FairPoint's landline phone deregulation proposal gets the AARP's backing

FairPoint will soon no longer be required to provide traditional landline voice service in parts of Maine as a new state bill will eliminate a mandate on the company to provide price-controlled services.

The Maine legislature's Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee on Monday voted 10-1 to endorse the bill.

Interestingly, the bill has gotten the support of the AARP, a group that initially was concerned that the bill would enable FairPoint to charge higher landline voice rates or simply hang up on some customers who only use POTS (plain old telephone service). What changed the group's mind were a number of new amendments that provide better consumer protections.

"I really think this to be the best deregulation bill I have seen in terms of consumer protection," said Amy Gallant, a lobbyist for AARP Maine, in an Associated Press article.

Angelynne Beaudry, a FairPoint spokeswoman, told AP that the bill is a recognition of the fact that consumers in Northern New England states like Maine have other choices for phone service from cable operators like Comcast or VoIP service, but consumer protections are still needed in rural parts of the state where only one provider offers service.  

With the passing of the bill, FairPoint would no longer be required to provide voice service in seven Maine cities -- Portland, Lewiston, Bangor, South Portland, Auburn, Biddeford and Sanford. FairPoint could apply the same principle for five additional communities every six months until it reaches the 22 community cap.

The service provider will cap POTS rates at $20 per month in areas where it still is required to offer voice services. Any annual rate increases would be capped at 5 percent.

For more:
- AP has this article

Related articles:
FairPoint's Sunu: 1 Gbps won't turn around broadband subscriber growth
FairPoint's quality of service settlement gets Vermont's approval
FairPoint lights up 1 Gbps service for Portsmouth, N.H. customers
FairPoint's Ethernet, IP services growth offset voice declines, hints at M&A possibilities
FairPoint loses $43M in Q4 due to weather, labor strike