FairPoint dedicates $3.3 million to bring broadband to underserved NH communities

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FairPoint Communications (Nasdaq: FRP) has gotten approval from the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to leverage the $2.8 million in service penalties it racked up in 2009 and 2010 to build out broadband services to underserved communities.

Under the terms of the agreement, the telco will invest an additional $500,000 of its own capital to conduct the projects. In total, the value of the network build outs will be $3.3 million.

When the initiative is completed, the telco will deliver broadband services to about 2,500 homes and businesses. This latest broadband drive follows an earlier effort launched in November to bring broadband service to 4,095 eligible homes and businesses in 33 of the state's communities.

FairPoint has set a goal in 2013 to increase broadband access to 95 percent of its New Hampshire service areas. As of the end of December, it reported to the PUC that it had met 93 percent of that goal. The

The service provider has been conducting similar efforts in its two other New England states—Maine and Vermont.

In Maine, FairPoint upgraded the broadband speeds of 11 of its central offices (COs). Likewise in Vermont it secured two grants: a $3.1 million in funding by the Vermont Telecommunications Authority (VTA) and the FCC's Connect America Fund to extend broadband to more communities.

Not all of the PUC members were on board with the telco's plans, however.

While Commission Chairman Amy L. Ignatius and Commissioner Robert R. Scott both approved the idea to use the service quality penalties in an order issued June 26, Commissioner Michael Harrington dissented.

 "I continue to believe that money left in the hands of thousands of ratepayers to spend as they see fit will produce more benefits for New Hampshire than the Public Utilities Commission deciding how best to spend it," wrote Harrington in his decision.

For more:
- New Hampshire Union Leader has this article

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