Maine hounds FairPoint over broadband availability

FairPoint Communications (Nasdaq: FRP) may think it's done fulfilling it's broadband promise to the state of Maine, but the state's Office of the Public Advocate and two members of Maine's Public Utility Commission do not feel that way. FairPoint said in October that it had reached the threshold of making broadband service available to 87 percent of state residents, satisfying one of the major conditions it had agreed to for approval of its acquisition of Verizon (NYSE: VZ) properties in Northern New England.

FairPoint sign

Image source: Fairpoint

Fairpoint claimed it had met its final goal of expanding high-speed internet service to 87 percent of the state, but this assertion was challenged by the Office of the Public Advocate, which didn't agree with how the telecom company had come up with the number. FairPoint calculated its figure as many telecom service providers probably would--by determining how many residents were now within reach of a broadband-enabled central office.

However, that's not good enough for Public Advocate Wayne Joynter, who convinced the majority of Maine's PUC board that some of the residents considered to be part of that 87 percent actually live too far away from the nearest central office to actually obtain broadband service from FairPoint. The company has faced some of the same criticism in Vermont.

Maine regulators plan to enforce a stricter counting method on FairPoint, who for its part defended the method it used. This is tough going for FairPoint, which managed to make its way out of bankruptcy protection after massive struggles to integrate the Verizon properties, but is still working with state regulators to settle past disputes over service quality, all while trying to grow its bottom line.

It will be interesting to see how far this effort gets, and if successful, how it might affect other service providers striving to meet broadband deployment goals in other states where regulators are looking over their shoulder with a magnifying glass.

For more:
- read this Maine Public Broadcasting story

Related articles:
FairPoint said last summer that it was nearing its broadband goal in Vermont
FairPoint had to cut about 400 jobs in September
FairPoint saw broadband gains in the third quarter

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