New Hampshire to overhaul its century-old telecom rules

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch (D) signed legislation to update the state's 100-year-old telecom regulatory framework.

Incumbent operator FairPoint Communications (Nasdaq: FRP) said the move will afford the company greater freedom to respond to CLECs and cable operators.

Sen. Bob Odell (R-Lempster), the bill's sponsor, said the telecommunications industry has changed, and the new law reflects that consumers and businesses have a number of choices for their telecom service.

"Today's communications landscape offers consumers more choice of providers and services than at any other time in history," Odell said in a statement. "This new law recognizes that the telecommunications industry has changed. The New Hampshire telecommunications industry is no longer a monopoly environment, but rather a competitive environment with more than 30 providers."

As FierceTelecom previously reported, Senate Bill 48 is aimed at modernizing the Granite State's telecom regulations while retaining basic phone service obligations.  

Under the new regulatory regime, FairPoint 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. New IP-based services such as Ethernet and VoIP are not subject to regulation.

As a carrier of last resort, the bill requires that FairPoint keep their TDM-based network in shape to ensure they can deliver affordable PSTN voice service.

Pat McHugh, FairPoint's New Hampshire president, said that the new law will enable them to more rapidly "adjust its pricing to respond to changes in the marketplace."

New Hampshire is the second New England state to update its telecom regulations. In April, Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R), signed similar legislation to update the state's telecommunications industry regulations.

Since emerging from bankruptcy protection last year, FairPoint has been making continued progress in expanding its set of consumer and IP-based business services, in its once-troubled New England territory it purchased from Verizon.

Despite expected landline voice losses, services like carrier Ethernet contributed, in the first quarter of 2012, approximately $9 million in revenue, up from the $7 million in Q4 2011, and $2 million in the first quarter of 2011.

For more:
- see the release

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