FairPoint comes closer to getting retail regulatory relief in N.H.

FairPoint (Nasdaq: FRP) and rival Comcast's (Nasdaq: CMCSA) dream of having a less restrictive regulatory structure in New Hampshire is nearing reality, as Senate Bill 48 (SB 48) passed the state Senate. However, it now has pass muster with the state's House of Representatives.

If SB 48 does not get approved, the House has proposed another bill that would enable the telco to get alternative regulation, something that has been proposed in Vermont. The Vermont PUC devised a four-year regulatory plan approved by the Vermont PUC allows the telco to offer competitive pricing while maintaining pricing on basic PSTN service.

SB 48 and the "deregulation light" option are both being evaluated by the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee, which is led by chairman Rep. James Garrity, R-Atkinson.

"I've read SB 48, and I like it. It's not 100 percent of what we want--it's well over 90 percent," Garrity said in a New Hampshire Business Review article, adding that he still needs to see what happens at a public hearing to be held in mid-March.

Among the many elements proposed in SB 48 is that the telco would not have conduct the same amount of regulatory reporting, pay penalties for service issues, get approval for rates (there are still rate increase caps), nor need PUC oversight on anything besides PSTN services. In addition, the bill would overturn a PUC decision to regulate Comcast's phone service.  

Patrick C. McHugh, FairPoint's new New Hampshire president, told NHBR that SB 48 would "allow us to be quick on our feet, in the sense that new products can get speed to market. It will be a benefit for the state because it furthers competition, and competition is good."

Arguing that there's a lot of competition in New Hampshire's telecom market, FairPoint believes that deregulation would help level the playing field to fight the growing base of CLECs and cable competition.

For more:
- New Hampshire Business Review has this article

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