New Hampshire delays vote on $13M contract amidst ongoing union strike, outages

FairPoint Communications' pending $13 million contract with New Hampshire has gone into limbo as the state has decided to delay action amidst a spike in service outages that have emerged during a labor strike by its northern New England employees.

New Hampshire's commissioner of administrative services withdrew the contract on Tuesday before the state held its Executive Council meeting where they were going talk about it, according to an Associated Press report.

Under the terms of the deal it had with New Hampshire, FairPoint would have supplied phone and Internet services for the state through 2020. It's possible the new council could approve the contract in January or invite other service providers to bid on it again.

Angelynne Beaudry, FairPoint's director of corporate communications, said in a statement that the service provider is addressing the state's concerns, adding that they think the council will act on the contract during their meeting in January.

A key concern for state officials are the increased amount of outages that have emerged since 1,700 of its workers in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine went on strike in October after failing to agree on a new labor contract. A number of residential customers and New Hampshire towns have reported service outages and slower service response times, which the service provider attributes to winter storms.

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan has met with FairPoint management and asked both the company and the unions to come to an agreement.

"We've seen some disruptions in service, and I think it's appropriate to get those questions answered before there's a vote on the contract," Hassan said.

Hassan is not alone in her concerns.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine sent a letter to FairPoint asking the two sides to come to an agreement and suggested that the ongoing strike could affect its public sector business.

"The ongoing strike and what seems like an unwillingness to compromise on the part of the company is bad for the workers and their families, bad for the telecommunications systems in New England and bad for our region's economy," she wrote in a letter obtained by the Portland Press Herald. "The company's insufficient response to these contract negotiations causes me to question whether taxpayer dollars are being wisely spent on government contracts with FairPoint."

The service provider currently holds a number of key state contracts in the three northern New England states it serves.

In May 2013, FairPoint was awarded a $32 million contract to build its Emergency Services IP network (ESInet) 911 service for the state of Maine, one that will serve over 1.3 million people. It also maintains Vermont's 911 networks, which recently suffered a six-hour disruption due to an equipment failure.

For more:
- Associated Press has this article
- Portland Press Herald has this article

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