outs. I'd suggest that you take control of your e-mail now. Obtain your own e-mail address [from an independent e-mail provider] today, and start migrating your mail.

Finally, if you are immersed in the Verizon/Fairpoint problems right now, why fight it? Pick up a Gmail account now and switch to that. You already have to notify all your correspondents anyway; why not get an e-mail address that works and won't change for a while?

I will add one new comment. It is theoretically possible for an e-mail provider to also go out of business or to sell out to a competitor. However, the odds of that are significantly lower than having an Internet provider do the same. The independent e-mail providers are generally better prepared to handle the workload of new e-mail customers. Nothing is ever absolute, but I'd rather trust Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, Fastmail, etc. than your present (or future) Internet provider.

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