FairPoint's quality of service settlement gets Vermont's approval

FairPoint's proposed agreement with the Vermont Department of Public Service has been approved by the state's Public Service Board (PSB), closing the service quality investigation that began last December in the midst of a strike by its union workers.

The PSB's order recognized the operational and network changes that FairPoint has made since it launched the investigation into the telco's actions.

FairPoint took steps to improve its network architecture and implemented operational changes that have helped service to return to normal quality levels.

The service provider completed a challenging labor negotiation ahead of the QoS changes. Northern New England workers represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) went on strike last October after neither side could come to an agreement on benefits and other issues to get a new contract in place.

In February, the telco reached a tentative agreement with its union workers, ending a four-month strike.

Under the terms of the agreement it made with the PSB, FairPoint will pay bill credits to eligible telephone customers who experienced out-of-service repair delays up to and during the strike. The order also requires FairPoint to provide guidance for telephone customers who are eligible for future credits.

Three months after the PSB's order goes into effect, FairPoint will issue a retroactive bill credit to eligible customers so no action will be needed by customers to receive bill credits under the board's order. Eligible customers are those who reported an out-of-service telephone repair delay of more than 24 hours that occurred from April 1, 2013 to Feb. 28, 2015, and who have not already received a bill credit.

In addition, the board's order recognizes FairPoint's decision to utilize $8.8 million of annual funding from the second phase of the FCC's Connect America Fund (CAF-II) program to improve broadband in rural areas in Vermont.

By accepting the CAF-II funds, FairPoint will be required to construct and operate network infrastructure and offer broadband service to nearly 28,400 qualifying locations in Vermont over six years. CAF-II also requires significant capital investment from FairPoint in order to install the FCC-required broadband speeds of at least 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream.

In August, FairPoint said it would take a total of $37.4 million in CAF-II funds, enabling it to build network infrastructure that will bring 10/1 Mbps broadband services to nearly 105,000 locations in 14 states. FairPoint said it is in the preliminary stages of the six-year CAF-II program.

Vermont is one of FairPoint's key Northern New England markets. Besides operating traditional telephone and broadband service, the service provider took over the management of the state's E-911 system last year from Colorado-based Intrado. In 2014, FairPoint signed a five-year, $11.2 million contract with the state.

For more:
- see the release

Related articles:
FairPoint takes over the reins of Vermont's E-911 system
Burlington Telecom sale could ease taxpayer headache
FairPoint settles with Vermont regulators over service quality issues
Vermont's utilities, telcos establish smart grid partnership

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